GW study: NASA is social media ‘genius’

The rocket scientists at NASA outrank the White House in their social media skills, according to a joint study from researchers at GW and New York University.

In the latest study of “Digital IQs,” GW School of Business Dean Doug Guthrie and Professor Scott Galloway of NYU’s Stern School of Business found that NASA, the White House, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the U.S. Army and the Democratic National Committee are all “geniuses” when it comes to the use of websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The study analyzed 100 organizations including advocacy groups, political parties, the armed forces and independent agencies, and assigned them an ability level ranging from feeble to genius.

“The concept is really a way of thinking about how organizations are maximizing their digital footprint. I believe that social media is the most important piece of the whole puzzle,” Guthrie said.

NASA earned the No. 1 spot by a landslide, earning a Digital IQ of 184. The White House came in second with a genius-level IQ of 158.

“NASA is an organization doing innovative things that nobody has really done before. When it needs to develop and exploit other media in the high-tech space, they jump right on it,” Guthrie said. “The White House, on the other hand, is a bureaucratic institution. It is not built around technology and innovation.”

Stephanie Schierholz, NASA’s social media director, said she hopes the study will draw more attention to NASA’s online efforts.

“Online media allows us to be much more interactive, allowing us to respond to comments and take action from that. People expect us to have a presence that isn’t just nine to five. Social media allows us to do that,” Schierholz said.

The Obama administration’s 2011 fiscal year budget cut funding for manned space flight – effectively ending the shuttle program – and refocused resources on robotics and investment in private space flight capabilities instead. NASA used social media outlets like Twitter to laud the benefits of the program.

The Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America received the lowest Digital IQ, earning a score of only 38. The Universal Postal Union, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the National Transportation Safety Board and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization round out the bottom five on the list.

The latest study was conducted based on data from 100 Washington-based institutions. All have increased their online presence in the past few years, Guthrie said.

“For a long time people thought of it as a trendy thing for the younger generation, and not as important for how organizations work,” Guthrie said. “We are showing, particularly with this last study that we did, that social media is of huge importance.”

A previous Digital IQ study released this summer ranked the 100 members of the U.S. Senate on their use of social media, and awarded Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the top spot.

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