Using blogs and Twitter to leverage your influence as a Northfield community leader

Northfield civic leader blogging class, 2005 Northfield civic leader blogging class, 2005 Northfield civic leader blogging class, 2005 Northfield civic leader blogging class, 2005
Way back in 2004-05 when I was still at NCO/Northfield.org, we encouraged local civic leaders (including members of the city council, school board and county board) to start blogging. I taught a civic leader blogging class and even coached some local ministers.  It was all part of the civic blogosphere project with an emphasis on including leaders.

So as A) we head into the 2010 election season; and B) begin looking for a new Northfield City Administrator, I thought it might be helpful to point out some very important reasons on WHY someone in a leadership position should consider using social media tools like a blog and Twitter.

Michael Hyatt is CEO of the Christian publishing company Thomas Nelson Publishers and recently gave a speech titled “Social Media and Your Ministry.” A preview of that speech was captured in this video of an interview, blogged at How Can Christian Leaders Get Started with Social Media?

Hyatt says in the video that “Twitter may be greatest leadership tool ever invented” in part because it’s “a marvelous way to leverage your influence as a leader.”

(The title of the video makes one think it’s all about ‘how to get started’ but the most important pieces are related to why.)

The only other person I know of who’s written about blogs (and now Twitter which, after all, is a microblogging service) as tools for leveraging one’s influence as a leader is Seth Godin in his book, Small is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas. (I blogged about this back in 2006, Leadership blogging and the leveraged effort curve.)

Godin originally wrote about this for his blog back in March of 2005: Godin’s Leveraged Effort Curve:

Seth Godin's BlogKnowledge workers get paid extra when they show insight or daring or do what others can’t. But packaging the knowledge is expensive, time consuming and not particularly enjoyable for most people. As you get better at what you do, it seems as though you spend more and more time on the packaging and less on the doing.

… The exception?

The intense conversations you can have with your customers and prospects, especially via a blog. Once you get the system and the structure set up, five minutes of effort can give you four minutes of high-leverage idea time in front of the people you’re trying to influence.

The book adds this to that last sentence: “This is pure, unadulterated leverage. The stuff you actually get paid for, with no overhead.”

Godin’s insight — “among highly-compensated workers, the percentage of the [knowledge] work you get paid to do goes down as you get paid more” and that “packaging the knowledge is expensive, time consuming and not particularly enjoyable” — was stunning to me and still is.

In the Why keep a blog? section of my 2005 Leadership Blogging Guide (currently under revision as a White Paper), my #1 reason to blog is to “Leverage your leadership interactions that otherwise disappear:

In the course of any leader’s week, there are literally hundreds of interactions with colleagues, constituents, staff, media and other members of community. Whether these interactions are face-to-face, phone, electronic or paper-based, they comprise the bulk of how leaders exhibit their day-to-day influence. A phone call from a constituent, a conversation with a staff member at lunch, an email exchange with a colleague, an off-topic discussion at a team meeting – all likely evaporate into thin air, for all intents and purposes, as soon as they’re concluded. Even most paper documents such as memos and reports are quickly relegated to the trash, the shredder, or the filing cabinet, never to be seen again.

With a blog, leaders can select from among this never-ending parade of interactions the ones that they deem strategically significant, and give them a longer “shelf-life.” With a posting to their blog, the story of the interaction gains immediate wider audience while making it significantly easier for that audience to pass the story around to others who they think should know about it.

Prospective civic leader bloggers frequently ask, "How much time is blogging going to require?" It’s a fair question. Blogging feels like just another task when you first start out, and it does require some time commitment to work it into your week.

But once you experience feedback from your blogging, that not only are others reading your blog but that it’s starting to have influence, your attitude towards the task of blogging changes because it becomes strategic.

"I’m going to blog this because I know that she’ll read it and pass it on to…"

"When this group of people sees what I’ve blogged about this, then they’re more likely to…"

You start to realize that your blog leverages your leadership strategies in time-effective ways.

