Category Archives: Thinking about social media

Guest blog post at Leadership and Community

I have a guest post on the the Leadership and Community blog today titled Using a Blog to Leverage your Influence as a Leader.

A tip-of-the-blogger hat to Jeff Urban for helping to make it happen.

Leadership and Community is “a collaborative community blog focused on providing awareness on leadership and community insights in the Twin Cities.”

Looking back and looking ahead at executive blogging: the missing link is leadership

Debbie Weil, corporate social media consultant and author of the recently updated The Corporate Blogging Book (now on my Kindle), tweeted this on Monday:

9 years since my 1st article about blogging on Aug. 22, 2001: To Blog or Not to Blog Yr thots on what has changed – ?

Weil was prescient with her 2001 ClickZ article To Blog or Not to Blog… That’s a Good Question. She not only saw blogs as potent corporate marketing tools but saw the possibility of them being used by executives:

TCBB_Kindle_FinalFrontSmall72RGBSo how does this translate to your email marketing program? If your objective is customer retention and you are sending an e-newsletter to your house list, you could easily include a link to your CEO’s blog — or a blog by another executive in your company who has a keen wit, writes with style, and has something to say.

In 2006, Weil wrote in her book:

Ideally, the blog attaches a voice to the company through the words and style of the executive writing it. A legitimate question to ask, however, is this: Is a CEO blog "the" voice of the company? What about employee blogs? Perhaps it’s better to say that a CEO blog can help tell the story of the company. The story you want customers and the media to listen to. It’s a subtle difference, but it touches on one of the most oft touted reasons for a large corporation to blog–giving the company a human voice.

Jennifer Van GroveYesterday, Jennifer Van Grove, Associate Editor at Mashable, published an article titled How CEOs Will Use Social Media in the Future.

Van Grove quotes from last May’s Mashable interview with Forrester CEO George Colony titled Should CEOs Be Fluent in Social Media? about how few top executives use social media, noting that "social media abstinence even appears to extend to CEOs of tech companies."

She brings in the age and attitude factor (which Colony raised as well):

When it comes to CEOs, there’s a vast disparity between the young ones heading up startups and the more seasoned CEOs running the world’s most powerful companies. That disparity is social media — the young are more versed than the old. The difference between the two groups can be attributed to different generations and different attitudes around content and information meant for the public and private domains.

But she fails to mention that in that interview, as well as on Colony’s blog here, that he also notes that the CEO’s of social media companies are less than avid social media users:

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is active on his platform but doesn’t blog and infrequently visits Twitter. Evan Williams of Twitter Tweets several times per day and blogs, but hasn’t posted in 2010. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn uses Twitter several times per week and posts to the LinkedIn corporate blog. Mike Jones, co-CEO of MySpace is on Twitter several times per week and has a blog (though no posts this year).

I don’t know the ages of Weiner and Jones but Williams is 30-something and Zuckerberg is 20-something. These guys are not only extremely versed in social media but Williams (Blogger and Twitter) and Zuckerberg (Facebook) were among the creators of it.

So it doesn’t seem, as Van Grove asserts, that lack of executive blogging/social media use is solely because of "different generations and different attitudes around content and information."

I’d argue that it’s because executives of all generations have not considered how these technologies can be used as leadership tools. They only see them as marketing/public relations tools and once a company gets to a certain size, few CEO’s engage directly in PR on a daily basis.

Van Grove lauds the tweeting of Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman but he doesn’t appear to blog and I seriously doubt that he spends much time reading or personally responding to the tweets of his 38,000+ followers. As I blogged last month, the social networking part of social media is a problem for most executives.

Van Grove asks Edelman Digital’s Senior VP Steve Rubel what he thinks the use of social media will be by executives in the future:

While bullish on CEOs making organizational changes to better incorporate social media, Rubel does not see reason to predict a huge uptick in social media broadcasting from the CEOs themselves. “I see CEOs more laying the groundwork in vision and process than necessarily participating actively themselves,” asserts Rubel.

That’s because Rubel sees the world of social media through the lens of public relations. Others, like that geezer CEO Paul Levy, see it through the lens of leadership.

Debbie Weil saw that a blog could give an organization a human voice.  We now need executives to see that a blog can help them lead an organization with human voice.

