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    10 LinkedIn Tips for Women Business Leaders

    November 11th, 2011

    I am continually surprised – in a good way – by contacts reaching out to me on LinkedIn.  As a woman business leader and entrepreneur, LinkedIn is my professional “comfort zone.” Of all the social media platforms, LinkedIn gives you the ability to control and even manipulate your message. It is a “living brochure” for your personal brand.

    In this article, Guy Kawasaki provides some useful ways to maximize your exposure with some great LinkedIn tips:

    1. Acquire new customers through online recommendations and word of mouth
      Satisfied customers are the best source of new customers.
    2. Keep in touch with people who care most about your business
      Sites like LinkedIn help keep your business alive in the minds of the people who care most about your business
    3. Find the right vendors to outsource services you’re not an expert on
      LinkedIn makes it easy for you to find vendors through the network of your peers.
    4. Build your industry network—online and in person
      Search LinkedIn’s Groups directory to find industry associations and networks to take part in.
    5. Get answers to tough business questions with a little help from your real friends
      LinkedIn Answers and Groups let you find answers to vexing questions quickly by tapping into the wisdom of your network.
    6. Win new business by answering questions in your area of expertise
      Use the many forums on LinkedIn to share the knowledge you’ve gained in your area of expertise.
    7. Raise funding
      You can use LinkedIn to find mentors or potential investors for your startup.
    8. Network with peers in your industry for repeat business referrals
      With over 2000 groups dedicated to small business topics, you’re sure to find a relevant group to network.
    9. Convince potential customers of your expertise by sharing unique blog content
      Small businesses smart enough to create unique content on their expertise should link to it from their LinkedIn profiles.
    10. Keep your friends close and your competition closer
      Not only do company profiles give you unique insight into your competition, they also give you an opportunity to stumble upon potential hires.

    You hear a lot of “buzz” about other social media platforms, but I think it’s time LinkedIn got a little more respect. How have you used LinkedIn to grow your business connections?

    5 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Make Social Media Fun

    November 6th, 2011

    As a woman business leader and the owner of a marketing firm, I take my job very seriously, but I always welcome the unexpected laugh and am intrigued by the “unusual.” Like most people, I am drawn to humor and fun.

    I came across this great post by Vicki Flaugher that really puts online engagement in perspective. It all comes back to being authentic.

    1. Use more pictures and video
      Instead of just your blog posts, resource links and business how-to tips, add pictures and video. You can grab them from Youtube or Flickr, but it’s even better if you create them yourself. Keep it light, relevant, and real.
    2. Capture candid moments
      Taking shots while things are happening now and sharing them in real time is powerful. No more staged photos in a business suit with crossed arms. Make me want to be where you are. Make me feel something. Share your experiences with candid shots.
    3. Kids, kitties, and nature
      These emotional triggers, used responsibly, can give people time to take a deep breath in their busy day. Those breaths are when we reflect on what’s important and who matters most to us. Caring is the currency in social. Demonstrate this value by giving people respite in their day with cuteness and “ahhhh” breaks.
    4. Hobbies, philanthropy, and sports
      Letting people see the inner you gives them insight into your character and values. People will feel they know you better and subconsciously assign traits to you via association. It makes you fun to know. And fun is good. It is very, very good.
    5. Music, book clubs, travel, and fashion
      Vicarious living is a sport for most of us. The way the Internet connects us lets us explore food, exotic locales, and new experiences with a click of a button. As the world becomes flat and more global in connection, this ability to share will only become more and more valuable. So share, share, share. It will pay off.

    In being social for business, there is still a line that you don’t want to cross by being too flippant. But  humor and spontaneity are easy and compelling online tactics that you can use to bring out your personality. Here is one of my favorite blogs about staying authentic: “5 Branding Steps Women Business Leaders can Use to Remain Authentic.”

    How Women Business Leaders Can Turn Their Personal Brand Into a Business

    November 4th, 2011

    The more connections that I make online, the more I enjoy this virtual life that I am creating. I run a communications firm, have a strong interest in the social sector and am drawn to the feedback I receive about the useful information I provide through my blog for women business leaders. I have often wondered how to leverage this virtual identity and turn it into a lifestyle.

    I came across this interesting post from Penelope Trunk with some useful tips on creating a business out of a personal brand.

