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Charlotte's social media savvy will set it apart for the DNC

by Desiree Kane

July 20, 2011

When the massive tech blog Mashable this spring named Charlotte one of the top 30 most socially networked cities in the U.S., my first reaction was one of great pride. I am proud that our community is recognized nationally not only for our strong grassroots community of citizen bloggers, “tweeps,” and independent media folks, but also for the way these new media types inform - and are informed - by older, more mainstream traditional media such as television, newspapers and radio.  

New and traditional media regularly work collectively and collaboratively in Charlotte. I experienced this phenomenon first-hand earlier this month when I covered NASA’s STS-135 final Shuttle launch as a participant in the exclusive NASA Tweetup event at Kennedy Space Center.  

One of only 150 participants globally, I was one of just two participants from North Carolina and the only Charlotte resident with unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access to the incredible news story. Selecting a small handful of Twitter followers, NASA understood the value in granting access to the social media “twiteratti” and the potential for social media coverage to frame its message to the world.  

As a social media strategist and consultant, I sought out and was approached with many opportunities for alliances with Charlotte’s traditional news media outlets to help them cover the launch. Having a social media ambassador on the ground at the event helped Charlotte uphold the image of a social media savvy community – a reputation that bodes well for us as we prepare to host our own international event, the 2012 Democratic National Convention, next year.   While the future of NASA and our space program may not rely on Twitter , there are several lessons Charlotte can take away from the NASA Tweetup as it looks at how it will position the media community for DNC coverage.  

With the convention comes an incredible opportunity to see and engineer these type of social media chatter-generating events. As more and more traditional media outlets embrace citizen journalism, as we see with CNN's iReport, for example, people may wonder: "How can I be in a place to be given special access I otherwise wouldn't get by using social media?" or "How can I get that type of attention for my cause or campaign?"  

The answer lies in the ethos of traditional media outreach. To get the attention of new and traditional media, take a four-pronged approach: First, do something epic or have something epic planned; Then develop media lists of targeted organizations or reporters; Next, tell them what you're planning or what you've done traditionally via press release (pitch); And finally, follow through and deliver.   

In my case, I was fortunate to have the first item planned for me by NASA, but planning was only part of it - as soon as I learned of the “epic” Tweetup event, I was fully prepared to take advantage of it.  

Building relationships is what social media is all about. I’ve built a strong list of traditional and new media contacts and I rely on each of them to help me reach out to additional resources within their respective networks. When I learned I’d been selected for the Tweetup, I put my networking machine into overdrive. Before I knew it, I was getting dozens of requests for commentary, coverage and reporting.  

My story was covered in the Charlotte Observer, I reported live on FOX News from the #NASATweetUp tent via Skype, my story was in the Creative Loafing Clog, and WBT did a post-launch radio interview.   My email inbox was filled with 120+ words of encouragement, envy, excitement and praise, and as I posted my videos and reactions on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter, the response grew exponentially - and continues to grow. Community members from outside the media outlets showed support as well - Local tweep Susan Hilger, @GreenMarketGirl, gladly let me sport one of her beautiful EcoCuffs for the trip.  

This type of collaborative, supportive response is a good indicator that we are willing and ready for the DNC next year. And we stand ready with the knowledge that citizen journalists with strong, behind-the-scenes content can gain airtime on par with the big, national stories.  

Chris Harrington, Technology Director for the local marketing/advertising/new media firm LGA, was recently invited by Audi to test drive a very rare matte white R8 in California, only 90 of which will be sold in the US. He attributes this connection to his following on social media. His social media fame grew from the #votewoz twitter initiative he started whilef Steve Wozniac was on Dancing with the Stars. Chris says that my NASA experience and his Audi experience are both examples of extreme tech engineering and recognition by organizations that Charlotte voices are influential on the national scene.  

Charlotte is emerging as a leading innovator in the New South, and social media is playing an increasingly large role in helping shape that image. The city’s tight, collective and collaborative kinship among new and traditional media outlets is something that - if we continue to nurture it - will make the city shine.

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Tags: social media, twitter, NASA, tweet, media, news, desiree kane

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