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John Yembrick is NASA’s social media manager and an agency spokesperson. He has over 15 years of experience in communications, focusing on social media development and execution, news media relations, marketing, event planning, crisis communications, video, web, public speaking and partnership building.  As social media manager, John uses emerging communications technologies to help advance NASA’s outreach activities and reach new audiences.

Previously, John was the director of strategic communications for NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.Before joining NASA, John worked for the U.S. Justice Department, leading communications for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Texas. Prior to that, he was a marketing manager for the U.S. Treasury, building relationships and accounts to promote Treasury securities.

You can follow him on Twitter: @yembrick

He will be live on Feb 12th from 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    7 months ago #

    This is clearly going to be an awesome AMA.
    There's a nice little story of how this one came about.

    @Aga_Jaskiewicz shared this great post from her company blog about NASA's social media strategy https://growthhackers.com/articles/why-nasa-s-social-media-strategy-is-out-of-this-world

    I happened to muse in a comment about how great it would be if we could have @yembrick on for an AMA.
    Agnieszka jumped right on that and reached out to him to convince him to be on - and here we are.

    Moral of the story for me: This community has awesome members that care enough to out of their way to make amazing things like this happen.

  • HR

    harsha ravi

    7 months ago #

    Hi John,

    A super huge fan of the social media accounts of NASA, especially of Scott Kelly!

    With a decentralized approach to social media as described in the article above, I was curious to understand the strategy in place for any missteps in the communications via the social media channels ?

    Second, do you have any personal favorites amongst all the social media channel accounts handled at NASA?

    cheers to all the great work you guys do to help mankind push further ahead!

    -Harsha

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      Hi Harsha! Surprisingly, there hasn’t really been as many missteps as you’d think. With over 500 accounts, mistakes are bound to happen, but we’ve really emphasized to the team not to share information that isn’t already public via other channels, (ie web features, video, news releases, etc.). But when mistakes do happen, we delete them and repost. If it’s a factual mistake, we will go back in and acknowledge the error and correct it. We’re NASA. We need to accurate. I actually tweeted an image from the space station and confused the moon and the sun. I posted it quickly and identified the moon as being the sun, as the moon was shining bright in the image over a moonlit Earth. No one blames John Yembrick. NASA looks bad. It didn’t take long for Mashable to write an entire article on the mistake. We corrected it and it ended well.

      And to your second question... no, that’s like picking a favorite child. I will say that I love any NASA account that has personality, while also sharing the seriously of their mission. Scott Kelly on space station has been outstanding. For the Super Bowl, he posted that he was at the same but only for a fraction of the second, traveling 17,500mph. Good stuff. And of course the Mars Curiosity Rover does a nice job of referencing pop culture into posts.

  • JP

    John Phamvan

    7 months ago #

    Hi John! Thanks for doing this AMA.

    Since NASA (as do many govn't agencies) has so many stakeholders, how do you segment your audience populations? What are your main goals for those segments? Does this tie into NASA recruitment?

    Thanks again!

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      Hi John! We have one stakeholder: humanity. Don’t roll your eyes. That’s our philosophy, and we try hard to connect NASA’s content with as many people as possible. But I get what you’re asking. With 500 different accounts, we can tell many stories, like agency recruitment or contract announcements. For the main NASA accounts we try hard not to dip into process. We use our editorial judgment and post things that will find an audience.

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    7 months ago #

    Hi John, super happy for you to be here. ✨

    Most of us are not familiar about communications for organizations like NASA, can you talk a little bit of that? And maybe parts you enjoyed most and parts you don't like so much?

    2nd question, which movie related to space exploration you like most? Pick one classical, and one from recent years?

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      NASA communications is a giant labyrinth of content coming from many different sources. Each project, program and mission at NASA has their own communications efforts to share a very particular story. There are 10 NASA field centers, and that’s where the missions are managed. For example, the space station is managed out of Johnson Space Center in Houston. Mars Curiosity at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in CA. Hubble is managed by NASA Goddard in MD. For social media, we have a lead at each center who oversees all the accounts at that center. We work closely with the leads, having weekly meetings, quarterly video conferences taking best practices, etc. The nice thing about the social media team, as it’s relatively new, is that we were able to build it. When we work together, we’re a force. Just last Tuesday, but collectively communicating together, we made #StateOfNASA trend #4 on Twitter.