    1. Build a brand that stands for something
      It can be anything, really, but it needs to have a life of it’s own, besides just your name. This way you can take the part of it that is not just about you and grow it. In my case, my brand was my unique take on career management.
    2. Find your paying customers
      Most brands have brand enthusiasts, but not all enthusiasts have money. You need to focus on the demographics that are energized by your brand vision but also have money to spend as a result of that.
    3. Figure out what your ultimate goal is
      If you want to sell the company, and ultimately go do something else, then you need to have a vision special enough that someone else can incorporate it into their own company—as an acquisition.
    4. Accept the reality of a paycut
      To build something big, you have to take risks, and one of those is hiring people to help you. You are probably used to siphoning all the extra cash in your business to your own bank account. Now you will have to start putting that money back into the business because you need high growth to fully leverage a brand’s established market presence.
    5. Check your ego
      Building a great brand about your own personality and intellect is a huge achievement. But to get to the next step in your career, you’ll need to let other people get out in front of that brand. One of the most rewarding moments in my own company was when my co-founders started going on TV to talk about our field with equal authority to my own.

    Because branding is part of my business, I am always interested in passing along information to help other women business leaders nurture and grow their brand. For more about branding, please read my blog, “5 Branding Steps Women Business Leaders Can Use to Remain Authentic.”

    6 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Be More “Likeable” With Social Media

    November 2nd, 2011

    Have you ever wondered why you are drawn to some people and not to others?  What are the factors that make one person more likeable than someone else? When people think about whether they “like” someone or not, most take into consideration basic compelling human characteristics such as kindness, concern, authenticity, care and compassion. As you plan your social media and interactive branding strategy, don’t forget to add these “likeable” characteristics to all of your online and social communications.

    These tips from Dave Kerpen’s article, “6 Ways to Become Likeable with Social Media,” examine the best ways to garner a positive social image.

    1. Listen first and never stop listening
      As tempting as it may be to join the conversation, keep in mind that communication is 50 percent listening and 50 percent talking. Your customers want to be heard and social media provides a channel that really allows you to listen on a large scale.
    2. Be authentic
      As organizations grow large, they develop processes and models to enhance efficiency. Social media provides an opportunity to reverse this trend and actually ‘be human’ in dealing with customers.
    3. Provide value—for free!
      The more valuable content you can share with your fans and followers, the greater the trust and reputation you’ll build with them. Share your expertise without expectation or marketing-speak, and you’ll create an even better name for yourself.
    4. Share stories
      Every brand has at least one story to tell. Social media allows you to share stories with your customers, prospects and the world. Remember, stories humanize brands and make them ‘talk-able’ online and off-line. And they can be told by anyone—customers, employees or management. They just need to be real.
    5. Admit when you screw up, and then leverage your mistakes
      Being able to say “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake goes a long way toward making up for your error. Companies are made up of people and everyone makes mistakes.
    6. Consistently deliver excitement, surprise and delight
      On social media, you’re not just competing with your real-life competitors; you’re competing with all of your customers’ friends and the brands they’re connected to. So the way to stand out is to create as many “Wow!” moments as possible.

    These are great tips to think about when starting and growing your social media presence. Here’s another blog that offers some good ideas for creating a social strategy: Jay Baer’s Social Media Integration Strategies for Women Business Leaders.

    Do You Know the 10 Worst Stereotypes About Women Business Leaders?

    October 30th, 2011

    I have written several blogs about the value of being authentic. I find that the truer I am to myself and my own beliefs, the more believable I am to others.  There is not only a sense of freedom that accompanies honesty but also, perhaps, a guarantee that you won’t get stereotyped. In this article, Jenna Goudreau interviewed some of today’s most powerful women business leaders to examine their least favorite stereotypes. I’ve highlighted the 10 worst here:

    1. Ice Queen
      The ruthless “ice queen” stereotype is rampant. “For many women, it can be a no-win situation,” says Halley Bock, CEO of leadership and development training company Fierce.
    2. Single and Lonely
      Men get to be “bachelors” while women are reduced to “spinsters” and “old-maids.”
    3. Tough
      The first female executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, must contend with being called “tough” and “brusque,” making the “she’s-tough stereotype” her least favorite.
    4. Weak
      Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla believes the most pervasive stereotype is that women are “weak,” a perception that may stem from a greater desire for women to build consensus.
    5. Masculine
      The notion that powerful women must be, lead and look like a man really aggravates Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
    6. Conniving
      NBC’s Ann Curry says the stereotype that most offends her is “the idea that a woman can only be successful because she somehow connived or engineered her rise.”
    7. Emotional
      Former Yahoo Chief Carol Bartz is frequently cited for her “salty language,” which has been used as evidence that she is “emotional” and a “loose cannon.”
    8. Angry
      “Anger is a sign of status in men, but when women show anger they are viewed as less competent,” says Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.
    9. A Token
      Women hold just 16 percent of corporate board seats. But instead of focusing on balancing things out, they are often devalued as being a “token” of diversity rather than having earned the post.
    10. A Cheerleader
      Billie Blair, president and CEO of Change Strategists, notes that prominent women who are considered feminine and warm may be dismissed as “cheerleaders” rather than the strong leaders that they are.

