As a marketing consultant in the space sector, I have watched the Twitterverse grow into a network of over 1 billion registered users, more than 300 million active users, and at least 100 million users tweeting every day. Twitter has become one of the most active social networking sites in the world. Thus it is not a surprise to see many space organizations are using it to promote their brands and spread their word.
Today though, things have changed. Amongst the space industry’s fresh chicks and regular fliers, a new beast is watching over us, ready to dive in, talons first, and perhaps, trample on even the most delicate of egg shells.
Many are asking why the president trolls others on twitter? Does he only go for the big firms that enjoy large government contracts? And who will be his next? Maybe this new threat is just what some of the space industry’s big players need, maybe not. Either way, what follows is a collection of some of the more noteworthy, the most telling and some of the funniest space tweets of late. But first, some…
Current and upcoming projects seem to be the most talked about topic on twitter, with about 65% of the tweets (including retweets) referring to these projects. These range from development updates, testing updates, testing results, actual testing videos and photographs, reports on successful launches or instalments, performance updates, etc.
Another major topic being discussed by space brands is the collaboration with other space organizations, with about 5% of tweets and 20% of retweets mentioning partners. Combining both the tweets and retweets, this brings the overall percentage to approximately 13%.
Using Twitter to promote industry events is another social media strategy being used by space brands. Doing so helps to connect with other stakeholders and interested parties in the industry, and this, in turn, helps to increase brand awareness. 24% of all tweet messages promote industry events.
Messages promoting the space brands themselves are also very common – with about 37% of the tweets and retweets being for self promotion purposes. These messages include tweets about the various achievements by the space brands, features of their new products, retweets about what other space brands/clients think about their products and services, mentions in various platforms, etc.
While this topic is not favored by many space organizations, reporting of financial growth is another significant use of twitter by some space brands, with about 4% of tweets and retweets mentioning the financial growth of a space brand. These messages can either be for promotional purposes (where they mention how well the company is doing) or informational (where they provide financial information about the company involved).
Public relations and publicity strategy is another top way Twitter is exploited by space brands – with about 40% of the tweets having some sort of PR-theme behind them. These messages can be about various events a brand is involved in, breaking news, etc. These messages are aimed at presenting the company in a positive light, thus reinforcing a desired brand image.
While the above topics are the most talked about on Twitter by space organizations, there are also several other general trends and themes present in the industry’s twitterings. These include paying tribute to veteran astronauts, for example, tribute by Boeing to the Apollo 17 Commander, Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the surface of the moon. Another example is the birthday wish to former astronaut Marc Garneau by the Canadian Space Agency, and many others.
By far the most interesting of the tweets published by the space and defense industry brands are those sent to appease or at least acknowledge the twitter trolling they have received by President Trump.
From blue blooded “up-yours” tweets to brown-nosed “heads-ups” damage limitation type grovels from large defense contractors that have taken severe hits to their stock price since having been blasted by the premier on twitter. Half the fun is anticipating who will be next in the firing line.
So hold on to your hats while we delve in to some of the most notable tweets from the space sector – as some of these twitterings can be somewhat hair-raising…#Space tweets - How @potus @realdonaldtrump trolls space firms for fun Click To Tweet
Despite being one of the non U.S. brands being trolled by the POTUS, Airbus maintains a very strong brand presence with constant Twitter updates every day. Most of their messages are tweets rather than retweets of messages by other organizations, which account for approximately 66% of all their Twitter output. The company favors using twitter to promote their space projects and services, with about 70% of their tweets (and retweets) mentioning their various projects – earth observation satellites, communication satellites, air vehicles for defense organizations, spacecraft, etc.
Airbus also uses Twitter actively to promote their partners, with about 30% of their Twitter messages mentioning their current partners in various aerospace projects – New Zealand Air Force, NASA, and CAE Defense to mention a few names. Lastly, Airbus also likes to use Twitter to promote their brand with several mentions of either the achievements made by the company or the performance of their current products.
Bigelow Aerospace has a Twitter presence but it is in no way as active as some of the other space sector firms. However, the company, and their chief, still makes good use of the Twitter platform, especially when it comes to advertising their space projects/products – about 60% of their Twitter updates are about their own space projects.