      I’m a huge sci-fi fan, and am a huge fan on TOS Star Trek, so the Wrath of Khan is my favorite classic. For something more realistic, Apollo 13 was really fun. The Martian really tried to be technically accurate, so I laud that, and I also enjoyed The Europa Report. You know, we’re working on a Europa robotic mission. It’s exciting to think what we may find under the icy surface of Jupiter’s intriguing moon.

      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        7 months ago #

        Nice, will check out The Europa Report:)

        And tempted to ask a follow up question:

        any recommendations for sci-fi books? Is there a particular one you really want to see becoming a movie?

  • DE

    Danetta Evans

    7 months ago #

    How do you find and share exciting information about NASA when you're surrounded by secrecy? Is it an issue?

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      Things at NASA aren’t as secret as you’d think. In fact, we host in-person social media events called NASA Socials where we take our followers behind the scenes at NASA. We do have things like embargoed science stories, and we’re careful to wait until the story is peer reviewed before posting. For most new discoveries, there isn’t much waiting. We’re very transparent and timely. Our missions are all funded in our budget. Anyone can see what NASA is funded to do. I will say that there is some really cool research happening on the space station that we can't talk about, but that's because it's not ours. Private research is using station, and one day those results will be made public. It's safe to say that the space station is changing life down on earth in significant ways. More to come...

      • JY

        John Yembrick

        7 months ago #

        Agnieszka - There is an application process for NASA Socials. When a new one opens, we can the form open for a set number of days for people to apply. We use our discretion and pick people we feel can best help communicate NASA's story. It isn't just about reach, but also audience. If someone has a niche following, that may interest us. It's not an exact science, but we try to choose a diverse group of people, and we also do bring back a few alumns from previous events. We want NASA Socials to be a community, and it is and it's powerful.

      • AJ

        Agnieszka Jaskiewicz

        7 months ago #

        Speaking of NASA Socials - how do you choose people who can join it ?

  • JF

    Jacob Firuta

    7 months ago #

    Thanks for the AMA John!

    Here's my question: With so many projects going on and so many social media accounts to run, do you have time to plan for completely new things? Can we look to any big new projects coming in the near future?

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      You're right. It's challenging to work new things because every day there's so much new content. It can be overwhelming. Our HQ social media team is just three people, but we have other communications professionals that help. We don't usually create content - that is done by the missions. But we try and stay hungry. I never wanted to be a communications professional that just does the same things over and over again. We are constantly looking to see what's new out there and try and find ways for NASA to be part of it. We don't jump quickly into new things - we want to be thoughtful, and we don't have the resources to do everything. I hope that answered your question.

  • AJ

    Agnieszka Jaskiewicz

    7 months ago #

    Hello John! Extremely happy we made it and GH organized this AMA ;) Have a few questions:

    1) Do you monitor your brand on social media? If yes do you use any social media monitoring tools like Brand24?
    2) Do you train the social media astronauts to be the social media superstars ;)?
    3) Do you regularly monitor the activity of all 450 social media channels? HOW?

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      We have a listening and engagement tool at NASA that helps us monitor the conversation and gives us analytics to see how our content is doing.

  • BW

    Brand Winnie

    7 months ago #

    Hi John,

    Thanks for committing time out of your busy schedule to do this AMA.

    So obviously Mars is a huge topic these days and NASA has a lot to do with that. When the first humans are sent to Mars, how is NASA going to be involved and what interesting things can we expect as far as innovative marketing strategies that will connect people to this experience?

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      Well, NASA is already on Mars. We have orbiter and rovers roaming the surface right now while I write this. Just sayn. :)

      It's a thought provoking question, because we probably won't see humans on the Red Planet until the late 2030s or early 2040s. We're working on the technology now, but it takes time to solve some of the big problems. But we are getting there and have a real road map in place. So... who knows what form of communications we will use in 2040. Who could have guessed what we'd be doing on social media 10 years ago? I like to think that we'll have virtual reality as a way for people to experience Mars as if they were there. That technology appears to be coming soon. That will make space exploration more approachable, more real, for everyone.

    • ES

      Edward Stephens

      7 months ago #

      Love this question!

