Stephanie L. Schierholz, Social Media Manager Photo Credit: NASA

Stephanie L. Schierholz, Social Media Manager Photo Credit: NASA

SpaceTweeps for Schierholz!

Stephanie L. Schierholz (@Schierholz) is the Social Media Manager for NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where she leads many of the agency’s innovative social media activities. Stephanie manages the agency’s @NASA Twitter account, with its 1.7 million followers, and primary Facebook page, with more than 700,00 fans. She coordinates the efforts of NASA public affairs teams to maintain these accounts. Stephanie ensures NASA remains engaged with its followers, including occasional Q&A sessions with astronauts, project specialists, scientists, and even NASA’s Deputy Administrator (@Lori_Garver).

Stephanie also coordinates with the social media managers and staff at NASA centers across the country. She leads ongoing and long-term planning efforts for NASA social media, supporting the challenging quest for resources to maximize the agency’s reach across multiple services.

Stephanie’s skill with emerging communication technologies has led NASA to establish strategic partnerships with services such as Gowalla, Foursquare, and SlideShare. Through Stephanie’s negotiation of these partnerships, she blazed a pioneer trail for NASA as the first government agency to use these platforms. Of particular note is the partnership with Foursquare, which NASA kicked off when astronaut Doug Wheelock (@Astro_Wheels), more than 220 miles above Earth, checked in to Foursquare aboard the International Space Station, unlocking the NASA Explorer badge that Earthlings now can earn by following NASA and checking in on Foursquare.

Although it cannot advertise, the space agency is legally bound by the 1958 National Aeronautics Space Act to seek the “widest practicable & appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof.” Social media has proven to be a ideal tool for NASA, helping it meet the Act’s strict communication requirements. According to the L2 Digital IQ® Index: Public Sector, “NASA is the clear leader and is innovating on every platform.” As the agency’s strategic manager for social media initiatives, Stephanie charts the agency’s course and holds routine conference calls with the cadre of individuals responsible for public outreach within the agency.

Astronaut Doug Wheelock discusses his experiences living on the International Space Station during a tweetup at NASA HQ in Washington, D.C. (March 2011). Photo Credit: NASA/Paul E. Alers

Stephanie’s leadership and dedication have been instrumental to the growth and continuing success of NASA’s public outreach endeavors, in particular its @NASATweetup events. In January 2009, NASA began hosting “tweetups” for users of the social media service Twitter to provide them with VIP access to NASA facilities, speakers, and activities. Since 2010, Stephanie has taken the helm of these events at several locations across the agency, including space mission launches. To date, NASA has hosted 31 of these unique and inspiring public outreach events. Registration is open to anyone with a Twitter account, and each NASA Tweetup draws significant interest.

NASA held an incredible 17 NASA Tweetups, an average of more than one per month, in 2011. Stephanie directly supported at least one dozen of these tweetups as the primary liaison, on-site coordinator, and public point of contact. This is no small feat, considering most of the 2011 NASA Tweetup events supported spacecraft launches–logistically complex, multi-day events with a high probability of weather or other scheduling delays. The year also marked NASA’s “longest-ever tweetup” of 115 days–after repeated launch delays, the majority of the tweetup’s participants returned to see the Shuttle launch four months later. While the agency only planned to invite participants for the original launch opportunity, Stephanie advocated for their continual involvement that enabled many to see the launch from the historic press site.

NASA Tweetup participants stand at the launch clock, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, prior to the launch of space shuttle Discovery (STS-133) at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Photo Credit: NASA/Paul E. Alers

Invited to Germany in September 2011 by DLR and the European Space Agency (ESA), Stephanie led a presentation with NASA’s Space Operations Outreach Program Manager Beth Beck (@BethBeck); the presentation shares the origin of social media at NASA, where it is going, and some of the challenges:

More than 2,500 people from across the globe have attended a NASA Tweetup and shared the experience in real-time with their co-workers, friends, family members, and other followers. An entire community of NASA Tweetup alumni has formed around these events, establishing FacebookLinkedIn, and Google+ groups and a community-owned and managed wiki for documenting and sharing tips, photos, videos, blog posts, and news media reports about NASA Tweetup activities.

The enthusiasm and dedication Stephanie brings to her communication and outreach activities, coupled with the inspirational nature of NASA Tweetup events, has led many alumni to seek opportunities to be more involved in public outreach, themselves. Alumni routinely hold speaking engagements at local schools to talk about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) topics, organize or attend aerospace-related conferences (ISDC, SpaceUp, etc.) and workshops, or become more politically active; a few alumni have even changed careers as a result of their involvement with NASA’s incredible social media and outreach activities.

I can personally attest to the level of commitment, professionalism, enthusiasm, and genuine concern Stephanie brings to bear in all her work. She has been instrumental in reaching out and embracing the public through NASA Tweetup events, numerous public speaking engagements (SxSW, L2 Social Graph, Ragan, and more) and other outreach activities. You don’t just have to take my word for it, though — here’s what some of my fellow SpaceTweeps have to say about Stephanie’s work in 2011:

@cygnusx112: Tom attended the MSL NASATweetup in late November for the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, witnessing the start of the Mars Curiosity rover’s odyssey first-hand. The rover will land on Mars in August 2012.