Bigelow also seems to enjoy using their Twitter account to engage with customers, potential customers, journalists and fans (followers). This helps to encourage more engagement from interested parties, thus further increasing the awareness of the Bigelow brand.
Despite Robert Bigelow’s use of the twitter platform to endorse Trump, a few recent Twitter messages from Bigelow Aerospace touch on the issue of NASA funding, with calls to increase funding for the US space program.
Kudos to @JeffBezos of @BlueOrigin for standing up to Twitter #Troll @realDonaldTrump Click To Tweet
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is another company with a relatively less active Twitter account, with only a number of updates appearing on their account every month. However, the somewhat secretive space company still leverages the power of Twitter in order to promote their brand.
About 75% of Blue Origin’s Twitter updates (tweets and retweets) are about various space projects that the company is involved in – from development updates to testing updates, performance updates, etc. Tweeting about these projects helps the company to market their products to prospective customers.
Blue Origin is also one of the space brands that use Twitter to pay tribute to famous names in the space industry, with a number of their updates mentioning names such as John Glenn and Buzz Aldrin. Good also to see newbie Bezos getting in on the twitter action too.
Boeing is one of the top aerospace companies in the world and understands the full power of the social media. The brand has a strong social media presence on Twitter – and boy do they need a way to respond to Trump’s trolling and appease nervous shareholders.
Before Trump’s tweet about the cost of Air Force One, Boeing was trading at $152.16 a share. After the tweet, it fell, as much as 1 percent, but later recovered those losses and ended the session about flat. Lockheed Martin were not so lucky as we will see below. Trump’s spokesperson Jason Miller was quick to report though, that the president had sold all of his Boeing stock back in June.
With almost the same number of tweets as retweets (52% and 48% respectively), Boeing’s use of Twitter is pretty much evenly spread, with about half their messages being about their current and upcoming aerospace projects, 37% being promotional tweets, and 23% being about industry news and events.
When it comes to Boeing, however, there is a slight deviation in the use of Twitter when compared to other companies. This is because about 20% of their recent Twitter updates are about their financial growth – projected revenue, financial report, the economic impact of the company, etc. Nevertheless, these Tweets and retweets are likely quite effective as they serve to portray Boeing as a leading aerospace brand that has a lot to offer to the global economy, and an array of somewhat cranky global leaders.
You can always trust the Canadians to wheel celebs like Shatner out and for him to turn the invite into a product placement exercise. Despite this the CSA, is a good example of how a national space organization can use the power of social media to promote a country’s space program.
The agency has a very strong Twitter presence, with a number of updates being posted every day. Their use of tweets and retweets is quite even, with 51% of about 30 recent updates being tweets and 49% retweets.
The agency’s uses Twitter to talk about their space programs and missions, with 57% of their recent tweets being about their programs – space launch updates, collaboration with other space organizations, their space products, etc. The agency also uses Twitter as a way of getting more people interested in the Canadian space effort, with a number of tweet updates touching on the involvement of Canadian citizens in the CSA program.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is another government (actually intergovernmental) space agency that leverages the power of social media to promote their brand and missions. The agency’s has a range of Twitter accounts, all of which are very active, with several updates posted every day. When it comes to posting updates, the agency seems to prefer retweeting, as about 65% of the 50 most recent updates from the agency are retweets.
Despite using Twitter to get bums on seats and fill vacant payload slots, most of their retweets are about the trending news in the space industry, which includes news updates from other space organizations, updates on various space vehicles, missions and programs, etc. However, most of their tweets are about the agency’s missions, including their earth observation satellites, space probes, communication satellites, spacecraft, etc.
Like most national space agencies, JAXA (the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) has quite an active Twitter presence, where they promote the agency’s various activities. However, unlike all other space organizations’ twitter accounts theirs seems completely controlled by urr, robots.
Seriously, 100% of all their 50 recent updates are self referring tweets, without a retweet or hashtag in sight. Most have square brackets around automated wording and all lack any sign of human life or interaction with their followers. Quite odd.
Another interesting fact about JAXA’s tweeting is that the agency like using multimedia content in their tweets, with about 50% of all their recent tweets being comprised of either an image or a video.
Lockheed Martin is another space and defense giant that actively uses Twitter for public relations and publicity purposes, despite being a victim of Trump’s online teasing. After Trump’s F-35 tweet the company’s market value initially dropped $4 billion.
