The visitor center of the Dryden Flight Research Center looks a bit like a command center. Each guest table is covered with an assortment of laptops and iPads that are plugged into power strips placed all around the room. The electronic chimes of tweets and retweets fill the room as, one by one, NASA engineers and pilots walk to the podium at the front of the room to speak. The NASA employees speak about flight technologies and sonic boom analysis with fervor and the crowd listening to them shares the sentiment.
These are presentations that I assume would put most people to sleep, but following the hashtag #DrydenSocial shows anything but boredom. With conversations about Apollo Guidance Computers and flight tests being broadcast across Twitter, it is easy to see that NASA still has a place in the web generation.
The Dryden NASA Social is just one of several social media events that NASA has been holding recently in an effort to connect through new media. The social media events invite social media enthusiast to visit NASA facilities, then talk about the experience with their followers. It is a brilliant media strategy that simultaneously shows that NASA is on the cutting edge of new media technologies while remaining relevant to the web generation.
The event held May 4 at the Dryden Flight Research Center invited over 50 social media users from around the country to tour the center and inevitably tweet, post, and blog about it. Each person invited to attend the event offered a unique look into the culture that has made up NASA’s most dedicated supporters. “I have one thing on my bucket list, and it’s NASA, and here I am,” Jackie Silver of @AgingBackwards told me.
It was clear that Dryden’s formula of inviting NASA junkies to the mecca of modern aeronautics and giving them the grand tour was working. “The participants that we have here are just really focusing on getting the message out,” Lisa Mattox, a contractor working for NASA’s social media department, told me, “Everything we are telling them they are tweeting and Facebooking.”
The Dryden Flight Research center is often the overlooked little brother of what people consider NASA to be. The Dryden NASA Social made a special point of making not only the people in attendance but also the public understand that Dryden is integral to NASA’s growth. “When people think of NASA most of the time they think of space, so we have a unique aspect of NASA here focusing on NASA aeronautics. We want everyone to know before we can go to space we have to start here,” Mattox told me.
The success of NASA’s previous social media events including the very popular Tweetup shows that this is an organization evolving with new media. As social media grows, it is important that organizations that rely on public support grow with them. Luckily, the event at Dryden proves that NASA is a front-runner in the quickly evolving new media community.