Social media in the executive suite: For influence, yes. For networking? Not so much

George Colony In his recent series of blog posts on The Social CEO (Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Q&A), Forrester CEO George Colony seems to assume that social media technologies can only be used as tools for social networking. 

If I’m reading him right, I think this is a mistake. If these technologies were seen more as tools for leveraging one’s influence, then many more leaders would like be willing to deploy them. 

In Part 2 of his series, Colony writes:

With the exception of a small minority of brilliant thinkers, smart social networkers, and publishing-oriented personalities, the social heavy model is a recipe for blowhardism. Think about it — how many people do you know with the erudition to make 30 worthwhile short statements per week, and one valuable long statement per week?

What Colony appears to miss is that a blog in the hands of a leader can be used for (among many purposes) strategic, near real-time, short storytelling. And Twitter can simply be used to help the individual blog posts ‘travel’ around to the leader’s intended audience. (Yes, I’m deliberately using the term ‘audience’ instead of the term ‘network.’ More on that below.)

Here’s a recent example by Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, in a post to his Running A Hospital blog titled Brava, Maureen!

Paul LevyI was out of town when President Obama made his recess appointment of Don Berwick to head CMS, and when the Institute for Healthcare Improvement announced that Maureen Bisognano would take over as CEO… Regular readers have often seen Maureen’s name on this blog. Her suggestions, for example, have made a huge difference in the way we have made our ICUs more patient- and family-centered.

Levy’s using his blog post (tweeted here) to provide recognition, telling a short and simple story about someone whose efforts or actions embody his values and furthers his strategy and goals as a leader. 

Another Levy example: a blog post about a single employee whose actions reflect one of the hospital’s strategic initiatives.

In the networked world we live in, this is a significant way to affirm someone. In the How to blog effectively section of my 2005 Leadership Blogging Guide (currently under revision as a White Paper), I write:

One of the most effective ways to acknowledge someone informally is to tell someone else a story about them. Why? Because it has a better chance to spread around.

A positive remark directly to the person being acknowledged generally goes no further because to most people it would feel like bragging to tell someone else. But if the positive remark is made to someone else, then the recipient is very likely to repeat the story to others.

A blog post recognizing an employee, a colleague, an organization or business in the community is an effective way to accomplish the informal form of recognition with the impact of the formal.

Others see the post and mention it to the affirmed person; some pass around its URL/PermaLink via email to others; others blog it and retweet it, thereby widening its impact; and the search engines store the content of it indefinitely, thereby providing opportunities for serendipitous acknowledgement far into the future.

I can imagine in the days and weeks subsequent to Levy’s blog post about Bisognano, she got a fair number of people saying to her "Hey, Maureen, I saw your photo in Paul Levy’s blog…"

While erudition might be important for anyone aspiring to be a columnist (which is how I’d describe Colony’s "one valuable long statement per week"), it’s not necessary to be an effective leadership blogger.  (Providing recognition is only one of the ways leaders can use a blog to leverage their influence. I’ve identified about a dozen.)

Colony rightfully challenges the notion that executives need to be heavily interactive with their use of social media technologies. In Pt 4, he writes about his ‘social light’ strategy:

Now admittedly, this is a far cry from the "Get into the conversation" conventional wisdom of the social heavies. And it contradicts the "Post incessantly to build followers" high-school behavior of many social players. But let’s face facts — most CEO don’t have the time or the capacity to play those games. They’ve got companies to run.

Which is why I think it’s often more helpful to emphasize the term ‘audience’ instead of the term ‘network’ if you’re a leader considering how you can personally deploy these social media technologies. (Some of the lack of adoption of these technologies by those in leadership positions is likely due to the nomenclature of social media. ‘Blogging,’ ‘tweeting,’ and ‘social networking’ can be off-putting terms to the uninitiated executive.) 

For the ‘audience’ vs. ‘networking’ approach, look no further than Seth Godin who has a huge following among the social media-oriented communcations/public relations/marketing crowd (and a favorite author of mine as well.)