The impact of Trump’s tweet, per character, was more than $28 million. Even with recent declines, Lockheed Martin’s stock has gained more than 16 percent this year. It is reported that Trump’s tweet shaved off about $1.2 billion of Lockheed Martin’s market value.
When allowed to carry out ‘business as usual’, the company mostly tweets rather than retweets existing messages from their community, with over 80% of the surveyed recent Twitter updates being new tweets.
About 20% of their updates are about trending news and upcoming events in the aerospace and defense industry, so they manage to use Twitter effectively in order to encourage fans, followers, journalists and the industry to engage with the brand.
As one of the newer new space companies on the block, NanoRacks uses social media extensively to promote their brand and customer projects, especially on Twitter. Most of their Twitter updates are new tweets, which account for about 64% out of all the 50 surveyed recent updates.
NanoRacks use of their Twitter platform is quite even, with 50% of their updates being about various customer CubeSat missions and experiment results – 30% about products, contracts and news releases, and 20% about various collaborations the company has with other space brands.
Full moon tweet by twitter #hacker makes @NASAKepler the #butt of a cheeky joke @NASA Click To Tweet
Well hold on there NASA old boy! Despite the fun nature of some of the agency’s spoof jokey tweets, the ‘cheekiest’ one that deserved a little more, urr, coverage, was posted by a hacker. The U.S. Space agency is responsible for keeping dozens of twitter profiles for various missions and facilities, so its not surprising their accounts get compromised once in a while.
Like most leading space brands, NASA favors new tweets over retweets, with 66% of the surveyed recent Twitter updates being new tweets. The agency talks about their missions a lot on Twitter, with 40% of the surveyed tweets being about various NASA space activities. This figure is similar to ‘engagement’ tweets, which account for about 40% of all the Twitter messages sent by the agency.
It’s got to be said that their digital marketing and social media team really deserve the Webby award they recently won, due to their ongoing full coverage of heaps of different missions and projects around the world. Well done guys, we appreciated being in the know about how the budget is being spent and what the space program is achieving on a day to day basis.
It’s not all about exploiting twitter to drum up business though. Some use it as a way to communicate the information that is important to them, whilst entertaining the masses with their tweets.
Climate change denier @potus @realDonaldTrump shamed by @RougeNASA staff #NASA Click To Tweet
Others use the social network as a platform to announce facts and opinions they otherwise would not be able to publish. For example, NASA scientists who won’t tolerate Trump’s climate change denial.
Orbital ATK use their position as one of the giants in the defense and aerospace to shout about the marketing messages they want to publicise. The company has a very active Twitter account, that signifies a leader rather than a follower, as it contains regular updates in the form of fresh tweets, with just 10% of their surveyed messages being retweets.
In terms of usage, half of Orbital’s Tweets (about 48%) are used to inform twitter users about their former, current, or future projects. For example, a good number of the recent twitter messages from the company are about their current ‘feel good’ Cygnus spacecraft (their automated cargo spacecraft used for resupply missions to the ISS), as well as their lesser known PGK artillery projectiles that are marketed to defense organizations around the world.
User engagement messages account for about 22% of their recent tweets, industry events – 16%, partnerships and collaboration – 16%, and paying tribute to various persons – 6% that are dead or still alive.
Planetary Resources, Inc. is one of the most active space brands on Twitter, and this does not come as a surprise with the company having been founded during an era where advertising on social media was trending. The modern brand uses Twitter greatly to promote and inform others about their space products, services, and missions, all of which are geared towards achieving asteroid mining in space.
The company’s usage of Twitter is very diverse, starting with their updates, which are spread quite evenly – 60% of the surveyed Twitter updates, are fresh tweets and 40% are retweets. The utilization of their Tweets is also spread out – 24% of their updates are about their products, services, or missions, 20% of the updates are used to improve prospective customers and brand enthusiasts’ engagement with the Planetary Resources brand, 14% of the updates are used to promote the brand, 12% of the updates are used to pay tribute to various persons, and 10% of the tweets are used to promote various space industry events.
Planetary Resources, Inc., however, stands out from the rest of the space brands when it comes to the mention of partners and other brands in the space industry. 30% of the surveyed Twitter updates mention various space brands that the company collaborates with, with NASA enjoying most of the brand mentions. Other companies that have been mentioned in the updates include SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic.
