Since it began using Google+ in November 2011, NASA has gained more than 229,000 followers and a wealth of experience using the social media tool. But success using the social media platform is largely dependent on knowing how to maximize the tool's strengths, said Jason Townsend, deputy social media manager for NASA.
"We're a technical, scientific organization and Google+ had a lot of early technology adopters who were starting on the platform," said Townsend during a Sept. 26 webinar hosted by the General Services Administration's DigitalGov University.
Because the audience is more engaged in the mission, Townsend said NASA focuses on providing interesting content in longer, comprehensive updates, as opposed to the condensed format used on Twitter. The agency also includes a call to action--such as "watch this video" or "get more information here"--and asks for feedback in order to start a conversation.
When it comes to major events, the "live tweeting" approach just doesn't work on Google+, he said.
"We try to cover an event by providing a few comprehensive updates," said Townsend. "We don't really try to live post events on this platform because people tend to view it as spam. People have told us that they're un-circling us because of the fact that we've overloaded their stream."
Some agency events warrant special treatment, however, and Hangouts on Google+ provide a fresh format, said Townsend.
"It's a really, really interesting format and medium," he said.
It takes fewer resources to do a Hangout than a full-fledged TV production and is less stuffy than a traditional teleconference, said Townsend.
"It allows us to provide access to our subject matter experts. It allows us to showcase a particular topic and our expertise on that topic. And it really shows the human side of our government organization," he said.
During Hangouts NASA asks viewers to submit questions using the hastag #AskNASA on Twitter and Google+. In addition to the on-air experts, NASA will typically have a moderator who can pose questions from the public and play traffic cop. They also appoint a behind-the-scenes technical producer to manage visuals, slides and helps switch camera views, said Townsend.
Agencies can also use Google+ and Hangouts as an internal tool for an agency or working group's private meetings.
With the circles feature, users can create a notification or send a message, photo, file or google doc to just the select people in a circle, said Graham Bonner, field marketing lead at Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). They can also check a box that prevents the content from being shared or resent to anyone not in the circle. The same thing applies to Hangouts, he said.
"Only certain people can join and only certain people know the conversation that's going on and it won't be recorded," said Bonner. "That's exactly what circles are used for."
- go to the DigitalGov University webinar (includes archived webcast, slides and speaker bios)