Will LinkedIn Change the Gender Gap in Boards?

Will LinkedIn Change the Gender Gap in Boards?

By Brenda Meller (Zawacki)
AVP Marketing. Nonstop Marketer. Connector and LinkedIn Ambassador.
Walsh College

This post is part of the Digital Marketing Boot Camp series, a new set of blog posts across different mediums designed to provide intel to people and companies looking to improve their digital marketing strategy.

This month, I spent significant time researching board members for an MBA class assignment. As is the case with many boards, nearly every person on this company’s board was male, despite the fact that women are more than half the workforce, the breadwinner 53% of the time, and make 85% of household purchase decisions (Source: 3percentconf). During my research, I discovered that the younger board members (typically age 50 or younger) had the largest presence on LinkedIn.

It also made me realize that the more comfortable one is with embracing technology and sites like LinkedIn to share your information, the more likely you will be found by board search committees.

If you’re not active online and are named to a board, it’s common to find that you were referred by other board members. Knowing that like attracts like, and that boards historically have been predominately male, the likelihood is that when a board has an opening, the selection committee is going to suggest people that they know. If the company is in a male-dominated industry surrounded by other male leaders, it is likely that male board members will suggest other men in their network. They may be doing this without even realizing their gender bias, a term commonly called, “unconscious bias” (check out this Fuel Leadership video on Freep.com featuring Inforum’s Terry Barclay).

However, as I was conducting my research, I reflected on organizations like Inforum and Crain’s Detroit Business that are emphasizing the importance of gender-balanced boards and actively working to move the conversation and initiatives forward. Numerous studies show that gender-balanced boards improve a company’s bottom line. The word is getting out, and I believe it is going to reach a tipping point.


MORE: Hear more about utilizing LinkedIn’s resources and tools at the Digital Marketing Boot Camp, Feb. 15.


Over time, it is natural to expect that the more women who are active on sites like LinkedIn will help to increase the likelihood that board search committees will find them when they are seeking to diversify their boards.

There is also talks of the retiring baby boomer generation, and the “silver tsunami” of management changes ahead of us in the next few decades (read the Huffington Post article by Meghan H. Biro).

Certainly, increasing your LinkedIn presence is one way towards a board seat. Within LinkedIn, you should also read about how LinkedIn is helping organizations find non-profit board members: https://nonprofits.linkedin.com/find-board-members.

Ladies seeking a board seat: are you active on LinkedIn? If not, perhaps it’s time to refresh your LinkedIn profile, and get ready for those future board position searches. Then, inform your trusted connections in board positions (both men and women) to alert you of any board opportunities that match your skill sets.

Gentlemen: do you consider yourself an advocate of women on boards? If so, you’re in the growing group of “manbassadors” who are critical to helping us achieve gender equality and thereby supporting your company or organization’s profitability (read the 3 Percent Co’s article about “manbassadors” to learn more).

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1,000,000 views later. My secret to social media success.

By Eric Thomas
Senior Partner and Brand Specialist
Saga Marketing

This post is part of the Digital Marketing Boot Camp series, a new set of blog posts across different mediums designed to provide intel to people and companies looking to improve their digital marketing strategy.

My Social Media Stats (Built in 15 Months):

Blog views: 1,697,925 (and counting)

Linkedin: 4,501 Followers

Facebook: 3,601 Friends

Instagram: 1,048 Followers

Published or Cited by: New York Times, Free Press, Metro Times, Next Shark, Web Designer News, Deadline Detroit.

Speaking: TEDxDetroit, IDSA Design Conference, Pancakes and Politics, Creative Mornings, Black Women’s Expo, P.U.L.S.E. Adult Literacy Conference, Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium 2016, The Start Up Effect, Millenials Change at Microsoft, Launched / She Is Project, Urban Consulate, Branding Your Story 101, The PR MANdate, PRSA of America – Video Storytelling, Biz Grid Live, Appearances on the Karen Dumas Show, Appearances on Brenda Perryman

It has been 15 months, 32 blogs, and over 1.6 million views (not counting republishing) since I first started sharing my thoughts on LinkedIn. The success of my blogging has changed my life. But this didn’t all happen by mistake. This is actually the result of an experiment that popped into my head in the Spring of 2015.

My business partner and I were revamping our marketing agency and realized that it was our opportunity to create something that the world actually needed. The Storytelling Agency — Saga . A hybrid between a marketing and branding agency, it leverages our unique cultural identity and experience in business development. We decided to get back to basics. How do humans communicate? What makes them tick? How do ideas spread?

This started us on a journey to create a brand, build a skill set, and develop a circle of influence that fit the type of impact that we wanted to make. If you are trying to change career paths, build a company, or develop a media presence these are the steps I used to go from “that graphics guy” to “Storytelling Expert” in a little over a year.

