Tell us your story.
In early 2010, after nearly 25 years of climbing the corporate ladder in publishing, communications and marketing, I was forced to redefine my livelihood when I faced unemployment for the first time. Ultimately, losing my job was a blessing. (I’d been suffocating under my employer’s repressive culture for several years with delusions that it couldn’t get worse. It did.) But it’s nevertheless scary to be thrust out into the job world on your own.
Not being eager to dive back into another corporate nightmare, I started giving serious thought to starting my own freelance business. I began researching opportunities, and it immediately became clear that the new world of social media was going to take a central role in any path I pursued.
A friend of mine had started her own gig handling the social media accounts of several local businesses, and she offered to give me a tutorial on Twitter etiquette, "following" others, the art of hash tags, etc. More importantly, she suggested that I attend an upcoming social media conference being organized in Lawrence, Kan. I wasn't eager to spend the upfront money to register for the event, despite the obvious benefits it offered. (It was bringing in some nationally recognized personalities: Chris Brogan, Sarah Evans and Shawna Coronado, among others.) So when I saw that the event organizers were offering free registration to a student and a newly unemployed professional (a rather common occurrence then), I didn't waste any time signing up for the opportunity.
Basically, the title would be bestowed on whoever got the most social-media exposure for the event. I launched myself into the competition, forcing myself to learn on the fly about tagging on Facebook, replying to others’ posts, re-Tweeting appropriately, joining forums and more. By the time the event rolled around, I had worn myself out from my constant online efforts. But they had earned me an ambassadorship, and I was able to attend the event gratis.
From that point, I was continually online, reading, researching, listening to webinars and learning how to build my own website so I could promote my newly developed expertise. I set up a Facebook page for my business. I regularly started and added to conversations in a variety of LinkedIn groups I had joined. I wrote blogs that explained the nuances of marketing with social media and more. Before long, I was coaching clients on how to promote their businesses on social media, handling social media efforts for others and creating a reputation in several industries in which I’d previously worked as the go-to gal for information on the topic.
Today, I’m editorial director for an international humanitarian organization, Children International, and I oversee staff members who handle our editorial duties, including our social media efforts. My hands-on experience in social media most definitely contributed to the overall experience I was able to bring to my current position. It continues to be a critical part of my job as the influence of social media continues to dominate the world of marketing and public relations.
I owe major kudos to Alexis Ceule, the woman who gave me my first lessons in the field. I also gained much from the patient tutelage of Debbi Johanning, a sorority sister who oversees the social media efforts for her husband’s popular Lawrence, Kan., watering hole, The Sandbar, as well as social media for University of Kansas alums.
What do you most want other women and young girls to know about being a woman in our digital culture?
In the digital world, there are no limits. None! Everyone is equal because you can work for anyone, anywhere, without ever even having to meet in person. Thus, you can shed some of the concerns about the limitations of gender or age or race or anything else that you may think could limit you. It’s your choice as to what information you allow others to learn about you, and you can more truly rely on your actual experience and expertise to prove your abilities. In simple terms, go for it!