NASA gets social

By Adam Earnheardt

Part one of two

On a whim, I applied for social media credentials for a daylong NASA event at their Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Complete honesty: I applied and forgot about it.

Aside from maintaining an active Twitter account, sporadic postings to Facebook and other platforms, and writing a once-a-week blog, why would NASA invite the most “nonsciencey” guy to check out their new space lasers?

Yes, space lasers. Cool, right?

But, my official NASA invitation arrived a few weeks ago. To hear my wife tell it, I “totally geeked out.”

“It’s all he’s talked about for the last two weeks,” she said to a friend (with an eye roll).

Yes, I’m excited.

This Friday, I get an “inside-the-gates” look at NASA’s Goddard Center in Greenbelt, Md. I’ll be live-Tweeting, streaming, and generally geeking out all day.

This isn’t the first time NASA has hosted a social media event.

When they have something cool to share (e.g., space lasers), NASA opens its centers and facilities to give a behind-the-scenes look, or as I like to put it, how the rocket science sausage is made.

Jason Townsend, NASA’s social media Manager, explained to me that about 8,000 social media influencers and enthusiasts have attended more that 150 events over the years.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all experience,” Townsend said. “Everyone gets a slightly different perspective from the same event. And that’s the beauty of the program.”

Anyone with an active social media profile can apply to attend one of these events. Go to and click on “NASA Socials” to find a list of upcoming events for which you can apply.

“We don’t really have preset expectations for what people do at our social events other than we get to show off what we do and that people will take some of that experience and share with it others,” Townsend said. “We’re blown away with what some people come up with.”

Most NASA events are limited to 50 active social media users.

According to a recent “Social” application, NASA is looking for people who “actively use multiple social networking platforms and tools to disseminate information to a unique audience.”

This means NASA wants social media influencers who produce new content with multimedia elements, people can reach a large and “unique audience,” user with an established history of posting content on social media platforms, and with postings that are highly visible, respected and widely recognized.

See my updates and images on Twitter and Instagram at @adamearn. Use @NASAGoddard and the #NASASocial hashtag for updates from others at the event. I’ll also make public posts to my Facebook account.

Next week, I’ll share with you my experience from the trip, including how NASA’s social media team creates engaging content and gets people excited about space exploration.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn. Have a column idea? Email him at

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