The Law of Random Collision

The universe in all of its vastness is mostly atoms and matter, colliding and creating new things. True magic happens when there is density. I fundamentally believe that everything in the universe operates this way. Everything from bumping into an old friend to life its self is a result of happenstance. Greatness happening is a matter of creating more opportunities for that greatness to happen. Simply put, you’re more likely to go viral if you create more chances for yourself to go viral. You’re more likely to be seen if you’re in the public more often. This sounds simple, but it’s a crucial part of creating a brand that we don’t see as a part of our career strategy. So how did we leverage this universal law to build our brand?

Build and Activate a Network

March 2015 I had about 1300 Facebook friends, 300ish LinkedIn Connections, no Instagram, and a basically dead Twitter. I had to decide where to focus my energy and what to build up. Two master networkers in my life, James Logan and Lakyra Shackelford, kept telling me about the power of Linkedin. My expertise was mostly business based, so that became the home for my professional identity. Facebook was by far my largest network and much more informal. It’s where I could be myself and build an audience in an organic way.

On LinkedIn I reached out to people that made sense for my network who seemed to be thought leaders or success. I sent each person a personal message about why we should connect. I did that for 5 months before I even published my first blog. Why blog where there are no readers?

Important point: My channels might not be your channels. Think about where you can make the most impact with the skills you have. Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all different and require different strategies and strengths.


MORE: Check out more ways to grow your social media following and tell your brand’s story at the Digital Marketing Boot Camp, Feb. 15.


Produce. Provide Value. Be Authentic.

David Ogilvy, sometimes regarded as the father of modern marketing, placed a heavy emphasis on writing. He often preached that great campaigns started at the written word. I figured that writing a blog would be great practice to creating the types of campaigns I dreamed of. My biggest challenge? I didn’t know how to write yet, or so I thought. The last time I wrote anything was before I dropped out of college almost a decade prior. One day my business partner and I realized, “Hey, if people like the things I say, maybe they’ll like them if I write them down too?” But what to write about? The things I care about. I can’t be the only one that worries about these things.

“Write the way you talk. Naturally.” – David Ogilvy

People will always parse words and even data, but it’s hard to rebut your genuine lived experience. Taking something you’ve studied and worked in for years and filtering that through the unique lens of your identity creates the type of content that can’t be copied. Most importantly, it can make topics that have been covered before fresh again.

“Experience + Expertise is a powerful combination.”

The Virality Equation

Content + People + Timing

First, if you don’t produce you won’t be seen. Second, if no one is around to see what you create then it won’t be shared. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to snapchat it, does it really matter? Thirdly, going viral is like a lightening strike. It happens when you least suspect it, but only when the conditions are right. The bulk of my LinkedIn audience came from being a first mover on the design disaster that led to Steve Harvey botching the Ms. Universe contest. How Bad Design Wrecked Steve Harvey’s Universe is by far my most read blog.

Analytics for my blog “How Bad Design Wrecked Steve Harvey’s “Universe”

Analytics for my blog “How Bad Design Wrecked Steve Harvey’s “Universe”

I wrote this the night it happened, published it at around 2AM and woke up to thousands of reads. Much more than my typical average of 200 or so at the time. I didn’t just cover what happened, I provided a solution, based on my particular skill set, complete with a redesign. 1.5 million views on LinkedIn is rarified air. As far as I can find I’m in the top 20 most read ever. Even the CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, weighed in and shared it.

Stay Relevant. Take a Stand.

Even with the international reach of my Steve Harvey blog, nothing has had such a profound impact on my daily life like Why I Hate Detroit. I’m stopped almost daily by someone that’s read it. It’s become the way I’m introduced. Though the Linkedin post only got a little north of 130,000 views, one could speculate that it’s been much more widely viewed. It was republished in the Metro Times, published in an abridged form by the Detroit Free Press, and covered by Deadline Detroit and Mlive. I landed television interviews and it was even cited by the New York Times which resulted in a call from Soledad O’Brien. Not bad for an opinion piece that I thought was too long and frankly too dangerous for my career to post. Why all the shares and love? It was honest, grounded in facts, rooted in my experience as a life-long Detroiter, and most of all timely. Even Dan Gilbert, reigning king of Downtown Detroit, told me he thought it was a good read.

“No Brand with values is for everything or against nothing.”

At the end of the day, speak openly and authentically to your tribe. They will reward you with loyalty.

Set Goals. Leverage Success.

When I first started blogging I set a modest goal. 1,000 reads per month. If I could expose 1,000 people to my personal brand each month I’d be happy. At this point, that would be 15,000 reads. I’ve exceeded that goal by a great deal. Next was to speak at conferences and become a thought leader around storytelling.