  • SethGodinsBlog Godin does not allow comments on his blog. Readers can only like/recommend a post and/or retweet it. (He does allow pingbacks/trackbacks but in the age of Twitter, it gets little use.)
  • Godin only uses his public Twitter account and his Facebook page as a tools for automatically publishing the content of his blog posts. (His Facebook page followers engage with one another on his Wall, but he doesn’t participate.)

In other words, Godin’s using social networking technologies very effectively to reach his audience without any of the ‘social’ or the ‘networking.’ (He does publish his email address and is reputed to be very responsive.) Rather, Godin is big on using these tools to leverage his influence.

All the Internet’s a Stage. Why Don’t C.E.O.’s Use It? 
Not enough has changed since 2006 when Randall Stross published a column in the New York Times titled All the Internet’s a Stage. Why Don’t C.E.O.’s Use It? 

It need not be the case.

Cognitive surplus (Clay Shirky) and intrinsic motivation (Dan Pink) fuel a hyperlocal blog in Northfield, MN

 Locally Grown Triumvirate: Tracy Davis, Griff Wigley, Ross Currier,  
I decided last week to take a month-long sabbatical from the blogging, podcasting, and tweeting that I do for Locally Grown, a hyperlocal blog in my hometown of Northfield. On Monday, Ross Currier, Tracy Davis, and I (AKA "the LoGroNo Triumvirate") met at our favorite watering hole, the Contented Cow, to decompress a bit and scheme for the future.

Locally Grown NorthfieldIn the 4 years since we launched the blog, we’ve published 2,976 blog posts, broadcast 187 podcast episodes, and host an ever-growing gallery of 10,000+ Northfield community photos.  We get 8-9000 unique users/month in a town of about 15,000. The blog has generated 35,085 comments and has a reputation for civility which is no accident. We’ve been experimenting with an optional membership plan which currently generates less than $100/month.

Since I put 10-15 hours/week into it (blogging, curating, commenting, moderating, tech maintenance, podcast production, taking photos, etc), people often ask me why I do it if I’m only effectively earning $1/hour.

I tell them: for me it’s fun, it’s engaging, it helps keep me connected to people in the town that I love (and where I plan to die), and I think it contributes to making Northfield a better place.

(Other motivators for me: It provides a sandbox where I can experiment with social media, which in turn, indirectly helps my consulting business. And yes, it’s a bit of an ego trip because it provides an audience for my civic-oriented writing/ranting, my antics, and my photos for which I get some recognition.)

Two new books are out that provide some illumination on why people work on projects like this.

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us Wired magazine, Clay Shirk, Dan Pink 

The June issue of Wired has an interview with the Shirky and Pink: Cognitive Surplus: The Great Spare-Time Revolution.

Pink: We have a biological drive. We eat when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty, have sex to satisfy our carnal urges. We also have a second drive—we respond to rewards and punishments in our environment.

But what we’ve forgotten—and what the science shows—is that we also have a third drive. We do things because they’re interesting, because they’re engaging, because they’re the right things to do, because they contribute to the world. The problem is that, especially in our organizations, we stop at that second drive. We think the only reason people do productive things is to snag a carrot or avoid a stick. But that’s just not true. Our third drive—our intrinsic motivation—can be even more powerful.

So powerful that I’m taking a sabbatical from Locally Grown this month in order to get other shit done (AKA making money to pay the bills).

Social media guru Brian Solis: Engagement, influence, leverage, and a question of the packaged self

An Evening with Brian Solis in Minneapolis An Evening with Brian Solis in Minneapolis
I attended An Evening with Brian Solis in Minneapolis last Tuesday. It was a full house (250?) at Solera‘s A/C-challenged, 3rd floor conference room. Kudos to Jennifer Kane and Kary Delaria of Kane Consulting for a well-run event.

Engage or DieA month ago, I’d purchased the Kindle version of Brian’s new book Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web (Google book here; Scribd here) and found it not only informative but intellectually challenging. Brian’s as much a sociologist as he is a marketing and communications guy.

I’m mainly interested in how people in leadership positions can use social media themselves to be more effective, whereas most of Solis’ presentation and his book are about how organizations (primarily businesses, though much of it could apply to non-profits and even governments) can use social media to be more effective.

