Social Media: No Longer just for Earthlings

If you thought celebrity Tweeting was only for gossip and scandals, then you have not heard of Commander Chris Hadfield, known to his followers as @Cmdr_Hadfield. This Canadian-astronaut-turned-Twitter-sensation has taken social media to a whole new world. Literally.

On December 19, 2012, Hadfield departed Earth for a 146 day space voyage aboard the International Space Station. During his time in space, Hadfield became the first Canadian commander of the ISS, hosted one of the most popular Reddit Ask-Me-Anything threads of all time and gained over 1 million followers on Twitter (to say nothing of his phone call with William Shatner or his zero-gravity cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity).

Although he is not the first astronaut to Tweet from space, Hadfield created a social media presence unlike anyone before him and used it to create positive attention for the space program. So what made Hadfield so successful?

  • He utilized many forms of media: In addition to Twitter, Reddit, and Youtube, Hadfield also posted to Facebook and Tumbled daily photos of the Earth to complete the social media spectrum. By targeting social media users, Hadfield reached out to a younger audience who might otherwise know very little about space.
  • He engaged his audience: Over five months, Hadfield weaved a continuous story about life in space. His Tweets told a narrative of life on the ISS, his Tumbles painted a picture of Earth from above, and his YouTube videos revealed how zero gravity affects simple tasks, including making a sandwich, getting a haircut and the inability to cry in space.
  • He stayed “down-to-earth”: Just like a normal guy, Hadfield Tweeted about his work, his friends, even the weather (albeit from 200+ miles above the earth). He successfully promoted the space program by speaking as an ordinary person rather than just the face of an organization. “What we’re doing on Space Station is fundamentally fascinating,” Hadfield said in an interview from orbit. “And I think the evidence shows through a measure like Twitter…we can directly give people the human side of that.”

Because 27 percent of total U.S. internet time is spent on social networking sites, maintaining a social media presence has become a vital part of interaction between brands and customers. Taking a lesson from Commander Hadfield’s success, marketers should never forget the power of the “human side” when engaging in social media.

After returning to Earth on May 13, Hadfield retired from the Canadian Space Agency yet has continued to maintain his social media accounts in support of the space program.

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