In the past year I’ve been fortunate enough to lead storytelling workshops, speak at the IDSA Design Conference with heroes, present at TEDxDetroit, share a Crain’s 20 in their 20 award with my business partner, sit on numerous panels, and elevate the relevance of storytelling in business from a buzzword to a business function for many businesses in the city of Detroit and beyond. More importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to share a story of success and opportunity while representing my community and neighborhoods like mine in what I hope is a positive and authentic way.

When setting out to build your brand, be honest and realistic. My goal was to move the needle significantly within 2 years. I think I’m well on my way. Even overnight successes don’t happen overnight. Aim, strategize and get closer every day. It’s time for me to switch into the second phase of my grand experiment. I hope you use what I learned in Phase 1 to build strong and impactful brands.

Eric Thomas will deliver the closing keynote with his business partner Marcus Burrell at the Digital Marketing Boot Camp.

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Welcome to the Age of Ephemeral Marketing

By Eric Hultgren
Director of Marketing
MLive Media Group

This post is part of the Digital Marketing Boot Camp series, a new set of blog posts across different mediums designed to provide intel to people and companies looking to improve their digital marketing strategy.

As marketers we have spent years, and in some cases careers, crafting campaigns that stick in the mind of the consumer. These campaigns could have been commercials with catchy jingles, logos that burn into the zeitgeist of an entire country, and products that define a decade or if you were lucky, a generation.

In 2006 the marketing industry was introduced to the idea of media that was social and in the past decade has adapted to MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram. But four years ago an app appeared on the scene that once again turned the marketing world on its ear, Snapchat.

Comscore ranked Snapchat as one of the fastest growing apps in its 2015 mobile report along with Uber, Tinder, and Fitbit. The largest demographic on the platform are millennials and with $200 billion in annual buying power marketers are working hard to connect with them. The idea behind Snapchat is simple at first and perhaps why it has been so easily dismissed by brands and marketers alike as the “thing” that teens would use to send provocative photos to one another. But the idea of ephemeral marketing, or messages that disappear after 10 seconds, not only opens a new lane of content creation, but it more closely mirrors the way in which human beings interact with one another when a device is not a part of the equation.

If two people meet at a coffee shop and begin a conversation, when that conversation ends it is not recorded for all eternity as a series of 0’s and 1’s, instead it disappears as a fleeting moment between two people in which they begin to build more moments together that evolve from a singular meeting into a full fledged relationship.

Isn’t that the goal of your marketing? Turn people into customers, customers into advocates, and advocates into magnets to bring their friends to your brand through word of mouth (WOM)?

A study done for the International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences found that “most marketing firms do not see social media as a vehicle for cultivating and winning customer loyalty” (Nadeem, 2015) This statement is not reflective of how a brand should act in the marketing space in 2016 or certainly 2017. In a post-Snowden era, customers want a footprint in the social media landscape that isn’t overtly tracked and re-messaged the way it might on Facebook or Instagram. Thus, it should not surprise marketing practitioners that Snapchat should be, if not part of the marketing mix in 2017, at least be something with which the marketing team experiments.

Before a strategy can be crafted it is important to understand where the app came from in order to predict the trajectory of its next 12 to 16 months. In the summer of 2011 Evan Speigl, Bob Murphy, and Reggie Brown launched an early version of the app at Stanford University. In its earliest iteration it was called Pictaboo and by the fall of 2011 they only had 127 users. A disagreement among the three founders led to Reggie Brown being removed from the company. At that point, Speigl and Murphy changed the name to Snapchat.

Toward the end of 2011 the team noticed that use of the app spiked between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., which was when high school students were in school and flocking to the app that made their photos “disappear.” Those photos were called snaps. Snapchat crested past 100,000 users in the beginning of 2012 and they received funding from Lightspeed Ventures to build a server system to address the growing user base.

Snapchat’s next evolution was the video snap in which Facebook responded with the “poke” that emulated Snapchat down to the “ephemerality” of the poke disappearing. The poke did not stick but helped raise the awareness for Snapchat who experienced its second growth spurt and by February of 2013 was seeing over 60 million snaps a day. By the summer of 2013 users sent 150 million snaps a day and Taco Bell became the first brand to join the platform.

Taco Bell was one of the first brands to launch a Snapchat account and announced it on its Twitter account, just another step toward this moment of ephemeral marketing.

In the fall of 2013 Snapchat stories appear which is when Snapchat allows users to string together 10-second snaps that stay in narrative form for 24 hours. Snapchat stories were the app’s answer to a timeline. In November of that year Facebook reportedly offered to purchase Snapchat for $3 billion dollars. Evan Spiegl turned the offer down as Snapchat had yet to monetize the platform.

