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Mars Rover Curiosity’s Social Media Success

Since its arrival on the Red Planet on August 5, 2012, the Mars Curiosity Rover has become quite the social media celebrity. She (the robot is a she, by the way) has large followings on both Twitter and Facebook, and has even made a number of check-ins on FourSquare. She has the biggest following of any space mission so far, and that following continues to grow every day. So, what has made the Curiosity’s social media campaign so successful? Why does it appeal to people of all ages? The personality that the rover has been given, thanks to her social media team, has made the cheeky robot identifiable across all age groups. It turns out that space science + humor + pop culture references = fun.

Is Curiosity the First Rover on Twitter?
Despite its wild popularity, Curiosity is not the first rover on Twitter. The first was Mars Phoenix, which was also quite popular for its time. In fact, most of NASA’s missions have social media accounts, with the hopes of sparking interest in science and space exploration. They have tried speaking about the rovers in both first and third person, but have found the first person method to be more successful.

Pre-Launch Prep
Curiosity’s talented social media team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) offers some insight into her popularity online. The social media team, led by Veronica McGregor, head of the JPL newsroom, created interest in the mission before it was even launched. As the rover was being built, cameras on UStream showed engineers working live. For nine months, viewers were able to ask questions in real time for two hours every day. These videos even made one of the engineers, Bobak Ferdowsi, a celebrity when the Twittersphere began buzzing about his Mohawk hairdo.

Curiosity Makes Her Debut
Updates were made while Curiosity made her long, arduous travel through the dark depths of space. Film Director John Beck was asked to create a simulation video to portray the difficulties and improbabilities of landing such a large rover on Mars. His video, 7 Minutes of Terror, had space enthusiasts on the edge of their seats on August 5 as they anticipated the rover’s landing on the Red Planet. Upon her arrival, Curiosity tweeted, “GALE CRATER, I AM IN YOU!!!” McGregor says that she intended to live-tweet only the landing, but the rover kept getting questions that just didn’t stop.

Personality, Meet Science
To say they had renewed interest in space exploration is an understatement. Curiosity now boasts more than 1.3 million followers on Twitter and has more than 516,000 likes on Facebook. McGregor works with social media specialists Courtney O’Conner and Stephanie Smith to create a sassy, likeable personality for Curiosity. Talking in the first person rather than the third person makes the rover seem more human. They’re not afraid to use pop culture references and tweet-speak to connect with their audience, either. Take this gem of a tweet, for example: “Listen, baby. Ain’t no crater wide enough…to keep me from getting to Mount Sharp.” Curiosity boasts the first check-in from another planet on FourSquare. In fact, she’s checked in at the Gale Crater so many times that she is now its mayor.

The JPL social media team for Curiosity won the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive award for their amazing social media efforts.

The success of this far away robot on social media has a lot of lessons for businesses and individuals alike. However, social media marketing is a complex and shifting field. Should you be interested in turning over your social media marketing to experienced professionals, Infintech Designs is ready and waiting to help you achieve success.


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