Reaching for the Stars: Look Back with Best Social Media Campaign winner Keck Observatory

W.M. Keck Observatory used Facebook, Twitter and livestreaming to drive 500 attendees to an event and raise nearly $1 million to support observatory technology. W.M. Keck’s Director of Advancement Debbie Goodwin reflects on their award-winning social media campaign.

1. In what ways has the PEM Social Media Award impacted Keck’s business?
– Raised our visibility on Oahu and gave our Advancement team enormous
pride and inspiration to keep doing what we do.
– Helped to raise our national and international visibility: since the
award was received we hosted media coverage from CNN,
BBC, NPR, PBS, Weather Channel [and] Time magazine.

2. What are some new initiatives the business has undertaken since
receiving the award?

We launched a completely redesigned website and garnered 225,000 visits
in 2013. In addition to a major structural overhaul, including upgrading
to a new CSS and HTML 5, we created device-aware webpages that
resize/reformat for each client. We also reorganized and now pre-filter
our assets based on three customer types: Scientists, Friends and Fans.

We have average weekly contact with more than 20,000 constituents:


  • Facebook Fans = 7,500+ a 67 percent increase from 4,500 one year ago
  • Average weekly reach of 11,000 people (number of unique people that
    received one or more of our posts in their timeline)


  • Twitter Followers = Tripled to 2100 from ~700 one year ago.
  • Added automated tweets fro the telescopes themselves to our Twitter Followers.
  • Several observing astronomers tweet about their experiences and share information and mentioning @keckobservatory.


  • Keck Nation = we now have 10,000 members of our e-community that by email receives news from the frontier science and innovation of the W. M. Keck Observatory

3. What drives you to “do what you do?”
We are the best ground-based Observatory in the world and the excitement
we generate about understanding the workings of the cosmos drives us to
always seek new levels of excellence in creatively sharing our work.

4. In your opinion, how important is social media versus traditional
Social media is dominating the marketing sector whether we want it to or
not. Our organization uses the internet for 80% of its communications to
Friends and Fans and 100% of its communications to its Scientists.

5. How did Keck develop IRS social media strategy and in what ways is
it unique?
We were the first observatory to harness the power of social media when
one of our major donors conceived of the idea of Keck Nation in 2008.
His purpose was to build a vibrant e-community of supporters both local
and global through frequent communications via the web, print, emails and
events. Since 2009, Keck Nation helped us increase our fan base from
3,000 to 10,000 and played a key role in the observatory securing over
$13 million in private philanthropy.

6. What would Keck like to achieve in 2014 or the near future?
Our communications efforts are directly tied to our very successful track
record of earning federal and philanthropic support to develop new
observing capabilities for astronomers to answer the most important
questions in astrophysics. In 2013 we received a 100% approval for
grants submitted to the National Science Foundation and received funding
support totaling over $3.8 million from public and private sources. Our
near term goals are to continue raising this level of funding support,
sustain our flagship educational and fundraising programs, and increase
our presence on Oahu. Invite us over!



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