“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space.” — President Kennedy, Address to Congress on Urgent National Needs

On May 25th, 1961, President Kennedy stood before Congress to deliver his proclamation that the United States should commit to putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

Every time America came closer to accomplishing that goal—whether it was the unmanned Surveyor 1 landing on the surface of the moon or John Glenn’s accomplishment as the first American to orbit the earth—NASA was there to share the news.

And when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first two individuals to step foot on the moon in 1969, NASA was there yet again, broadcasting live from the surface of the moon for the entire world to see. Note: Learn how they did it, here.

In the 55 years since President Kennedy’s proclamation, we’ve traveled from analog to digital, greatly affecting how NASA and its astronauts communicate with the public. However, NASA still prioritizes communication and education in their outreach. As a result, 2016 showed us some great examples of digital and social marketing.

So, what are the main things businesses can learn from astronauts this year? Here are our top three takeaways:

1) Live streaming and real-time responses are the next big thing.

Only six months after Facebook Live’s public launch, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) held a live Facebook Q&A with Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. From 249 miles above the surface of the earth, astronauts Tim Kopra, Tim Peake, and Jeff Williams chatted with Zuckerberg about the body’s reaction to zero gravity, how astronauts communicate in different languages, and what they do for fun aboard ISS.

When asked about using social from space, Jeff Williams noted, “Social media is a really nice way to reach your friends and family […] One thing about life up here, is it’s so unique, and to be able to share it with other people, especially a huge audience, is a tremendous benefit.”

By utilizing new ways to reach audiences and employing real-time responses, NASA scored big with this live Q&A. And with the video currently sitting at 7,092,869 views, their conversation certainly made an impact. Note: NASA even has a NASA Live section of their website, where they host live streams of everything from meteor showers to talks with Hollywood stars.

2) SEO and timely information are king.

Back in 2013, astronaut Chris Hatfield recorded his rendition of David Bowie’s iconic Space Oddity while aboard the ISS. After the song was posted online, Bowie himself noted it was “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created.”

Following David Bowie’s death in January 2016, NASA re-posted a revised version of the video in honor of his passing. The video was widely shared on social and received a decent amount of media coverage. Now, it has almost 34 million views.

Updating and reposting Hatfield’s video to honor David Bowie in a timely manner raised NASA’s brand awareness and elevated the organization as a social leader in commemorating him.

3) Simplicity and accessibility above all else.

When astronaut Buzz Aldrin was hospitalized in New Zealand on December 2 while on a trip to Antarctica, he and his manager gave public updates on his health progress the easiest way they knew how—using social media.

In constantly providing updates on Aldrin’s health (including announcing his physician in Christchurch was none other than Dr. David Bowie) they continued to make his recovery process relevant and newsworthy.

Roger, zero-g and I feel fine.

So how do they do it? As an organization, NASA is dedicated to social media and digital marketing. They’ve won multiple awards for their work because NASA trains its astronauts on various digital platforms while simultaneously managing about 500 accounts on channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr.

This dedication to telling the NASA story through various online tools has served the organization well—they’re constantly pushing information to build awareness about space exploration and inspire audiences about space, science, and technology.

As we move forward into 2017, I’m sure NASA will continue to be at the forefront of digital marketing and social media technologies.

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