    These stereotypes are examples of how many women in power can become pigeonholed. What is your “image” and how are you managing your brand? Read my blog “5 Branding Steps Women Business Leaders Can Use to Remain Authentic,” for some useful tips.

    10 Questions Women Business Leaders Should Ask Before Starting to Blog

    October 28th, 2011

    If you are reading this  — you probably know that I am a frequent blogger. I got started because I knew that my point of view as a woman business leader might provide value to others. Blogging allows me to share my passion for mentoring and my interest in finding unique ways to improve my professional life. My assumption is that others would feel the same as I do and find value in my opinions.

    After more than a year as a professional blogger, I think these “10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before you Blog,” by Joe Pulizzi, provide a great starting point.

    1. Who would the primary reader (subscriber) of your blog be?
    2. What do you want to tell them? (What’s your story?)
    3. Do you understand the key informational needs of that person?  What are their pain points?
    4. Are you hanging out online where your customers are? Do you or can you make a target hit list of blogs or sites that your customers frequent online?
    5. Are you leaving comments that add to the online conversation on the blogs you cover?
    6. Do you have a firm grasp on the types of keywords to focus on that your customers are searching for?
    7. Do you follow those keywords using Google Alerts or watch their usage on Twitter?
    8. Can you commit to blogging at least two times per week? Content consistency is key.
    9. What is your ultimate goal in starting a blog? One year from when you start blogging, how will the business be different?
    10. How will the execution process work within your company, and how will you market the blog?

    If you liked this post, you might find a few of my other blogs on blogging interesting too: “Successful Blogging Tips for Women Business Leaders” and  “Women Business leaders: 3 Tactics for a Better Business Blog.” The most valuable advice that I can give you is this: find your passion and remain authentic.

    Tips Women Business Leaders Can Use to Gain Your Industry’s Attention at Conferences

    October 23rd, 2011

    Sometimes, as a woman business leader and business owner, I feel ambivalent about attending conferences. How do you justify the time and expense involved? Even so, I attend and present at numerous conferences. However, I have to say that, for me, the most valuable learning is the face-to-face connections I make between the breakout sessions. I always try to set up meetings pre-conference by researching the attendee list and the people who may be based in the city where the conference is located. Doing the upfront research and preparation is key– but being flexible and ready to seize additional opportunities to connect is also crucial to a successful conference.

    I thought these tips, condensed from an article on “How to Capture Someone’s Attention in 10 Seconds”  by Mike Periu, were very timely. He suggests that working on a few simple issues and refocusing your strategy and intent will yield tremendous results.

    Here’s what he said:

    1. First, Manage Your Expectations
      If you expect to close a deal at a conference, then you are going to be disappointed all the time. Your goal is simply to have them agree to a follow up. That’s your mission and all you should really hope to expect. If your potential partner says, “I’d like to talk more with you. Here’s my card. Email me.” Say great, stop talking, move on and savor your success.
    2. Second, Pretend They’re Your Buddy
      On more than one occasion I’ve had the opportunity to meet with the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies. I decided to start pretending that I was talking to a colleague. What a difference that made! Many highly successful business people are tired of people treating them like they are made of porcelain. It’s refreshing to have someone treat them just like what they are: a fellow human.
    3. Third, Give to Get
      To capture their attention in 10 seconds — offer to help them with something in which they have an interest. Maybe they have a nonprofit organization that they avidly support. After introducing yourself say something like, “I read that you are a big supporter of the XYZ animal shelter network. I think that’s great and would like to get more involved in that cause. Can I reach out to you to see how I can help?” Use that as an opportunity to let them get to know you. People do business with people.

    Why do you attend business conferences and industry events? Do you find it helpful, and what suggestions would you offer to other women business leaders and entrepreneurs attending these types of meetings?

    Women Business Leaders: Does Your Firm Have a Social Media Strategy?

