Instagram: A Platform for Pluto

Instagram, a photo sharing app created in 2010, can be downloaded on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.  For the field of public relations, Instagram has been used by many major corporations to help bolster brand images. (Seitel, 2014) Even NASA uses Instagram to post pictures that are out of this world.

The New Horizons spacecraft captured an incredible image of the planet Pluto, and what NASA decided to do with that image was a wildly successful, yet somewhat controversial public relations strategy: They decided to post the image on Instagram an hour before the official NASA press conference to give the world a “sneak peek.”

Image credit: NASA/APL/SWRI; NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI (2)

“The Pluto photo was not only NASA’s most liked photo, but it also gained them 300,000 new followers” (Stockton, 2015). The controversy over the Instagram photo is that NASA is a government agency, and government agencies cannot exhibit favoritism towards private companies.  Social media platforms draw a fine line for government agencies because, technically, they are public venues.  However, in the case of NASA and Instagram, the company did profit from NASA’s post because of the immense traffic flow to the site following the image posting. (Stockton, 2015)

What do you think: Should NASA have posted the image to Instagram and why?  If not, what should have been their PR strategy?

References

Seitel, F. P. (2014). The Practice of Public Relations 12th Edition. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc.

Stockton, N. (2015, July 23). NASA’s Social Media Strategy Is Genius—And Kinda Maddening. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from Wired: http://www.wired.com/2015/07/nasas-social-media-strategy-genius-kinda-maddening/