Stephanie Schierholz deserves this [Best Social Media Manager] award. She does such a wonderful job and has impacted all of us so much….I was part of the Mars Curiosity Tweetup. Stephanie and her team gave up their Thanksgiving Holiday so that we could have the experience of a lifetime. When the launch date slipped a day, she had to reschedule all of the speakers and tour stops, which is no small feat. Even six weeks later I’m still a little overwhelmed at all that we got to see and experience and still processing it. The Tweetup ran smoothly and we were treated like royalty. I can never fully repay NASA and Stephanie and her team, but I can sure try by spreading the word to the world about all of the cool things that NASA is still doing.

@starlingLX: Alex attended the STS-135 Crew at NASA HQ tweetup in Washington D.C. in October.

Stephanie is a very exceptional individual and I owe one of the most exciting days of my life to her! [...] Although it was only a one hour event, it was worth the trip from Germany.

@AllanManangan: Allan joined the NASATweetup family in 2011 and has now attended 3 tweetups, including the Mars Science Laboratory launch from Florida and the NASA NPP launch from California. –

The 2011 JPL Tweetup was my first NASA Tweetup experience. I met Stephanie during one of the tours, but it was just a quick introduction, because I could tell how busy she was—if Stephanie was not on her mobile tweeting, then she was gently keeping us on course as we walked about JPL’s campus. On that day I began to understand her incredible work ethic.

The rest of the year supported and strengthened my respect for Stephanie. [...] NASA’s social media teams have truly taken steps towards making space more accessible for so many of us. They are just as important as NASA’s administrators, astronauts, and scientists. Stephanie Schierholz is one of the best and I support her nomination all the way.

@MTClemente: Mark also joined the NASATweetup family in 2011 and has logged a total of 3 tweetups. You may be sensing a trend here–NASATweetups are so unique and inspiring, they’re habit-forming!

I have attended three NASATweetups. The first one was for Mars Curiosity at JPL [2011 JPL Tweetup] – AWESOME! The second one would never have happened without Stephanie. I was an alternate for the final Shuttle launch – STS-135. On launch day, Stephanie allowed the alternates that made the trip down to Florida to attend. It was my first Shuttle launch and my very last chance to see one. I can never thank her enough for allowing me that opportunity and I will be forever grateful to her for it. My third tweetup was the launch of Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity. It was a wonderful opportunity (haha) to see the launch of the rover that I was able to visit while still in the clean room. I will never be able to express in words how grateful I am to everyone on the NASATweetup teams that made these opportunities possible for me and so many others. But I’m especially grateful to Stephanie for giving me that once in a life time chance to see the final shuttle launch.

@BigE54: Elliot attended the GRAIL NASATweetup for the launch of the twin lunar-bound spacecraft in September. NASATweetup participants viewed the launch near Kennedy Space Center in Florida. –

I have some mobility issues that really acted up while I was there. Stephanie went well up and beyond in helping me out. She actually drove me back from the first launch attempt in her own car, which turned into quite a memorable ride, as Neil deGrasse Tyson (@NeilTyson) was also a passenger. She also arranged for me to drive to the next launch attempt in my own car, rather than the bus. Her extraordinary efforts on my behalf shows her level of caring on a personal level for the participants of these tweetups, and shows to me just the kind of person she is.

@therealDJflux: Andy’s first NASATweetup was NASA’s longest, but I’ll let him tell the story. He’s also a veteran of the GRAIL and STS-135 Crew at NASA HQ tweetups, both of which were also in 2011.

I am an alumnus of the STS-133 NASA Tweetup- The Never-ending Tweetup. 115 days of pure joy. If any Tweetup shows Stephanie’s commitment, hard work, and dedication as NASA’s Social Media Manager and to making NASA Tweetup a success, I believe it’s 133. Adjusting schedules and guests for us Tweeps for over 6 days for the first launch attempt in November 2010 and then inviting us to return in February 2011 with more speakers and tours and the final launch of [Space Shuttle] Discovery.  It was just amazing work. 133 changed my life.  I have, what have become, some lifelong friends as a result and I start class this coming Tuesday to complete my Bachelors degree in hopes of becoming an Astronaut Candidate and being selected to the Astronaut Corps someday soonish. :)

@And_Tonic: “Gin” joined the NASATweetup family in August, attending the launch of the Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft at the Juno Tweetup.

It is hard to imagine the logistics power it takes for Stephanie and her team to get everything and everyone moving forward, especially for something as flexible as a launch.  Also, she keeps us all engaged well after our individual tweet ups. I also think Stephanie is amazing at sharing her best practices with others, whether it be other countries’ space agencies or other U.S. federal agencies looking at improving their social media presence.  She is not only a leader in space and science but also in government communication and openness.

@MaryBethHunt: Mary attended the STS-134 NASATweetup for the final launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour. The launch was scheduled for April 29, but was delayed to May 16 due to inclement weather and a subsequent mechanical problem.

We had a tornado siren and many of us were “stuck” in the press room. Stephanie was in there, too, and talked to us about how the Tweet-up worked, etc. I was very impressed with the whole Tweet-up experience, and by supporting Stephanie, I feel like I’m supporting NASA, too. We met so many fabulous people who worked there. It was such a special and memorable experience for me.

Stephanie exemplifies what it means to be the best in social media–she consistently goes above and beyond to serve NASA and the SpaceTweep community in everything she does. It is our honor to nominate Stephanie Schierholz for the Best Social Media Manager Shorty Industry Award.

PostScript (February 5, 2012):
If you still need convincing, just take a look at @Storify of the incredible community response to Stephanie’s announcement on January 30, 2012, that she is seeking a new adventure–leaving @NASA and moving to Boston to work at @Raytheon.

 


Supporting Materials

A Few Social Media Presentations by Stephanie:

See Also: