Women Have Always Been Great at Leveraging Community

by Jill Foster on April 16, 2009


Guest post by Liz Scherer, digital writer and consultant specializing in health/medicine/wellness. She produces Flashfree which brings her closer to her goal to engage, entertain and provide women in midlife with the tools to make informed decisions about their health. In addition to her blog, you can find Liz on Twitter (http://twitter.com/LizScherer) or LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/lizscherercopy).

“Everything old is new again.”
Remember that song? To me it seems the ideal metaphor for social media these days. Aggregators like Twitter or Facebook or FriendFeed or LinkedIn provide like-minded souls, neighbors, friends and colleagues with a centralized location where they can drop in and out at their leisure, exchange ideas, do business, and learn.

Is this a new concept? Not really.
As women, we have been leveraging community since Eve was banished to the outer reaches of Eden. We have been engaging in dialogue, sharing hopes, dreams, loves, trials and tribulations our entire lives.

Adding value and gaining value in our communities is an inherent aspect of being a woman.

So, why can’t we take this approach we’ve always applied in our daily lives of community and use them in ways that allow us to realize our business dreams?

More importantly, where and how do we start?

  • Observe, seek, & listen.
    As a writer, I observe the world around me constantly. I seek out individuals who may have something interesting to say, something relevant to what I am trying to learn, and I listen…not only to their words, but to the meanings underlying those thought processes and to their actions.
  • Do your research. And then do it again.
    Interested in starting a business geared towards “X?” The old paradigm: find out what people are saying and doing, and learn what other similar businesses are doing and not doing and then do it. The new paradigm: swim in the fishbowl for a bit.
  • Identify but also engage your target audience.
    Find out what resonates in their core and what doesn’t.
  • Learn what members of your community at-large have done in their professional and personal lives.
    Consider how that might be leveraged or applied to growing your business.
  • Immerse yourself in the ‘game.’
    Attend conferences, meet ups, cocktail hours, social events, anything to put you face-to- face with your community and other like-minded souls.
  • That old adage “it’s who you know” applies well in this arena.

  • Don’t just start the conversation, continue it.[image, The Conversation, by Closely Observed per Creative Commons]

    Your community values what you have to say so long as you keep the conversation going. Few people love the individual who sucks all the air out the room. Establish a presence for yourself, let people get to know the woman behind the curtain, become a willing participant and then offer to continue that conversation offline, on the phone, in person, in real life.

  • Then, be an equal opportunity provider.
    Got a blog? Seek out guest posters. Are you a freelance writer with overflow? Farm out some work or recommend a colleague to a client. Is Mrs. X your competition? Throw her a lead or two. What goes around comes around isn’t just karmic; it actually works.
  • Finally, draw your roadmap in pencil.
    You may have the door slammed in your face a few times but eventually, you’ll find the crack in the armor. The reality is that in these challenging economic times, flexibility rules and you may need to redraw your plan a few times. If something doesn’t work, looks like a dead end, or has “been done,” go back to your community and find out what you might have missed there on the first go. You’re not afraid to ask your community of friends for help. So don’t be afraid to ask your community of online networks; you may be surprised at the line of people just waiting to lend a hand.

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Liz Scherer has been drawing and redrawing her roadmap since leaving corporate life in 1992. Her blog Flashfree is ranked in the top 100 blogs for women’s health.

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