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#PlutoFlyBy - NASA's Greatest Social Media Campaign


Even before the stunning new images of Pluto were revealed the week before last, NASA already had an impressive reputation for social media coverage. All of their active probes and rovers have active Twitter accounts, they share stunning new images taken from space telescopes on Instagram and their numerous Facebook feeds keep people regularly updated about all the space-age goings on.

With Pluto though, they absolutely outdid themselves. Rather than social media coverage just being an appendage to the news, it was an intrinsic part of the process. Allegedly, the NASA social media team had been prepping for the New Horizon flyby for more than 3 months, figuring out the best ways of breaking the news and keeping it engaging. The Instagram post allowed the public to have an exclusive early preview of the not-planet, whilst press questions were pulled from Twitter and a Reddit AMA with experts. The whole movement was geared towards giving the world at large a detailed, consistent feed of every development as it happened.

Screenshot: Instagram

Public interest in science, and particularly space, has grown exponentially as the breadth of the internet has widened. Social media has fuelled that growth further still, since with each new big post on whatever platform, NASA pull in thousands of new followers, thousands of people making a commitment to learn about outer space. It also means that NASA have been able to style themselves as the first port of call for all astronomical news, they are bringing it to the people before any news outlets ever get hold of it. When the Instagram image appeared, no outlets could really use it, since it was limited to a 640 x 640 scale.

In the 10 days since the news broke, many more detailed images have emerged, as well as articles, interviews, speculative theories and much more, so NASA have wisely decided to bookend it all with a broadcasted round-up of all the pertinent info on their site later today (2pm ET/7pm GMT).Simultaneously, they will also be taking follower questions on Twitter under the #AskNASA hashtag.

Of course, too much focus on social media could create a risk of NASA's judgement getting clouded. Maintaining public interest is important but you would hope that they would carry on pushing the frontiers regardless of how many people actually gave a damn. Thankfully, they do, and even just from one image of Pluto they were able to rake in 300,000 new followers and it's that kind of influence which will keep future governments convinced that space exploration is still worth funding.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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#PlutoFlyBy - NASA's Greatest Social Media Campaign Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, July 24, 2015 Rating: 5

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