Tuesday, March 17, 2009

NASA: We Have Twitter Liftoff!

Liftoff!  Just this week, NASA made headlines by announcing they would use social media websites, notably Twitter, to "lure" Gen Y into increased interest in what NASA does and/or to convince us we should work there.  According to the article, it sounds like they're trying to recreate the awe and amazement of the televised moon landing of the 60's.

Sadly, I fear NASA is embarking on a great mission to nowhere.  Admittedly, failure is part of the process of success.  However, I think there are some serious obstacles NASA must overcome to actually engage Gen Y in any serious interest in space exploration or career opportunities.  Luckily, this mission to nowhere is much less expensive than the billion dollar satellites that fall out of orbit or the Mars Lander that gets stuck on a rock.  Way to go, NASA driver.  Thank goodness Twitter doesn't have a subscription fee...

Currently, only 4% of NASA's workers are under the age of 30.  This alone spells huge problems; with an older group of workers who became interested in space exploration in the 60's, it doesn't take Marvin the Martian to realize the culture of NASA resembles that of the the 60's compared to the 22nd century.  Gen Y has never been attracted to this type of organization; I envision men in skinny ties and short sleeve shirts (before they were cool).  

Sadly, a true Gen Y company isn't one that embraces Twitter, allows flex time, and throws open bar parties (although that all helps).  A true Gen Y company is Gen Y at its roots; you don't see companies like Nike, UnderArmour, Anthropologie, Deutsch, or Google using Twitter to appeal to Gen Y.  These companies, and many others, appeal to Gen Y because Gen Y identifies with and finds appeal in the companies themselves.  Just because you use Twitter does not mean you will become an instant Gen Y marketing sensation.

So what is NASA to do?  Keep Twitter; it's the cheapest thing they do, and I'm sure the budget cuts are hurting the space program.  A few other things NASA should consider if they want to appeal to Gen Y include:
  1.  Do something that actually interests Gen Y: I personally have no idea about anything that space exploration has done for me in the last 20 years.  Sadly, the pace and evolution of science fiction has outpaced NASA's exploration of space.  In a generation filled with ADD (and almost as much Ritalin), NASA needs to find a project or team to inspire this generation and give us a tangible benefit.  That would keep us interested.  My opinion?  Laser guns, sharks with laser beams, or sending Lance Bass into space again.  I swear that's the only notable piece of space exploration I've heard of in the last five years.
  2. Hire younger staff at managerial levels: NASA should identify key areas to create "Gen Y bubbles" inside its organization.  My pick?  Marketing.  Start with marketing, let them develop a Gen Y relevant marketing campaign, and allow them to drive certain areas of the organization.  As you see staff retire, hire in younger managers to bring in top Gen Y talent.
  3. Send us into space: Seriously.  You'd make headlines to send a Gen Y group into space.  Kind of like the whole Challenger "teacher into space" contest, but more Gen Y relevant.  You could let them blog, vlog, and Twitter.  Heck, you could even do the first Twittertakeoff; I sense victory at epic proportions for NASA's marketing and Gen Y recruitment.

1 comment:

Jenna said...

Do we even have money to fund NASA anymore? Althought using Twitter and other social media platforms are free, which is nice.

I feel like people our age and younger children, are no longer looking to the stars, they are looking to explore our planet better. The deep sea, mountains, rainforest, polar caps. As traveling explorations grow. The need to make radical changes to save the planet from peril seems to be a more pressing matter than what is happening around us in the universe.

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