Women as Entrepreneurs – Sharing Inspiration and Lessons

Last night I had the honor of speaking on a panel to a group of women for Girls in Tech’sWomen as Entrepreneurs, Women as Leaders” event at Babson College. The discussion focused on leadership lessons and advice from – and for – women entrepreneurs in today’s technology and business communities. My co-panelists, Amy Cueva, Founder & Chief Experience Officer of Mad*Pow, Heather Margolis, Founder & President of Channel Maven Consulting, and Lynn Andres Stein of Olin College, were inspiring and thoughtful. They shared many tips with the audience based on various years of entrepreneurship – from nine months up to nearly 20 years. Some of my favorite tips, lessons and observations included:

  • Don’t be afraid to be different – entrepreneurs are the core of innovation by thinking differently
  • Women tend to be more emotional leaders – an attribute that can be both helpful and a hindrance
  • Take time for yourself on a personal level – a personal life makes you a better business leader and a happier person all around
  • Leaders make tough decisions every day (the right choices, not the popular ones) – you’ll never have everyone’s approval so stop waiting for it and trust your instincts
  • Be definitive and decisive – know your values and stick to them
  • Women are often their own worst enemies – support each other and our choices to work, to not work; to have a family or not. Only we can force the change we seek in respect for our gender’s choices.

What tough lessons have you learned that you’d share with other women considering the leap to entrepreneurship?

In addition, the audience was chock full of inspiring women. Two of my favorite were these brilliant ladies from Leotus Home Cooling. Katherine Harty, President and Beeni Mathew, VP, have created an innovative home cooling system with a few team members that is “the first effortless air conditioner — providing the comfort you want, without the compromises.” The design is sleek, innovative and sure to be a smash success. I’m sure these ladies will have many lessons of their own to share with future entrepreneurs. If you’d like to support their efforts today, be sure to vote for them in ideablob’s October sprint, where the participant receiving the most votes will win $10,000 from ideablob to further their business idea. (Although, unfortunately, I think requiring registration to vote is hindering the process.)

A special thanks to Kate Brodock of Boston Girls in Tech for asking me to participate.

From Battledecks to measuring ROI – PodCamp Boston (#PCB4) was a huge success!

Podcamp Boston 4Recently I attended my first Podcamp in Boston, the birthplace of the original Podcamp, founded by Christopher Penn and Chris Brogan, back in 2006. From the show of hands to find out who else was new to the “UnConference,” I realized that I wasn’t the only newbie – there were actually too many of us to count. If you are unaware of what Podcamp is all about, according to the official Podcamp site, “A PodCamp is a BarCamp-style community UnConference for new media enthusiasts and professionals including bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, social networkers, and anyone curious about new media.”

I was amazed at the size of the crowd, especially during a weekend conference on one of the nicest days of the summer. It was a wonderfully diverse audience but despite this diversity, the common theme joining us together was our passion to learn – from the sessions and, of course, from one another.

If you weren’t able to attend, don’t fret. CC_Chapman put together this awesome slideshow that includes some great shots from the entire weekend. See anyone you know?

Aside from the hilarious Battledecks and Pecha Kucha session led by Gradon Tripp – where he shares with us the 24 reasons why Twitter sucks – I wanted to highlight the “False Metrics and ROI” session led by Leslie Poston.

During one part of her session, Leslie stressed the importance of first listening to your customers because they are talking about you. If you don’t currently have a social media strategy in place to listen to what your customers and the industry are saying about your business, then you could potentially be dealing with a big PR nightmare like the one that happened with Domino’s Pizza, where a few employees decided it would be fun to post a video on YouTube as they “tampered” with the food. After only two days, that little video was viewed more than 550,000 times, potentially damaging the 50-year-old brand that Domino’s has worked so hard to build. Luckily, Domino’s was watching and listening, and they were able to take action immediately.

But not all companies are as social media savvy….at least not yet.

For example, we can’t discuss listening and not bring up the United Airlines situation where they mistreated musician David Carroll’s equipment while he watched helplessly from his seat on the plane. After trying to resolve the issue privately, which proved ineffective, David decided to create his own music video about what happened and posted it to YouTube. That video went on to receive almost five million views and tons of online buzz. Finally, after more than a year of disputes, United finally admitted they were in the wrong and decided to compensate David for his damaged equipment – A little too late in my opinion.

Listening to online conversations doesn’t have to be difficult. As Leslie pointed out, there are several online tools (both paid and free) available to help any organization do a better job of listening to online chatter. These tools are designed to make social media participation easier and more streamlined, as well as help companies do a better job in monitoring and managing their online presence. Some of the tools she highlighted include:

  • Radian6 (paid)
  • BlvdStatus.com (free, offers campaigns)
  • Google Alerts (free, keyword based, boolean search terms to help you narrow)
  • Google Analytics (free, fully customizable)
  • DNA13 (Paid, encompasses print and web)
  • HaveAMint (free, fully programmable in php)

If you aren’t currently using some of these tools above, you may be doing more work than you should. Don’t miss out on valuable discussions – both positive, which you’ll want to elevate – and, as in the cases outlined above – some negative, which you’ll want to address as soon as possible

If you are interested in seeing Leslie’s Podcamp session for yourself, you can view it in two parts below:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Overall, PodCamp Boston was an amazing experience and it will definitely not be my last. In fact, there are plans in the works to bring the first PodCamp to New Hampshire and I am proud and very excited to be on the planning committee for that event. If you haven’t been, be sure to find one in your area and go. I guarantee a quick ROI on your very small investment!

Photo credit: Elizabeth Thomsen

Social CRM Rocks

Chris Brogan Social CRM RockstarYou have to admit that we social media types really like to rock out. At the recent Rockstars of Social CRM event hosted by Chris Brogan and produced by Radian6, some of the “rockstars” of CRM were definitely in the house including Frank Eliason of @ComcastCares. What we learned, or I should say, what we were reminded of, is that customer service comes down to basics – connecting with your customers.

But now it’s called “Social CRM” which was defined by the Rock Star Panelists as a return to basics. The philosophy is good relationships = good sales.

This is not a new concept. Back in the days before Sprawlmarts, we had what some lovingly referred to as “The Mom and Pop shops” where the owner actually knew his customers and interacted with them personally. This resulted in customer loyalty and repeat business. My family has owned and operated its own party & novelty store, Ballard’s, for the past 30 years. My father still greets his customers and helps each and every one of them personally – you can’t get that at a big box store anymore.

While we are getting down to basics, the tools in which we use to do so are very different. Rather than that face-to-face interaction you might have received at a Mom and Pop shop, businesses are engaging in the same type of interaction, but using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to make those connections – no matter where their customers are. It has revolutionized the way in which companies do customer service, and if done right, is extremely powerful. Look at Zappos. They refer to themselves as a customer service company that sells footwear and clothing. Zappos is doing customer service right and leveraging online tools to do so. Any business, large or small can do the same.

What companies do you engage with whom you feel are doing it right? And, more importantly, what is your favorite Rock Band song to rock out to?

Cross-posted from http://www.christine-major.com

New Hampshire Social Media Breakfast Recap

During the latest New Hampshire Social Media Breakfast held at Rick’s Pond View and sponsored by CustomScoop, the topic of the morning was focused on Government 2.0 – how utilities and municipalities are using social media to communicate and connect with customers and the public. Some of the speakers of the day included Martin Murray from Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) and John Daly of The Boston Police Department who both spoke and shared how their organizations are adopting social media technologies.

I was especially interested in the presentation by Martin Murray who handles media relations for PSNH – better known as @PSNH on Twitter.

With the ice storm that hit on December 11, 2008, the word quickly got out that @PSNH was on Twitter and followers increased by 1,700% as customers were seeking answers and comfort in knowing that others were dealing with similar situations and that @PSNH was listening and responding.

As a customer of PSNH, I was very impressed with the organization’s use of Twitter to communicate with its customers during one of the biggest ice storms in the company’s history. The treacherous storm knocked out power to more than 320,000 residents across the state – including mine – for six very long days.

I also found it interesting that, along with Twitter, PSNH has also adopted other social media tools to engage with and communicate with customers – using Flickr and YouTube to share pictures and videos, as well as setting up a Facebook fan page.

In the video clip below, Martin sums up how the customer experience has changed significantly with PSNH’s adoption of Twitter. Instead of private one-to-one phone conversations with a customer, PSNH is now able to share and include others in those discussions publicly – getting more information out to more people.

PSNH video:

John Daly and The Boston Police Department (BPD), known as @Boston_Police on Twitter, are also not strangers to social media. They were the first city police department to have a blog and with their Text a Tip program, people can text their anonymous tips. It wasn’t until recently that John decided to get the BPD onto Twitter to use it as a public information tool.

Check out the video below where John talks about how they are utilizing Twitter, as well as their plans for integrating it into their 911 Center to use as an early warning detection system – cool stuff!

BPD video:

Both The Boston Police Department and PSNH saw an opportunity to improve communications with the adoption of social media technologies. The results have proved that it is indeed a smart move – doing so has helped both entities to connect with the public and their customers on a more personal level. They can now include customers in the discussions at hand – no other communications method can offer the same results.

P.S. – The next New Hampshire Social Media Breakfast is scheduled for April 17th at 8am.

25 SXSW Attendees Explain Why You Should Attend Next Year…Oh and they did it in two words…

Inspired by Steve Garfield’s video montage “27 People, One Question” I thought it would be fun to do something similar during my trip to SXSW Interactive. Throughout my time there, I had some lighthearted fun with attendees and asked 25 people to give me two words that describe their experience at the event. Some of the responses, both serious and entertaining, came from folks like Jeff Pulver, Chris Brogan, Justin Levy, Jeremiah Owyang, Robert Scoble, Jason Falls, Aaron Strout, and many others. Using my handy Kodak Zi6 HD camera I captured some great footage that hopefully encapsulates what SXSW Interactive is all about and in some cases, just made me go “huh?”

So without further ado, for your viewing pleasure check out what some of this year’s SXSW Interactive attendees had to say for themselves. I am sure you will recognize a few of your friends and hopefully have a few laughs along the way.

A special thanks to everyone who participated and shared their two (and sometimes more) words and thanks for all the memories. See y’all next year – SXSWi 2010!

Disclaimer: The video quality and lighting varies slightly due to the ‘extreme’ shooting conditions of SXSW. :)

Translation: This was my first attempt and I didn’t lug around all the lighting and sound equipment with me for these impromptu shots, so some responses were a little more difficult to see/hear, but you get the point.

Music: Dan Tharp, Guitar Suite I – Movement I and II
Camera: Kodak Zi6 HD