It has been a little over a year since I started this blog. In that year I have become a social media convert. I was thinking of this fact as I was sending tweets from a social media seminar at the 2012 Canadian International Turfgrass Conference in Calgary.
I first started this blog after seeing a colleague’s blog (Tim Foley at the Kimberly Golf Club). I thought starting a blog would be a good way to begin a conversation about what goes on behind the scenes in our turfcare department. It would inform members and guests about our maintenance practices. I could clearly see the utility of writing a blog.
After one year the end results are favourable (In my opinion, and blogs are usually about opinions). This blog is cheap and easy way to communicate with Greywolf’s guests. I would encourage all superintendents to start a blog, especially if you are at a club with a membership. You can incorporate pictures, video, web links, and voice clips into your blog. It is instantaneous, timely, and free depending on your blogging platform. If you are writing a newsletter you are essentially blogging anyway, so why not go digital.
But there was a professional benefit to social media that I did not anticipate. That benefit was the conversation and sharing of ideas with other turf professionals. Writing my own blog encouraged me to read other turfcare blogs. Many times I was looking at their formats. Other times I was reading and seeking inspiration for my blog. Sometimes I was “stealing” ideas for content. Iconsider a blog especially if you are at a club with a membership. now find myself reading other superintendents’ blogs at least once a day. These blogs have lead me to communicate with a superintendent in Minnesota about ice and to follow the IPM practices of colleagues in Ontario. I also get inspired by the environmental efforts of other superintendents such as David Phipps in Oregon.
My strangest transformation into the social media world has been my adoption of Twitter. As a way of spreading the word about my blog, I thought I would try Twitter. Other superintendents were using this platform. Prior to starting a blog I thought Twitter was an over-hyped social media platform that was used to communicate trivial information. Six months ago I could care less if a fellow superintendent was attending a conference or applying foliar applying nitrogen to greens.
But I now see Twitter’s benefits. Twitter is essentially a mini blog. Twitter allows me to share a thought, a link, a picture or a short video instantly. I can read the tweets of the people I follow during short breaks without interrupting my day. It allows me to quickly understand what is going on in the turfgrass universe and share my turfgrass world with other professionals as well as members and guests.
The benefits of Twitter became apparent to me recently, during a dialogue about melting ice on greens. In mid January, an industry associate (@Mark_Jull) proposed the idea of using a ground heater to melt ice on greens. Ground heaters are used in the construction industry to thaw frozen ground prior to excavation. Reid Soldan (@ReidSolodan), the Canmore Golf Club superintendent, decided to try one of these ground heaters on his greens. Reid arranged for a trial of one of these ground thaw units at his course. A conversation about the trial at Canmore developed on Twitter. The merits of the ground heater idea, its advantages and disadvantages then followed.
I must admit I thought the idea of the ground heater was very innovative and potentially a first in the turf industry. This thought was quickly refuted. Because the entire conversation about the heater was on Twitter and therefore in a public and open forum, the staff at the Edmonton Petroleum Country Club (@pclubmaint) soon tweeted they were already under way with a trial of a ground thaw unit. Using Twitter, they shared pictures and blogposts of their techniques and results. There were even a few old fashion phone calls to discuss their results and try to get tips about the process. Then, as trials were under taken at Canmore and later at Kananaskis, more photos and thoughts were shared, the technique of ground heating was refined and the results discussed.
Social media was used for a conversation about a turf management idea, its implementation, and the refinement of the technique. Twitter did not come up with the idea. Twitter did not drive the technique. Twitter did solve the problem. That was done by the hard work of fellow turf professionals and trial and error. Twitter and the blogs it referenced broadened the conversation. Twitter did this in 140 characters or less. It did not cut into any ones already busy day. It brought turfgrass managers together. It did this quickly, instantly, and over a large part of the country.
I guess you could say this introverted superintendent is a Twitter convert.