The Russian national space agency is one of the most active space brands when it comes to marketing their services and products – which is suprising as they are trying to hide their site content from Google search results. Like most national space agencies (for example, NASA and JAXA), Roscosmos favors tweeting over retweeting with just about all of their recent twitter updates being fresh tweets – 100% of the surveyed 30 Twitter updates are tweets.
The agency’s use of Twitter is also mostly for self promotion of past, existing and future space projects, totalling 70% of their surveyed tweets. These projects include their space products and services, their current and planned space missions, past space missions, as well as the performance updates of their existing space projects – for example, their earth observation satellites.
Roscosmos also uses their Twitter platform for a range of other functions such as the promotion of their brand – about 9%, promotion of industry events – about 9%, company news – about 9%, and paying tribute to important persons in the Russian space program – 10%. More than any other space brand, Roscosmos tweet about historic events and their place in the establishment of space exploration.
Sierra Nevada Corporation uses Twitter and other social media platforms extensively to promote and market their products and services. The company has a very active presence on Twitter, with regular updates that are posted nearly on a daily basis. Most of the updates are in the form of fresh tweets – about 86% of the surveyed tweets – a trend that seems to be favored by most of the top space brands, despite the average user posting 6 tweets to every 4 retweets.
However, Sierra Nevada’s utilization of the Twitter platform is quite diversified, with their tweets covering several things such as: The company’s space missions and projects – 38% of the surveyed Twitter updates from Sierra Nevada Corporation are about their current space projects, especially the space products they are developing. For example, the Dream Chaser spacecraft, the unmanned cargo spacecraft that will be used for resupply missions to the ISS.
Sierra Nevada Corporation acknowledges and promotes other space brands that it works closely with too. 24% of the surveyed Twitter updates from the company mention other space or space-related brands and their missions, products, services, or space projects. The other aeas covered by Sierra Nevada’s Twitter updates include industry events – accounting for about 14% of the surveyed tweets.
As a space news agency, Space.Com uses Twitter to promote its content and engage with its readership, prospective subscribers, and space enthusiasts who rely on the company for information about the latest happenings in space. Most of the Twitter updates from the company are fresh tweets (about 88% of the surveyed updates), which is understandable given the fact that it is a news organization, with a heck of a lot of output to talk about.
Space.com’s usage of Twitter differs from space industry brands in various ways such as:
a) Most of the publication’s twitter updates are about various space missions and activities (about 48% of the surveyed tweets).
b) Space.com tends to mention other space brands several times, with 30% of their recent tweets covering products, services, or space missions conducted by other space brands.
c) The tweets covering industry events are relatively higher (about 18% of the surveyed tweets) compared to those of other space brands.
d) There are a number of tweets that contain entertainment content – about 10% of the surveyed tweets. Including lots of unrealted messages about science fiction and consumer products.
Funny @ElonMusk corrects @JeffBezos via #twitter - 'Welcome to the club' @spacex @blueorigin Click To Tweet
Cheeky but lovable, (to most) Musk and SpaceX are one of the most discussed ‘newspace’ brands in the industry that uses Twitter as a main marketing platform, and a way to, urr, set the records straight. Similar to most of the space brands surveyed, SpaceX prefers tweeting to retweeting, with about 64% of their 100 most recent updates being new tweets.
80% of SpaceX’s tweets are about their space projects. Most notable of these projects is the Dragon cargo vehicle that is used for resupply missions to the ISS. However, unlike most space brands, Elon Musk himself uses SpaceX’s popularity to comment on various matters affecting space exploration and society. For example, 6% of his surveyed tweets posted recently are about political matters in the US, especially the recent executive order by US President banning the entry of citizen from various Muslim countries around the world.
Timmy! British astronaut Tim ‘thumbs-up’ Peake is one of the more human faces that helps promote space exploration when compared to some of the more serious military-background astronauts fielded by the U.S. His humble tweets are generally about space education and his role in representing the UK space programme.
Given that the UK Space Agency, the national agency responsible for the United Kingdom Space Program, does not yet have its own website (it blags a free ride on the UK government website), one would assume that the agency has a quiet profile on Twitter. However, this could not be further from the truth, and the UK Space Agency is one of the most active space agencies on Twitter.
