I remember one night in Bulgaria, I was probably nine years old, my mother and aunt were sitting outside and chatting while I sat and listened and stared at the stars. As I was looking up, I saw a shooting star quickly glide across the sky and disappear. It was my first time seeing anything like that, and the overwhelming feelings of curiosity and joy completely took over me. That moment made me realize my hunger for knowledge about our universe, but it was my curiosity which never allowed me to forget about my hunger. Then, that little nine year old girl never thought we would be able to land a rover on another planet and explore. Now, I live in a time where, not only is there a rover the size of a small car on Mars, but this same rover has a Twitter, a Facebook, and a chip on its back with peoples’ names from all around the world on it.
A shoutout to my 1 million+ followers: There may be a 14-minute communication delay btwn Mars & Earth, but you’re always in my <3
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 16, 2012
The Curiosity rover, which has been on the surface of Mars for about a month, wasn’t always called Curiosity. At first, it was referred to as the Mars Science Laboratory rover, until a 6th grader from Lenexa, Kansas, Clara Ma, won the NASA essay contest that officially changed the name to Curiosity. To encourage and inspire the younger generation, the essay contest was open to students from kindergarten to high school, where essay submissions were made through the Web if 14 or older. Clara Ma said it best in her essay when she said: “Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone’s mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day. Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn’t be who we are today. Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder.” The name Curiosity seems to fit in really well with the two rovers previously sent to Mars, Spirit and Opportunity.
With over 300,000 Facebook fans and over a million Twitter followers, Curiosity is on a mission to keep the worldwide population updated with each exciting step during its journey to explore Mars. Whether it’s with fascinating pictures of Mars, quick updates on upcoming plans, or fun information about the Curiosity team, Curiosity uses Facebook and Twitter to make its fans feel as if they are on this journey as well. In addition to using social media to interact with people, the Curiosity rover takes it a huge step further and allows for people around the world to send their names to Mars! On NASA’s website, participants had the opportunity to provide their name, country, and zip code, and their name would appear on Curiosity’s back while on Mars. Although I was not one of the lucky ones to get to do this, Curiosity made dreams come true by providing the chance for people to say, “My name is on Mars!” Thanks to modern social media and technology, Curiosity has been able to fascinate astronomy lovers, awe curious souls around the world, and transform non-believers into believers.
NASA knows the importance of imagery and personality when it comes to social media engagement. Almost every single daily Facebook post or Tweet from Curiosity contains a photo of the Red Planet with a clever and friendly caption. Yes, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but having a friendly and playful robotic spacecraft sharing information makes it all the better! Instead of giving Curiosity the traits of a cold machine, the team in NASA has instilled it with a great personality that the audience can relate to. Marketers should take note of what NASA does and their success here. Social media is a place to bring brand personalities to life, driving your audience to deeply connect. From the social media chatter, it is clear that people are proud of the Curiosity mission due to the overwhelming number of congratulations and are happy that NASA is empowering them to be a part this incredible journey.
Author’s note: To the brave American hero who took “one giant leap for mankind” with a small step on the moon, Neil Armstrong. Thank you for your bravery and incredible inspiration.
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” — Neil Armstrong, August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech