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"Tweeting from Space" - Government Executive Magazine

From Twitter to Foursquare checkins to Mohawk Guy, it seems everything viral coming from federal government traces back to one agency: NASA.

Jason Townsend, deputy social media manager for the agency and overseer of its 460 social media accounts, says the trend is no coincidence. “It’s been part of our ethos since day one to share as much information as we can,” he says. “There’s no argument about should we be doing it. It’s just a matter of ‘how should we do it?’ ”

NASA’s most recent foray into social media has been a resounding success, with its Curiosity Rover that recently touched down on the surface of Mars drawing more than 1.2 million followers on Twitter. Account updates narrate day-to-day activities of the rover from a firstperson perspective.

Townsend says the popularity of NASA’s Twitter feed—and all its social media enterprises—is rooted in “great content,” but the key to its viral growth is engagement. “We have to be an active part of that conversation,” he says. “It’s not a broadcast mechanism, it’s a twoway conversation.”

His team tries to encourage comments and reply to as many Tweets as possible to show “there are humans behind this, not a nameless, faceless agency,” Townsend adds. Mohawk Guy, a.k.a. Bobak Ferdowsi—the quirky mission control staffer whose hairstyles went viral—is one of them.

Despite NASA’s online success, Townsend says social media is a “constant evolution” and the agency must always be forward-looking. “We are going to try to find the next big platform . . . we can effectively communicate on,” he says, adding the one key question is: “How can we effectively share what NASA has going on with as many people as we possibly can?”

 Read more on page 42 of the December, 2012 issue at: http://digimag.govexec.com/publication/?i=135148&p=42

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About Me
Jason Townsend is an industry leader in digital communications with over 14 years of experience in strategic and innovative use of social media messaging and website content. During his career, he's directed the efforts of and regularly executes some of the largest Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts across the platforms, working on projects that have earned two Shorty Awards for best use of social media, two Webby Awards for best corporate use of social media and two Webby Awards for best websites. He is currently NASA's deputy social media manager where he helps oversee and coordinate over 500 social media accounts covering NASA’s people, missions, and programs.
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