So his presentation was inspirational and informative to me because I’m gearing up to take my own business, Wigley and Associates, to a different level and need to apply his principles just like any other business.  But I found two elements of his speech were especially relevant to leaders who use social media themselves


I like it that Solis defined influence as "the ability to inspire desirable and measurable outcomes" and that those involved in using social media for their organizations must not lose sight of this (to wit, the funny but ineffective Old Spice guy campaign and the inane Fast Company Influence Project).

I’ve long preached influence vs. numbers to leaders who check the traffic stats on their blogs too often, and I now tell it to those who pay too much attention to their number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends/fans/likers.

Yes, you need an audience. There’s not much point to giving a sermon with no one in the pews.

But numbers don’t give you the kind of feedback you need on whether your social media efforts are having the kind of influence you want on the people who matter to you. (Informal feedback that let’s you know people are paying attention is good. Measurable outcomes, of course, are best.)

Leverage (AKA social media sharing)

I don’t remember if Solis used the term ‘leverage’ but it came through loud and clear when he asked the audience how many were tweeting about his presentation as he was speaking. A third or more of those present raised their hands.

His memorable phrase: "With social media, you are marketing to an audience with an audience." 

Most leaders don’t get this.

Scott Neal, Eden Prairie City Manager I remember the first time the ‘power of the permalink’ got through my thick skull. It was late 2003 or early 2004. My client, Eden Prairie City Manager Scott Neal, told me that one of the people following his blog was a reporter from the local newspaper. Scott was amazed when excerpts from his blog posts began showing up in newspaper articles without the reporter ever phoning or emailing him. And he was more amazed when others started emailing/linking to those articles and in turn, mentioning to Scott informally that they read/heard what he said.

Likewise, Scott was surprised when, after posting to his blog at 7:30 am, he’d walk down the hall and have employees mention that they’d just read his post. And then later in the day he’d hear employees tell him that someone had emailed them a link to a recent blog post.

That was happening seven years ago.  The state of social media now is such that nearly everyone has an audience and a leader’s ability to effectively reach the audiences of their audience is unparalleled. From Brian’s book, page 4:

Social media has created and magnified a new layer of influencers across all industries. It is the understanding of the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they share and create content in which others can participate. This, and only this, allows us to truly grasp the future of communications, which is already unfolding today.

A confusing quotation

George Bernard Shaw Solis ended his presentation with a George Bernard Shaw quote: "Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself".

I’ve always like the quote because of its optimistic, you-can-be-or-do-anything message.

But without some elaboration, it’s puzzling to me why Solis would use it in a presentation that emphasized the importance of authenticity which, on the face of it, does not seem to go hand-in-hand with ‘creating yourself.’ 

Social media tempts us all with its ability to make it easier to package ourselves. Today’s NY Times ‘The Way We Live Now’ piece by Peggy Orenstein, I Tweet, Therefore I Am, focuses on this (though she seems to miss the distinction between lifecasting and mindcasting):

Peggy Orenstein The fun of Twitter and, I suspect, its draw for millions of people, is its infinite potential for connection, as well as its opportunity for self-expression. I enjoy those things myself. But when every thought is externalized, what becomes of insight? When we reflexively post each feeling, what becomes of reflection? When friends become fans, what happens to intimacy?

The risk of the performance culture, of the packaged self, is that it erodes the very relationships it purports to create, and alienates us from our own humanity.

It seems to me that Solis might elaborate a bit on what the Shaw quote means to him in the context of Engage and his writings about the egosystem. Or maybe find a different quotation that epitomizes it. Maybe one of these authenticity quotes? (And while he’s at it, he might want to offer his services to the company with that 1999-style website!)

I’ve been waiting for some substantive blog posts to be published about An Evening with Brian Solis but thus far, haven’t seen any referred to in the Twitter real-time results for the #solisMSP hashtag.  Lots of tweets have captured some of his quotes, though, for example:

Every company is a media company, EC=MC

Upload your excellent written content to and to get found by a wider audience

Youtube is the #2 search engine after Google. Want to build your brand? Get on Youtube with high-quality, SEO’d video

People is now the 5th P in marketing (with product, price, place, promotion)

Engage people where they congregate online

If your dentist isn’t on Twitter, get another dentist. Same goes for your wife.

