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The Labels We Choose

“Dawn is not a single mother,” she said.  “She is a mother who happens to be single.”  It was the highest compliment and a very powerful statement at a particularly crucial stage of my life.  And it taught me a whole lot about labels and defining one’s self.

When Margie asked me to write about Women and Social Media, I knew immediately that I might not (probably won’t) deliver what people expect to hear.  But I accepted the invitation because I do believe, in the marrow of my bones, that the labels we choose – not the labels that others give us – will be the vehicles to our breakthroughs.

There is nothing to be gained in accepting any label that casts you as a victim.  None.  Bank on it.

Being a change agent, being successful, comes out of a position of strength.  You must be the first person to give you the power to be successful.

I’m not suggesting that things like discrepancies in pay, glass ceilings, etc., don’t exist.  I am suggesting that to become preoccupied with them will only hurt you.  Because the good news is, you don’t need 100% of the world on your side to overcome the obstacles.  The danger in becoming preoccupied with the unfairness and any antagonists you may encounter, is that you may squander attention and energy in that direction (bring yourself down) and overlook a corner of the world that is willing to help/promote and provide opportunity for you to progress on your journey.

Define Your Journey

Label to be dumped: Stuck

Label to be embraced: Moving in the right direction

Be resolved on the direction you are going but be flexible in the time spent at each milestone.  The goal is to make progress but not at the expense of missing the experience.  What good is traveling around the world if you never linger at any stop long enough to breathe it in and truly experience the place and what it can teach you?  You can say that you accomplished your goal of traveling around the world in a short amount of time, but you’ve cheated yourself out of the richness of each stop.  So on your way to 10,000 followers or a viral blog post – don’t overlook the friends that can be made in the early days of growing your followers or your improvement as a writer as you tend to your blog on the days when you aren’t getting the clicks.

Identify and Develop Advocates

Label to be dumped: Over-looked

Label to be embraced: Deserving

Avoid the groupie mentality.  You really don’t need attention from a rock star to succeed.  Seek out people who are willing to help, collaborate and do you a solid – and for whom you’d do the same.  Having a dozen people who understand what you are trying to accomplish, believe that you have something to say, and see that you can provide value – is a small but powerful group whose dividends will pay longer than a one-time Retweet from an A-Lister.  Are you showing your gratitude and looking for ways to help them as well?  They may not generate a flood of follows for you, but they just might introduce you to your next account or a hiring manager.

The truth of the matter – it’s much easier to cultivate your network and build friendships with fewer followers.  My experience was that my numbers started to grow when I stopped worrying about the numbers and enjoyed the ride.

Think of it as being in a large company and you’re looking to get promoted.  You will be better off cultivating your relationship with the hiring managers than seeking to get attention from the CEO.  And remember to look down as well as up.  Take a break from obsessing on who can help you and see if there is someone you can help.  Besides the good karma it will teach you a lot.  What are the behaviors and attitudes of those whom you can help?  What is it about those behaviors that inspire you to keep helping?  Are there behaviors that turn you off?  Now consider whether your behaviors and attitude could be off-putting to those from whom you want help.

Get Your House in Order

Label to be dumped:  Unlucky

Label to be embraced: Prepared

If you were suddenly to get the break that you desired would you be ready for it?  Is your website/blog prepared for a sudden influx of traffic?  Is it providing the content that you want to be known for?

I got lucky with a few posts early on that generated a lot of traffic to what was then an anemic blog.  I was writing when I wanted to and there was no plan of the content that I wanted to develop.  Looking back, the attention was fun, but premature.  There wasn’t much to encourage these folks to return.

Even though I still have fun and will post about some frivolous things, I am much more deliberate in my writing.  That means having a plan, sticking with the plan, and writing when I don’t feel like it.  Spending time on articles, only to shelve them, because they’re not coming together the way I want them to, and then having to devote additional time to an alternative entry.

The habit and the discipline will ensure your relevance for the long term and prevent you from being a one-hit wonder.

Know Like and Trust

Label to be dumped:  irrelevant

Label to be embraced: unique

The Duct Tape Marketing approach to a successful business is doing the things that will encourage people to know, like, and trust you so that they will buy from you.  In Social Media, the same rules apply.  People need to know, like and trust you before they start promoting you.  Take a look at your plan and the actions that will be executed and ask yourself:  do these actions help people to know, like, and trust me?  Trust is not gained in the click of follow.  It takes time, energy and thoughtfulness.  Invest in getting to know, like and trust your community, your network and it will follow that you in turn will be known, liked, and trusted.

Yep, it’s the end of the article, and I haven’t dwelled on being a “woman” in social media.  But, that’s the thing – I don’t think it matters at all to my success in social media.  The rest does.  I’m participating in Social Media and I happen to be a woman.


7 Responses to The Labels We Choose

  1. I’m so excited everyone else gets to read this post now. When you first sent it to me, I thought immediately that it was such an innovative approach to this topic.

    It will be interesting to see what kinds of responses you get – is it easier or harder for people who just happen to be women to meet people online? That seems to be a question this series has raised. Is it possible to get that “raise” or to become a “rockstar” if you are a Social Media user who just happens to be a woman? By your definition, it doesn’t matter worth a darn, because those are labels, too.

    Going to be thinking about this for quite some time 🙂

  2. Jen Welton says:

    Label to be dumped: Social Media Maven

    Label to be embraced: Passionate Persuer

    This is a label I’m working on…I’m not a title. I’m a process. A process of learning, teaching, sharing…I could go on and on.

    LOVE this post!

  3. This is a very inspiring post. The labels you chose are right on…. Deserving, unique, prepared. I will pass this on

  4. Nancy Davis says:

    I find it very important to not label myself as a victim. I am not a victim unless I choose to be one.

    Useless label to dump: Failure
    New label to embrace: Experimenter.

    I have to try, and fail and try again if I am ever going to get anywhere. Remember, those who never fail also never ship anything – Seth Godin said that, or words to that effect.

  5. […] The Labels We Choose, by Dawn Westerberg, aka @Dwesterberg […]

  6. Gaga says:

    Hi Dawn,
    This is a great post. It’s truly food for thought. I feel often times when we feel we have to label others, it says more about us and our inadequacies than those who we are attempting to label.

    • Dawn says:

      Thank you for the kind words and your comments. It’s worth a second thought when we catch ourselves labeling others or buying into a label bestowed on us to take a moment and think about what’s going on inside us that is considering giving the label “life”.

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