    September 30th, 2011

    Approaching social media is no different than approaching any other discipline. The more deliberate and strategic your approach, the more successful the outcome. As a woman business leader and owner of a strategic communications firm, I participate in many forms of social media, but more importantly, I have a plan and a schedule (not that I always stick to it). And, although my firm has been creating and implementing social media strategies for our clients for years, I am still surprised when I meet a business owner who hasn’t embraced social media … or worse, one who embraces it without a specific, detailed and integrated plan.

    A recent article by Steven Van Belleghem offered a comprehensive plan of action for integrating social media into a company’s overall marketing strategy. I’ve condensed Steven’s list of things an organization needs to do to create a social media plan:

    1. Conduct an internal and external conversation audit
    2. Organize training and formation
    3. Adapt your HR strategy
    4. Prepare your infrastructure
    5. Create a center of excellence
    6. Choose and realize pilot projects
    7. Create a listening culture
    8. Adapt your company structure
    9. Create cooperation between collaborators and customers
    10. Develop a content strategy
    11. Use new success indicators
    12. Introduce flexible and quick marketing responses

    I participated in a communications conference in Boston recently and as I sat in the audience during the sessions, many were busy doing their social media “thing” using smartphones, tablets and laptops. But I wondered how many of the attendees’ organizations had specific and strategic social media processes in place? Does your firm have a detailed plan? Let me know what’s working and not working in your organization.

    Women Business Leaders: Managing Your Network is a Crucial Business Skill

    September 27th, 2011

    As women in business, we have spent years hearing about the importance of building a network. I realize how crucial my network has been in supporting me over the years. However, our time is often so impoverished that it is important to be discerning about whom you choose to cultivate and include in your network. It’s even more important to be vigilant of who is cultivating you for their network.

    Rob Cross and Robert Thomas wrote a great article, “Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network,” and I’ve summarized the article’s main points below:

    1. Analyze
      Identify the people in your network and what you get out of interacting with them. Remember you’re looking for quality, not quantity.
    2. De-layer
      Most likely not everyone in your network helps you. Make some hard decisions to back away from redundant or energy-sapping relationships.
    3. Diversify
      Build your network with different kinds of people. Focus on energizers who will help you achieve your goals.

    It is sometimes difficult to let go of relationships that aren’t productive, but you may find that doing some relationship spring-cleaning is a cathartic experience.

    Entrepreneurial Tips for Women Business Leaders from J. K. Rowling

    September 21st, 2011

    I recently visited the magical world of Harry Potter while attending a conference at Universal Studios in Orlando. I was accompanied by a visionary mentor who sometimes uses Harry Potter metaphors. It all came together for me on that ride … dare to dream and envision your most extravagant fantasies, stay true to your beliefs and approach the future with wonder.

    Susan L. Reid captured the essence in her article about lessons entrepreneurs can learn from J.K. Rowling. I’ve condensed her pointers for you here:

    Don’t rush to roll out your product
    Although Rowling had been a writer all her life, she was slow to publish. She said, “I had written two novels before I had the idea for Harry, though I’d never tried to get them published (and a good job too, I don’t think they were very good).” Rowling sets a great example of getting a product just right before presenting it to the world.

    When a great idea grabs you, grab back
    Rowling says, “Where the idea for Harry Potter actually came from, I really couldn’t tell you. I was traveling on a train between Manchester and London and it just popped into my head.” As business owners, we know what a great idea is. The problem is, we often question it. Rowling seized upon it and went with it.

    Persevere, persevere and persevere
    Rowling was an unemployed single mother living on welfare. In 1995, she completed her manuscript and handed in the book to 12 publishing houses. They all rejected it. She did not stop just because life was hard. Despite all the changes and setbacks she was experiencing, she carried on. As business owners, we would do well to keep her example in mind.

    Don’t let anyone sidetrack you from your goal
    Finally a small publisher agreed to publish the first book. Seven volumes of the Harry Potter series have broken sales records. What a shining role model Rowling is for business owners. She didn’t let anyone stand in the way of her goal—not even herself.

    Each of us has a unique contribution to make to the world
    Rowling never went searching for the kind of success she has received. “I just wrote the sort of thing I liked reading when I was younger. I didn’t expect lots of people to like them.” As an entrepreneur, focus on the unique something you have to offer to the world.

    My blog focuses on women business leaders and entrepreneurs, and being an entrepreneur myself makes me especially aware of business opportunities and turning ideas into reality. Please read my blog, “3 Ways Women Business Leaders can Manage Great Ideas,” for tips on capturing potential business opportunities.