Digital Capital Week 2010 has begun, and the first tough question to be asked is: how can traditional media harness the community-building power of modern social media tools. This question was the focus of the Media 2.0 panel on Tuesday, and the panelists were rife with answers.

dc week social and traditional media

Robert Michael Murray, National Geographic Social Media Director, proposed thinking of social media  as a collaborative effort, focusing on the input of “fans” and customers. The key, he says, to getting the most out of your groups’ social media action is the content. Organizations like National Geographic play a role in the lifestyle of their customers, and it is through that lifestyle that they connect with them. “How can we provide value and benefit to our audience?” he asks. “Make sure we become embedded in their lifestyle. The ideas have to be unique, natural and authentic to the audience.”

Continuing with this theme was Andy Carvin, Senior Strategist for NPR’s Social Media desk, who emphasized that “radio should not be the only way to interact with public radio content.” Technological platforms have caught up with NPR’s mission to connect and inform the public, he said, listing examples such as listeners volunteering with social action campaigns led by NPR and sending in interview questions. He stressed that organizations shouldn’t build a Twitter “strategy” or a Facebook “strategy” but instead should focus on how they want to interact with their community and what the best way to do that would be.

From the print media perspective, Benet Wilson of Aviation Weekly and Co-Chair of the National Association for Black Journalist's Digital Journalism Task Force spoke about opportunities and limitations relating to social media. She told the crowd about how she had covered the Paris Air Show from the comfort of her living room in Baltimore, MD and how her personal blog had led Aviation Weekly to start a series of now-succesful aviation blogs. She also said to be careful to not let social media overtake classical journalism, stating ‘Social media is not the cure-all. You still have to do the journalism.”

Covering the middle ground nicely between social media and traditional media was Brian Dresher, Manager of Social Media and Digital Partnerships for USA Today. He spoke about the concept of ROIII and social media: “return on interaction, influence and investment”. The connection between traditional media and it’s social media components “should be like a DVD movie”, he said, “ main movie and then additional features. Central content and then extra.” He sees social media’s main strength in it’s ability to “break news on a macro level” and inform consumers of news quickly and completely.

As explained by moderator Carlos Roig, Digital Media strategist for Home Front Communications, we are “past the point of asking if traditional media need to adopt social media strategies.” New concerns are how media companies can engage their readers over these platforms and, how they can turn reader involvement into action and revenue. With the answers provided by the panels, social media and traditional media seem to be further integrating on their way to a fully interconnected future.

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