A year later, Snapchat introduced “our story” which was Snapchat’s first attempt at curating snaps around live events like the Super Bowl, The Grammys, elections, or holidays. In January of 2015, Snapchat would launch “Discover” which would be a curated list of publishers who create an always-on daily refreshed channel guide with media partners like Vice, ESPN, The Food Network, CNN, VOX, and MTV.


MORE: Learn about Snapchat and other upcoming social media innovations at the Digital Marketing Boot Camp, Feb. 15.


Next, Snapchat introduced geofilters so users could continue to customize their snaps with stamps that would help to add context to the images the users’ friends would see. McDonald’s was the first brand to launch geofliters at all of their locations, a move that Taco Bell would emulate –  they recently created a Quesalupa filter for all the stores for the launch of their new food item.

Snapchat also understood that the platform could be daunting and confusing at times, so they launched a “safety center” in conjunction with three non-profits in order to create a place where teachers and parents could learn about the platform and how they could better understand how their children might use Snapchat and the pitfalls to avoid.

That brings us to the modern era of marketing where brands have access to more information about their customer than ever before. Yet, few brands seem to execute social strategy with any sort of depth and even fewer understand the potential that a platform like Snapchat can provide those who adopt early. In fact, 95% of businesses have social media accounts but fewer than 50% of them use them with any regularity. When you speak specifically about Snapchat, that number drops as many brands just don’t understand how to execute on the platform.

Earlier this year, Buzzfeed did a piece where author Ben Rosen enlisted the help of his 13-year-old sister and her friend in order to understand the platform better. In the course of the experiment Rosen asked his sister’s friend what her parents thought: “Parents don’t understand. It’s about being there in the moment. Capturing that with your friends or with your expression.”

Snapchat is the idea of being in the moment that most brands struggle with and why after this tweet was sent out in the Super Bowl of 2012, many brands rushed to create war rooms for this sort of ephemeral marketing:

Oreo tweet screenshot from the Super Bowl and how it relates to Snapchat as the new age of ephemeral marketing

So what makes Snapchat so different? Aside from the ephemeral nature, the platform actually works in the opposite direction of every other social medium out there. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest scroll from the top of the screen or device towards the bottom as new content arrives like a waterfall into the various “newsfeeds” of those platforms. Snapchat swipes right to left and up to down giving a depth to the platform that becomes both more immersive and harder to pick up intuitively.

So why should you pay attention?

First, because 78% of the population is using social media in the United States and second, because the 150 million users (60% of them under the age of 30) on Snapchat are highly engaged with the app. These users send snaps to their friends and are looking for fun and entertaining content that they spend time on the app with. In fact, two-thirds of users on Snapchat create content daily (10 billion streams of video a day) and upwards of 12,000 photos are shared every second on the platform.

To put that in perspective, it would take you 10 years to watch the snaps that will be created in the next hour and when it comes to sharing photos Facebook and Instagram cannot even compete with that volume even though Facebook has a user base that is ten times the size. In a recent study from Edison Research, it found that Snapchat is currently the most powerful social medium in the United States with the ages of 12-24 and is the second most used social media application in the United States overall. There is even research from the University of Michigan that shows using Snapchat makes the users happier.

What should your brand do on Snapchat?

We spoke with Jill Thomas, vice president of global marketing at Cinnabon who said, “we are very, very clear about who the brand is – the voice and message. We have one brand voice. So what that means is you have to trust those with a role in our social voice to do the right thing.”

Once you understand your voice, what should you create?

There are two ways you can go here. You can create a new story every day like Cinnabon and Taco Bell might do, but for some brands that might be a bit daunting. The other option is to storyboard a bit and put out content on a consistent basis, just not every day. Cyrene Q is a Snapchatter who creates really elaborate snap stories 2-3 times a week taking the time to hand-draw her content:

Many people are familiar with Snapchatter Cyrene Q, who creates elaborate snap stories by taking the time to hand-draw her content.

The lesson is to be intentional with the content. According to Thomas, “the team is so highly committed and engaged because we all have a shared passion for the brand. For me, that comes from the responsibility of managing a brand that is beloved by the consumer… we all feel a responsibility to our brand fans to do our very best.”

Of course, you are still going to get the questions about return on investment, and again Jill Thomas sums it up nicely. “Anybody who is trying to do the math – doesn’t really get the beauty of it. (But yes, we do math and understand what we can about the interaction.) When you are early into something you don’t want to get bogged down with that. Also, I don’t need those numbers to tell me that Snapchat is the right place to be. Ask any 16-30 year old and they’ll tell you. Maybe other brands aren’t asking the right questions?”

Eric Hultgren will moderate a panel discussion at the Digital Marketing Boot Camp.

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