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Peter Starr Northrop

What A Space Probe 218 Million KM Away Taught Me About Social Media Marketing

Peter Starr Northrop
What A Space Probe 218 Million KM Away Taught Me About Social Media Marketing

I don’t know if any of y’all in Marketing Land are as big of a science junkie as I am. So, you might have missed the absolutely incredible news that broke this weekend:

After nearly 7 months of inactivity, the ESA’s Philae Lander just woke up on the comet 67P Churyumov–Gerasimenko (We’re gonna go ahead and just refer to that as 67P from now on. Cool? Cool.)

There are a lot of reasons why this is better than awesome (landing on comets is kiiiiind of insanely hard), but this is a marketing blog, so I’m not gonna bore you with the sciencey details.

The most magical thing to come out of Philae’s grand reawakening was how the ESA promoted the news. Sure, space-stuff is always going to get a lot of coverage in traditional media – but that doesn’t stop the awesome folks at the ESA from absolutely rocking Twitter.

You see – the ESA actually sent two robots to explore this 67P comet (and made social accounts for both). The parent probe is named Rosetta – and it’s been sending all sorts of updates while Philae’s been silent.

But when Philae finally (miraculously) reactivated, it allowed this awesome conversation to happen on Twitter:

Philae chats it up on Twitter

This conversation seem really small, but it shows so much of why the ESA is winning the Twitter game.

Not only that – snippets of this conversation shared insanely well:

Philae is pretty popular

So, marketing folks: exactly what can you take away from this one amazing little event on Twitter?

I’ve got two-and-a-half lessons in social media I learned this weekend:

1: Voice is Everything in Social

I know what you’ve been thinking this whole time: “Dude, the social media person at the ESA or NASA or whoever has the easiest job in the world. They’re marking space for chrissakes.”

Which is a good point. Boldy going forth into the unknown practically markets itself – but that’s because the ESA has a pre-established voice it’s using for its two space probes.

Each tweet evokes a sense of genuine wonderment on the part of the probes. While this helps, the greatest hook in for the reader is the sense of innocence and fragility each tweet gives off. This little vocal tweak helps the ESA’s audience understand on a primal level how huge their undertaking is – and how small these little robots are compared to the enormity of their journey. That much humanization makes it impossible to look away.

So as you plan your social media strategy, that’s really the first thing you need to ask yourself: what is your voice?

Are you bold and boistrous like the proud folks here at the SEMrush content team? Are you enraptured with exploring ever-greater heights like the folks at the ESA?

Finding that core voice informs every single decision you make on social media. It at once makes creating content easier, and it allows your audience to identify and like you. Build your character first, and your soc. strategy can really sing.

 1.5: Hey, Use That Lesson to Boost Your Content Marketing and SEO, Man!

So to build a voice, you have to build a certain, limited vocabulary for your posts. As you refine that vocabulary, you’ll find that you use a set of critical words to establish that voice. There’s no reason not to use word maps to find what words you use the most, and then run them through keyword analysis tools to find which ones have high search volumes.

Suddenly building your voice informs ALL of your content marketing, which can help you find keywords you can build rank for. (But more on that later.)

2. Your Strategy is All in the Timing

Another huge reason this little Twitter convo blew up so hard is because the ESA’s social team had it go out within minutes of the traditional press release announcing Philae’s re-establishment. This allowed the ESA to humanize its (kind of) dry press release and build real excitement around it. That excitement leads to shares and engagement.

The main thing you need to remember from this is that those first few minutes after an event (of ANY kind) are the most important. That’s your critical period to get real shares and real engagement.

Never waste those seconds.

Plan social strategies around the events you’re aware of--and then do not be afraid to improvise in the moment. Even if you goof up in any way, those mistakes humanize you to your audience. Your Social Media strategy should be all about humanizing and characterizing whatever it is you’re up to in buisness. That’s how you get people rooting for you.

That’s how you, too, can send your social media strategy to the stars.

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