Curiosity rocks the social media world

Twitter is making this mission to mars extra fun.

First, Curiosity has been tweeting with a great blend of personality and substance. NASA’s social media team are doing a great job. Apologies if this doesn’t show up nicely in the RSS, I’m going to use the new WordPress embed tweet function for the majority of this post…

It has made the Curiosity mission to Mars lots of fun, and shows some of the benefits of doing social media well. And its spawned a few fun spin offs.

Like today. As Curiosity announced it was about to employ its rock zapping laser for the first time on a humble rock named N165. N165 soon had its own Twitter account.

Here’s the science behind the story of this poor rock on Mars.

When naming competitions go a wry

User generated content based competitions are all the rage. They encourage better consumer engagement and produce content and ideas a corporation may not have the budget to produce by itself. But they’re open for abuse. They can be hijacked – particularly if someone with a big enough following turns on you.

I like Stephen Colbert a lot. So I’m hoping NASA goes through with its promise to name a new space module after the most popular response to a recent competition.

“NASA’s mistake was allowing write-ins. Colbert urged viewers of his Comedy Central show, “The Colbert Report” to write in his name. And they complied, with 230,539 votes. That clobbered Serenity, one of the NASA choices, by more than 40,000 votes. Nearly 1.2 million votes were cast by the time the contest ended Friday.

NASA reserves the right to choose an appropriate name. Agency spokesman John Yembrick said NASA will decide in April, but will give top vote-getters “the most consideration.””

Let that be a lesson to anybody running user generated popularity contests – it means you have no control over the outcome. And if you do choose to exercise your right to disregard the competition it will be terrible PR. Unless you’re the people who put people into space – your coolarity is already so high that you can get away with just about anything.