The Agency, like most other space brands, uses most of their Twitter updates to promote space missions and products, with 36% of the surveyed tweets being about various UK space projects and activities. A good number of the updates (about 22%) are also used to encourage users to engage with the agency’s brand, events and educational activities.
'secret' #spysat #launch generates publicity for @ToryBruno and govt faves @ULAlaunch Click To Tweet
As a biggie that enjoys preferential treatment by the U.S. Government, it comes as no surprise that the ULA has a very active presence on Twitter. Most of the company’s Twitter updates are used tweets (as opposed to retweets) with 68% of the surveyed updates being new tweets.
When it comes to the utilization of the Twitter platform, the United Launch Alliance seems to favor using their Twitter account to promote their space projects and missions, with 56% of the surveyed tweets being about the various space projects they want the world to know about. Retweets are used to acknowledge other brand’s missions and messages their top brass choose to share with the public.
22% of their tweets are user engagement type tweets. Other uses of Twitter include promotion of their launch services – about 8% of the surveyed tweets, and acknowledging the work of notable persons – about 4% of the recent tweets captured in the survey.
As is usually the case, chiefs of large companies have the confidence to post about their adventures, thoughts, dreams, whilst those managing the official brand’s social profiles tend to walk the company line. Richard Branson is no exception to this and as the founder of one of the most advertised space brands in the world, it is not a surprise that the bearded commercial space advocate, known as ‘MR Yes’ has a very professional and active Twitter presence.
The Virgin Galactic brand too has a well groomed Twitter profile and prefers posting new tweets instead of retweeting, with 72% of the surveyed messages being new tweets, compared to 28% retweets. In terms of usage, the main purpose of Virgin Galactic’s Twitter account is to promote the company’s current and future space projects, with 46% of the surveyed tweets being about various space products being developed by the company.
Other uses of the Twitter platform include:
a) Company news – Virgin Galactic uses Twitter to keep followers and journalists aware of what is happening within the company – 14% of the surveyed tweets are about the company’s news.
b) Brand promotion – in addition to promoting its space projects and missions on Twitter, Virgin Galactic also uses the platform to promote its space brand.
c) Acknowledging notable people – Virgin Galactic also uses its Twitter account to publicly acknowledge the efforts of their employees (unheard of in most large space organizations), as well as other notable persons – 12% of the surveyed tweets.
XCOR Aerospace is one of the top space brands that have a relatively quiet presence on Twitter. Their updates are posted regularly but not so often as other brands in the industry. However, like most other space firms, XCOR prefers tweeting to retweeting, with 62% of the surveyed recent updates being new tweets.
When it comes to their twitter usage statistics, most of their updates touch on missions, products and services – 36% of the tweets. A good number of tweets are for acknowledging notable people in the space industry – about 28%. XCOR Aerospace also uses their Twitter account for other purposes such as: a) Acknowledging the achievements their partners and other space brands are making in the space industry – 20% of the surveyed tweets mention other space brands – and b) Encouraging the company’s Twitter followers to engage with the XCOR brand – 20% of the surveyed tweets.
So, the majority of space brands use the twitter platform as it was intended – as a way to inform interested parties (now dubbed ‘followers’) of their latest news and to thumbs-up other organization’s work with regular retweets (nods of approval). Some stick their neck out with humour, some don’t. Some automate all posts in the hope that meddling human hands don’t mess things up, and others add personality and actively encourage discussion and feedback in front of all those prying eyes.
One thing is for sure though, not one of the space industry organizations surveyed have started or encouraged a public discussions with the president on Twitter. In fact most, quite rightly, are walking a fine line of standing tall enough to announce their achievements, deals and profits to the world, whilst hoping their head does not reach too far above the parapet.
Who will be the next victim? Will Trump start picking on smaller firm’s before they even take flight? Or just continue to tease millions off the stock prices of large firms, to ensure they are headed in the right direction.Result: @JeffBezos and @Space_Station Trump the biggest troll on Twitter Click To Tweet
With the president only 100 days into his tenure, it’s going to be interesting to see who is next in the firing line and watching which brands will stand up for themselves against this new medium of, what many see as bullying, constructive criticism or just good old teasing. For now though, lets just leave the final word to the top twitter troll of them all…