  • JY

    John Yembrick

    7 months ago #

    Thanks for the great questions. It was fun! Remember, follow NASA on social media. We're sharing the universe. And who doesn't want to see amazing new images from space every day? And if there are any follow up questions, please feel free to reach out. Thanks! - John

  • HP

    Hugo Pereira

    7 months ago #

    Hi John, thanks for joining this AMA.

    With such complex products that NASA is working on, how to keep people engage in social media? What type of storytelling are you seeking?

    Thanks for sharing.
    Hugo

    • DM

      David Milberg

      7 months ago #

      Thank you for sharing.

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      Go to the main NASA channels. We try and write posts so a 5th grader AND a 70 year old would both understand. NASA scientists and engineers often communicate exclusively with their peers, so they talk in NASA-speak. We work with them to break down complicated science and engineering so it’s consumable by people who aren’t technical, like me. Every time I see a NASA acronym used on social media I cringe.

      • JY

        John Yembrick

        7 months ago #

        Anuj,

        There isn't one answer to that question. We have stories about aeronautic research, discovering new planets orbiting distant stars, Earth science stories, launches, R&D work... not everything has the same strategy. Not everything will draw a 'WOW' from people. We know that. So, I would say we try to weave in a regular dose of awesome content as a gateway to tell NASA's bigger story. We want people to connect with our message. We want people to care. So we write things in a way that can be relevant to their lives. One way we've done that well is through pop culture. We've interacted with Justin Bieber and One Direction, we've created photo sharing campaigns, we've done #BlackholeFriday on Black Friday to hijack that conversation. We partnered with The Martian movie to tell our story on the real work we're doing to get humans to Mars, etc. etc

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        7 months ago #

        Could you go a bit deeper into the storytelling aspect? What are you hoping people will feel when they see/read whatever it is that you put out?
        Is there a (quantitative and/or qualitative) way to know if you're achieving that objective?

      • JY

        John Yembrick

        7 months ago #

        #BlackholeFriday was fun because it was spontaneous and did very well. I think NASA is successful whenever it joins a conversation with REAL NASA content. #RealGravity during the Oscars when the film Gravity won a lot was a perfect example. We were huge on Oscar night by just sharing real images from space that looked like they could be pulled from the movie. Space exploration is real.

      • AJ

        Agnieszka Jaskiewicz

        7 months ago #

        You mentioned some great activities ("Blackhole Friday" - genius :)). Which one is the best from your point of view?

  • MM

    martín medina

    7 months ago #

    John,

    Thanks for taking your time to come by and answer some questions. I love the pictures you have on the various accounts you run. I know you guys must have a ton of great sources for pictures seeing as you guys take most, if not all the pictures taken in space. How do you get all of the best pictures and how do you pick the ones you use?

    Thanks!

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      Great question. We curate. When there are three awesome images for a story, we pick our favorite. Sometimes, if the story is big enough, we’ll post again and maybe use a different asset. See @NASA on Instagram. It’s the best Instagram account there is. We hand select the best images only. Our goal is to only show awesome stuff.

      • JY

        John Yembrick

        7 months ago #

        Anuj,
        NASA makes a lot of noise when trying to tell its story. Not all of that noise will find an audience. For the main NASA channels, I have a team of me and two other really, really good communications professionals. We try to not work in a vacuum. We collaborate with each other on draft language and run ideas by each other. There are exceptions, of course, but it's really as simple as we use our own editorial judgment. There are times when you'll see something on the nasa.gov homepage that we won't share. Not all content works well on social media. In fact, NASA creates a lot of stuff that doesn't translate well. We're working to improve that.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        7 months ago #

        Could you talk more about what goes into the curation process? Is there something specific you do or think about, that you believe leads to this awesomeness that gets shared?

      • MM

        martín medina

        7 months ago #

        Nothing I love more than some good content curation! It must be great having such an amazing collection of images to work with so you have a great range of images to choose from. You guys certainly have some stuff that is out of this world (excuse my bad joke).

  • GK

    Gabe Kwakyi

    7 months ago #

    Hi John,

    Thanks for joining the AMA!

    My question for you is regarding the opportunity to engage with everyday users that social media affords, which is especially common on Twitter. I looked at the official NASA account (https://twitter.com/NASA) and saw that you have a lot of followers, which is great - mission accomplished there.