70% of all social web users are just spectators

RRS = Relevance, Resonance & Significance

One room at a time makes a difference for engaging people. I want to engage you so that you will engage others

You’re only as good as you were yesterday

Twitter apps like tweetdeck and Seesmic are slot machines of attention

Empathy is the toll booth in the last mile of engagement in social media

Influencers don’t magically find information

Leadership and social media: Don’t underestimate the power of very small stories

Receding thunderhead at sunset; my Northfield neighborhood, 7/29/10 I was sipping a cup of decaf in my basement office easy chair last night, browsing the tweets in Seesmic Desktop that I’d marked as favorites via Android Seesmic when I was out for a walk around our Hidden Valley Park neighborhood earlier in the evening. (Sometimes when I go for a walk, I focus on my surroundings. Other times, I think/read/communicate, with an occasional glance at my surroundings. Last night it was the latter, as this receding thunderhead at sunset grabbed my attention for a couple of minutes.)

Becky Robinson - LeaderTalk  I reread a tweet from Becky Robinson "Putting together a round-up of posts on leaders and communication. It’s not too late to DM me a link to your post!" and decided to contact her about one of my posts. In it, I noted that she not only writes about the power of storytelling in her LeaderTalk blog, eg, her recent Tell me a Story blog post, but she models it.  Her posts often start out with little stories. Here are 6 from the past month:

I wrote her that she has a very nice touch with these little blog post introduction stories and that very few people do this. I don’t do it often enough myself here on my business blog, though I do better with our community blog, Locally Grown Northfield. (Hence, my concerted effort to include a little story of my own in this blog post. Even coaches need reminders!)

Need proof of the importance of stories? I’m not sure how I stumbled on it but yesterday, Roger Dooley posted this to his Neuromarketing blog, Stories Synchronize Brains:

An ongoing story (so to speak) here at Neuromarketing is the power of stories to engage readers and listeners. Now, there’s new brain scan evidence that shows a startling phenomenon: when one person tells a story and the other actively listens, their brains actually begin to synchronize.

In the How to blog effectively section of my 2005 Leadership Blogging Guide (currently under revision as a White Paper), I write about the importance of telling stories and how even very little stories can be effective in a blog post:

We all have a knack for telling stories in an informal social setting. "Hey, guess what happened to me today?" we say to our family members and friends. Listen to the conversations at parties and you’ll hear a constant stream of storytelling. So the idea is to use storytelling in your blog in much the same way that you use it in informal social settings – but towards a leadership or management goal.

There are levels of complexities to stories and certain elements need to be included, depending on your purpose. But even the smallest incident is more compelling reading when framed with a short, simple story, for example:

  • "I ran into a citizen in the hallway yesterday and she asked…"
  • "My colleague Joe handed me the latest issue of FastCompany this morning and suggested I read the article on…."
  • "On my way home from work last night, I passed the park where…"

Stories at WorkMost leadership storytelling strategies are focused on the why and how of oral, performance-oriented storytelling where tone, voice inflection and gestures come into play. That makes sense whenever there’s a face-to-face audience available, or if the storytelling is to be broadcast.

But written storytelling via a blog can be an effective, alternative delivery method. And it has some advantages over oral storytelling:

  • Your audience-of-many is always available
  • A blog post (via its permaLink) can get easily passed around via the web and email
  • The permaLink of the blog post never dies. If your story turns out to have long-lasting impact, its web address can be linked to indefinitely

Some storytelling tips for a leadership blogger:

  • The real names of people involved can help to make the story. Include them, with their permission.
  • Frame your story with time/date, such as “yesterday…” “earlier this morning…” “last Tuesday…”
  • Describe the place, or at least name it. If you don’t have the time or skill to "set the scene," it can help to use a photo.
  • There’s hardly a blog post that can’t include some elements of storytelling. Imagine yourself talking to a colleague or friend about what it is you’re blogging and then bring that tone to your post.

When people ask me "In a nutshell, what is leadership blogging?" I tell them: strategic, near real-time storytelling.

Oh yeah. Becky did include one of my blog posts in her July Round-Up: A Leader Communicates Skillfully. Nice.