Among other reasons why a leader should blog/tweet is that the tools allow you to:

  • Use a voice of authenticity to have a one-to-one conversation with an audience
  • Extend your presence with a selective window into your day
  • Provide another way for people to interact with you
  • Convey your message directly to your audience instead depending on media institutions

More to come.

12 comments to  (Including 3 Discussion Threads) Using blogs and Twitter to leverage your influence as a Northfield community leader

  • 1
    David Ludescher says:

    Griff,

    My 18 year old daughter says, “Only stupid people blog.”. And, “Only losers read blogs.”

    I don’t think it bothers her that she is indirectly calling me stupid and a loser. But, it does bother her that she’s related to a stupid loser.

    On a serious note, the ease of and quantity of communication both seem to be inversely proportional to the quality of the communication.

  • 2
    Griff Wigley says:

    David,

    Have your daughter contact the Pope immediately. He probably hasn’t gotten the word: Pope to priests: Go forth and blog. She should also let Father Denny Dempsey at St. Dominic’s know.  Can’t have priests be known as stupid losers. ;-)

    As for your contention that "the ease of and quantity of communication both seem to be inversely proportional to the quality of the communication," you should read Clay Shirky’s new book, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age

    Shirky envisions an era of lower creative quality on average but greater innovation, an increase in transparency in all areas of society, and a dramatic rise in productivity that will transform our civilization.

  • 3
    David Ludescher says:

    Griff,

    Wasn’t that the same claim made regarding television 2 generations ago?

  • 4
    Tracy Davis says:

    David, I think your daughter’s point of view is limited by her lack of experience in the business world. And on a serious note, perhaps your view of blogging has been too influenced by what you see here on LoGro. There are a lot of people in different fields who use blogging and produce deep content too.

    • 4.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Tracy: Another observation is that electronic communication has created social class structures that are unhealthy for democracy and its representatives, especially in a small community like Northfield.

      Not only do we now have class structures based upon wealth, but we have divisions based upon information, and information availability. We are seeing the collapse of the larger, more inclusive media, like newspapers in favor of more specialized media sources, like the Huffington Post or the Drudge Report.

      I think leaders need to especially careful that they don’t put too much credence in any particular electronic media, such as Locally Grown. Leaders might be better off sticking to the main source media, and leaving the specialized media to cater to its own audience.

      • 4.1.1
        Tracy Davis says:

        David, I think your observation is flawed. Electronic communication has been one of the great democratizing forces worldwide over the past decade. The idea of technology “haves” and “have-nots” has been fairly well put to rest even in many parts of the developing world; access to information and communication is more available to more people now than it ever has been.

        However, you’re right in seeing that streams of information have also become more specialized, or at least that option is more viable now than it has been in the past. I don’t think that’s a huge problem.

      • 4.1.2
        David Ludescher says:

        Tracy: Look at the city processes. There is a small percentage of Northfield clamoring for more and more electronic information. Time spent catering to folks like us is less time for the rest of Northfield.

      • 4.1.3
        Griff Wigley says:

        David,

        Locally Grown and Northfield.org each have about 8-10,000 unique users per month. The Northfield News website is probably in that range. KYMN’s site is growing rapidly. There are probably about 2,000 Northfielders on Facebook, with over 100 businesses/organizations with pages there. There are dozens and dozens of blogs in the area. I don’t know how many individual and organizational Twitter users there are but it’s growing rapidly. 80% of the Northfield population has broadband access.

        All of this is an online ecosystem of people that facilitates the flow of information and engagement. It’s not that the city, school district, hospital, county, etc need to cater to any one sub-group. But they do need to learn how the ecosystem works and how to be effective within it. The analog world of newsprint and broadcast just isn’t enough anymore. Corporations are learning this. Our public institutions and the people associated with them need to learn it as well.

  • 5
    Tracy Davis says:

    Griff -- you might be interested in seeing how the City Manager in Ventura, CA uses a blog:

    http://cmblog.cityofventura.net/

  • 6
    Jerry Bilek says:

    I look at all of this technology as a tool. it has the potential to do good things or is a huge time waster. some blogs are amazingly helpful while others just a way to kill time. For business use, it can be beneficial, but it is incredibly time consuming. and time is money.

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