    However in looking at your retweets/replies I don't see any regular users there, only other NASA-related accounts (e.g. curiosity rover and astronauts) and official Twitter accounts.

    I assume that one of NASA's goals as a governmental/public organization is to get everyday people inspired and excited about space - if that's the case, why don't you engage with more every day people on a day-to-day basis?

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      This is a good point. The main NASA account typically only RTs other official accounts. We do try and go in and answer questions from the public, but with over 14 million followers, we try to share only the most high profile and engaging things. Other NASA account share UGC more than the main flagship channels. Still, we could do a better job of sharing things from the public. I will note that we are a government agency, so we do have to be mindful not to promote or endorse outside organizations.

      • GK

        Gabe Kwakyi

        7 months ago #

        Gotchya - thank you for the AMA reply, John! I gather you mean that you have a lot of followers to consider and so there's a concern of cluttering their newsfeed with general posts and thus dilute the value of following NASA, so rather you focus only on high profile and engaging updates. Is that right?

  • JF

    Josh Ferge

    7 months ago #

    What are some of the high level goals of NASA's marketing? is it awareness, education?

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      I have a manta or mission statement or whatever you want to call it: Make People Care. It's easy to post your content and walk away, but we want to frame the content in a way that will show how NASA can relate to their lives. For example, we're doing bone loss research aboard the space station. My grandma may not care about new galaxies discovered by Hubble, but she may care about research helping to mitigate the effects of osteoporosis.

      Also, I honestly feel our content can connect with everyone. NASA is helping to answer the fundamental questions... are we alone? What is our place in the universe. There is something very profound in the work we're doing. We just need people to pay attention.

  • DA

    Darlington Agu

    7 months ago #

    Hi I'm new to the social media marketing profession, would you have any great advice for me as I begin this journey?

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      A social media professional is much different than a social media user. It's not like we play around on Facebook all day. We need to share the work of our organization that connects with people. So, my advice is to join the conversation and reply to people. Social media isn't a one-way street. The more you engage, the most accessible your brand becomes. That's really the power of social media. At NASA, we're no longer this unreachable federal agency that only news media can access. Today, for example, we're hosting a tweetchat with an astronaut on our astronaut recruitment effort. Tomorrow, Scott Kelly on space station is doing a Tumblr Answer Time. Open up.

      • AJ

        Agnieszka Jaskiewicz

        7 months ago #

        Love the idea of connecting the community via Twitter chats, AMAs and so on. I think this is the future of social media.

  • CL

    Craig Lively

    7 months ago #

    Hey John! Your tweets have always been entertaining. I currently work in a tech startup and we are trying to dial in on a "voice" for our product. In one feature of the product, it is a Bot talking to you. What strategies or advice do you have for the "voice" of a bot that is "talking" directly to users? Thanks!

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      I honestly don't like most brand accounts. They sound like corporate pablum. At NASA, we write each post. We use our editorial judgment to decide what points are important and what aren't. For example, this morning I posted our weekly space station update video, which covered various things that happened on space station this week. I highlight astronaut sleep research. i just felt that was most interesting. Our voice is always about 'we' and not 'NASA' We are NASA. There are real people writing this stuff. I hope that comes across. We also work hard to join existing conversations and have a voice that most people will understand. This isn't rocket science. :)

  • ES

    Edward Stephens

    7 months ago #

    Hi John,

    I'm beyond excited about this..............thank you so much for doing it.

    1) How do you see the development of technological innovation in the space industry over the next 5, 10, 15 years and how much of this technology becomes repurposed for other industry verticals?

    2) (Big One) - If you had to hazard a guess, when do you think inter-planetary travel will become part of the public Zeitgeist and a daily concern (as per big data and machine learning now)?

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      This is an exciting time for space exploration, mostly because it's not just nations and government agencies with space programs. Commercial space is and will continue to change the industry, and that's exciting. Companies like OrbitalATK and SpaceX are currently providing cargo transortation to the space station, and soon companies will be flying our astronaunts. That frees NASA to work on our deep space human mission, like going to Mars. Over the years, I think space flight will become more accessible to the public. Industry is looking for less expensive ways to fly in space, and that will benefit us all.