Using blogs and Twitter to leverage your influence as a leader: rationale from Seth Godin and Michael Hyatt

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? (Stephen Bateman blogged this last week in a FutureBook post titled Tweet tweet – follow my leader. Thanks to personal/professional coach Tim Pearson for the tweet about it.)

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.

Budget cuts: an opportunity for local government to deliver services WITH citizens. Social media can help.

@Ross Currier, my Locally Grown co-host, tweeted on Monday, “As citizens increasingly challenge politics as usual, is it no longer left vs. right, nor faith vs. reason, but individual vs. institution?”

Listen Participate TransformThen Steve Clift @democracy retweeted this from @72prufrocks today, a report titled Listen, Participate, Transform: A social media framework for local government from the UK-based Young Foundation. It’s part of their Local 2.0 project (see the Local 2.0 Blog here), funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government

The report’s emphasis on the importance of public officials building relationships with citizens, using social media in part, is encouraging and is the best writing I’ve seen thus far on the topic.

In my hometown of Northfield, this is more than a little timely because:

  1. Significant budget cuts have to be made soon and the process is receiving some criticism
  2. Citizens are being asked to support a referendum for new police and fire facilities
  3. The Northfield City Council has a goal of improving communication with staff, citizen advisory groups and community

From the report’s introduction:

Impending budget cuts mean that local government will need to change the way it works, largely moving away from a model of delivering services to and for people, to a model of delivering services with people. Public servants will be required to build new relationships with citizens, relationships to help support civil society in responding to inevitable challenges.

As a consequence, local and central government needs to find better ways to forge new partnerships, involving citizens and the state working together to generate new ideas, tap into latent community capacity and make better use of local assets.

These challenges come at a time when social media has become part of everyday life for millions of people. For those in central and local government, social media will undoubtedly become part of everyday business, a channel for improved dialogue, wider networks and a new kind of mutualism that will be central to delivering effective public services. However, at this point social media is largely uncharted territory for many councils and public agencies.

  1. Listen Participate Transform - graphicListen to social media users and conversations about local issues
  2. Participate in conversations, building dialogue with citizens through social media, but also by energizing them around local issues, providing spaces for residents to support each other, and ultimately empowering them through decision making. The impact of participation should also be measured.
  3. Transform service redesign, replacing or complimenting existing ways of working and adopting new models of working

This reinforces the Citizens League’s finding on the importance of the quality of the dialogue between pubic officials and citizens that I blogged about last August:

One hypothesis about citizen involvement processes is that citizens view processes as “authentic” if the processes results in policies that citizens favor. This turned out not to be true. The most critical element citizens used to evaluate the authenticity of their involvement in MAP 150 projects was the quality of the dialogue with public officials. The quality of the dialogue was more important than the eventual result.

The disincentives for public officials to meaningfully engage with citizens are strong (see related blog posts here, here, and here) but the financial pain that everyone is about to experience as pubic services are cut back just may be enough to overcome them.

For those who want to go deeper, I recommend two other recent Young Foundation papers:

Public services and civil society working together Birth of the relational state

L: Public services and civil society working together 

R: The birth of the relational state

Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, by Charlene Li

open-leadership-smallI’ve started reading the book Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, by Charlene Li.

Charlene Li

I’m mainly interested to see how detailed she gets on the actual use of social media tools by individual leaders vs. the overall use of social media by an organization.

The title of the book seems to infer the former but I’m guessing that most of the content will focus on the latter. I’m following her on Twitter and keeping track of her blog.

I was pleased to see that one of the first leaders she discusses (p. 26 of the print edition) is Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. I blogged about Levy a year ago, as he maintains a leadership blog called Running a hospital where he regularly shares “thoughts about hospitals, medicine, and health care issues.” I follow Levy on Twitter.

New Fels Institute report – Making the Most of Social Media: 7 Lessons from Successful Cities

Making the Most of Social Media - 7 Lessons from Successful Cities

A few days ago I got a tweet from colleague Len Witt and the crew at the Center for Sustainable Journalism about a new report called Making the Most of Social Media – 7 Lessons from Successful Cities by the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

See the March news release for an overview. See the link to the complementary podcast episode (MP3) on the report.

The report is an excellent overview not just for cities but any local unit of government (township, county, school district).