The events called tweetups offer ordinary science fans a behind-the-scenes look at the space agency's facilities that can include its astronauts and scientists. In exchange, many participants — whose day jobs range from church office worker to baker — narrate their day through tweets, photographs and videos.
NASA's imagination-grabbing work gives it a bigger pool of fans to draw from than many companies or government agencies, and it sets itself apart further with its egalitarian approach to social media. While it's not unusual for an organization to give special access to journalists or influential bloggers, experts say NASA sets itself apart by inviting people who may only have a few dozen followers.
"It goes against the grain of only talking to people that have a lot of influence," said William Ward, a social media professor at Syracuse University.
Participants are chosen through a lottery. While some end up being self-described techies who blog regularly about space, it's important to NASA that it draws people with a wide range of interests who can tweet with authentic voices to a varied audience.
"I think everybody knows if you hear it from a friend or a family member, you see it as being much more credible than it being from a government organization like NASA," said Stephanie Schierholz, NASA's social media manager.
The sentiment was echoed by a participant in a tweetup held last week at Langley Research Center in Hampton.
"I know I have friends at home who are following every word here. And they're not normally space enthusiasts, but it's just something that, 'Hey, David's going down there. Let's see what he's up to.' And they're following my photos and my tweets and they get excited, too," said David Parmet, from Westchester County, N.Y.
Source: AP and OfficialWire