      And your second question is easy to answer. When NASA starts flying crews beyond low Earth orbit again, which will happen when we go to an asteroid and also Mars, the public will be consumed with NASA. It's routine that loses people. When NASA pushes the envelop of exploration, it can be a powerful force in the world.

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    7 months ago #

    John - thanks for being here today! In the past, launches and updates to NASA had been broadcasted and watched primarily through television. Do you see this changing in the future? Will we be watching future launches on Periscope?

    Also, who is your target market for your social media posts? How are you segmenting your audience?

    Thank you!

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      Hui Logan! Love this question, because the answer is YES. Look for more 360 video from NASA in the future. Launches are already being Periscoped by our NASA Social community attending launch. I support any vehicle that help propel NASA into the public conscience. I also think virtual reality will make space more accessible to people. Instead of seeing a 2D image from the surface of Mars, how about feeling like you're actually there? I think that's coming.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    7 months ago #

    Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. I noticed in your personal Twitter feed that your Tweets include a celebration of the accomplishments of SpaceX. Does support for private space programs relate to the broader goals of your social media efforts? If so, how?

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      You know, I don't post much on my personal feed. I'm on @NASA all day long, and really, space exploration stories are what I care most about and would want to share. But yes, it's not just me that supports commercial space, but NASA. NASA is funding commercial companies to fly cargo and soon crews to the International Space Station, while we focus on sending humans deeper into space than ever before. If those companies are successful, so are we. And we have contracts with them, so yes, we need to be telling that story and telling it often.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    7 months ago #

    Theme for today's AMA

    https://youtu.be/lywENW0ESUE

  • JB

    Joseph Bentzel

    7 months ago #

    John: NASA has been publicly accused of editing imagery from earth's moon, Mars, and elsewhere to suppress knowledge of ET visitation and activity. As a guy in the communications loop, what say you to these charges? Representative example in link below.

    http://exopolitics.org/nasa-caught-deleting-data-from-mars-curiosity-rover-images/

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      If images are augmented, there's a reason and we try and disclose that. If someone wants to know why NASA changed something or used ultraviolet light to show something, just ask. Although, we usually state clearly how images are processed. Taking images from other worlds or of distant galaxies isn't like snapping a Polaroid.

      • JB

        Joseph Bentzel

        7 months ago #

        Thanks John. I didn't think we needed to call in Fox Mulder or Dana Sculley to get to the bottom of the 'mystery'.

        Be well and hopefully we'll all be growthhacking deep space startups in the future. :-)

  • RT

    Roman Temkin

    7 months ago #

    Thank you for sharing. Awesome advice.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    7 months ago #

    Hey John

    So excited for your AMA!

    To me NASA's social media presence rivals (and in many cases beats) the likes of Red Bull and GoPro that put out some seriously breathtaking stuff

    Couple of questions for you.

    1. How did you land this gig? :) What advice would you give anyone looking to be the next Social Media Manager for NASA?

    2. Governmental organizations are considered to be stereotypically stodgy and slow-moving.
    How did the entire buy-in to having a relevant and with-it social media presence happen? What were the major obstacles that had to - and still have to be overcome towards not only keeping this thing going but ensuring that the voice remains authentic (ie doesn't reflect any one person or committee's views on how things should be).

    • JY

      John Yembrick

      7 months ago #

      I had a long career in the federal governement that built a resume that helped me get into NASA's communications office. When I started at NASA, I was working in Space Operations, doing comms for the space station and space shuttle. But as soon as social media became a thing, I was one of the biggest advocates in the agency. I truly feel it's the most important thing we're doing in communications today.

      You second question: content. Not all federal agencies can do what we can. It's not that we're so brilliant. It really does help when you're sharing images from other planets and Earth from the space station. Who else can do that like NASA? We're in a unique place. Most orgs can't replicate what we do.

      • AA

        Anuj Adhiya

        7 months ago #

        "Who else can do that like NASA?"
        I think this is a key point for all content marketers to consider - what is it about what we can put out that no one else can.

  • DM

    David Milberg

    7 months ago #

    Thank you for sharing.

  • AJ

    Agnieszka Jaskiewicz

    5 months ago #

    After this AMA session we (LiveChat) asked John a few more questions. Check out our interview: https://growthhackers.com/articles/taking-social-media-to-the-stars-interview-with-nasa-s-john-yembrick

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