Meet Digital Sisterhood Leader Denene Millner


Photo Credit: Denene Millner

Photo Credit: MyBrownBaby.com

 

Meet Digital Sisterhood Leader Denene Millner, founder and editor of MyBrownBaby.com, New York Times bestselling author, Parenting magazine columnist, and Essence magazine contributing writer.

Fun Facts: Denene Millner is one of Digital Sisterhood Network founder Ananda Leeke’s favorite authors. They met for the first time at the BlogHer conference in 2009. Immediately following BlogHer, Denene discussed her conference and blogging experiences on Digital Sisterhood Radio. Click here to listen to the radio show. A few months later, they met at the Blogalicious Weekend conference where Denene gave a luncheon talk about her amazing mother. Watch a video clip of her talk.  

 

1) How can people find you online?

2) Why did you start using social media?

I started reading blogs back in 2008, when a few of the sisters I knew pointed out a couple I liked. Inspired, I started my own blog not too much later, in October 2008.

3) What has social media allowed you to do in your life (personal, professional, business, nonprofit, community)?

Social media has been tremendously helpful in helping to stoke my passion for writing, culture and African American interests; sharing my expertise as a black parent advocate; spreading the word about my various projects as an author and freelance writer, and; chronicling my life and pursuits to leave a legacy for my daughters.

4) In her 2011 Digital Women: from geeks to mainstream presentation that was given at the WIFT International Women Conference for Digital Women, Dr. Taly Weiss, a social psychologist and CEO/Founder of Trendspotting, concluded that “women are dominant digital users – they breathe and live digital.”  Dr. Weiss’ conclusion echoes BlogHer’s 2011 Social Media Matters Study findings.  They include 87 million women (18 to 76 years old) are now online, 69 million women use social media weekly, 80 million women use social media monthly, and 55 million women read blogs monthly. These facts illustrate the power and presence women have in the digital space. Now that’s Digital Sisterhood!

How has social media helped you carve out leadership roles as you interact online and offline?

I never would have become a thought leader in the parenting space—particularly the African American parenting space—had it not been for my efforts as a mom blogger. I’d been an editor at and writer for Parenting magazine for many years, but never got to talk about black motherhood in any grand, meaningful way until I started my own blog, MyBrownBaby.com. On it, I write about the beauty and complexity of raising children of color in a society that marginalizes and stereotypes them. Us. And I quickly amassed a following of faithful readers who, having long searched for a space where they could read about and voice their concerns, triumphs and frustrations as black moms, faithfully visited my blog to show their support, learn a few things and share some, too. My success as one of the few bloggers to write authoritatively about black mom issues has manifested itself in my being a thought leader in the space, invited to help shape discussion on black motherhood on countless national TV and radio shows and in magazines, and at countless events where I happily share my experiences as a social media expert in the space. Also, as an author, social media has done for me what writing 19 books never could: it’s put me directly in touch with the very people I’ve been trying to reach my entire writing career. In the past, if I wrote a story or book,  I could only interact with fans, admirers, peers and critics if I went on a book tour or performed a speaking engagement. Now, every day, the very people who I’ve sought to connect with through my writing can dialogue on Twitter and Facebook, or keep up with my career, my writings, my thoughts and my goings-on by stopping by my blog and leaving a comment or sending me a private email. The access can be overwhelming sometimes, but it’s also quite rewarding. Plus, most people are pretty respectful when they reach out, so it never feels out of hand.

5) Social media has helped women become Digital Sisterhood Leaders, ambassadors of social expression who share what they are passionate about online.  In her upcoming book, Digital Sisterhood: Fierce Living Online for 25 Years (Fall 2012), Ananda Leeke, founder of the Digital Sisterhood Network, writes, “Without even knowing it, women have become Digital Sisterhood Leaders as they use their social media platforms to advocate causes; to build communities; to create apps, art, books, businesses, products, publications, services, tools, and webisodes; to curate content; to educate and inform; to give voice to their thoughts as subject matter experts, thought leaders, and brand ambassadors; to share information and experiences; to explore and experiment with new technologies as early adopters and trendsetters; to engage in social good; to influence others with their lifestyles and personal interests; to inspire and motivate; to mentor; to network; to tell their personal stories; and to promote and celebrate the expertise, gifts, and talents of others.  Based on my online and offline interactions, I have identified 12 key leadership roles they play: advocate, community builder, creator, curator, educator, influencer, mentor, motivator, promoter, social do gooder, storyteller, and thought leader.”

What other types of leadership roles do women play in social media?

I’d happily add “friend.” I’ve made so many wonderful friends on the internet through social media—women that I would not have had the opportunity to meet had it not been for the medium.

6) What types of leadership roles do you play in social media?

I’d like to think that I’m one of the strongest advocates for black mothers and children and that readers come to MyBrownBaby in search of a very authentic, truthful, comforting, helpful voice .I’m not perfect, by any stretch. But I am willing to share my parenting journey, and that’s had an effect on mothers looking for tips on how to better raise their own children as they fight stereotypes, protect their babies and enjoy being moms.

7) What lessons have you learned as a leader in the digital space?

I’ve certainly learned that it’s important to be very clear in what I mean and to mean what I say. People come to MyBrownBaby for very specific viewpoints and information, and it’s important to be clear, concise, intelligent and, above all else, focused on the mission. It is with that in mind that I write stories, and certainly what keeps my readers coming back again and again. I appreciate them too much to let them down.

8) Do you have plans to expand your leadership roles in the digital space? If so, what are they?

I do hope to expand my leadership role in the digital space by stretching the mission of MyBrownBaby into more avenues beside the blog. Perhaps there will be a magazine in the near future, and a book or two that taps into the voice of MyBrownBaby.

9) Who are your favorite social media women leaders and why?

I adore Jennifer James, creator of the Mom Bloggers Club, because she’s innovative, smart and cutting-edge. She always seems to be ahead of the curve, and she handles her businesses with such grace and quiet strength. I adore her.

I adore Deanna Sutton of Clutchmag.com, because she’s managed to carve out a space that really is the voice of young black women. In her space, she leads the conversation and women respond in kind. The copy is fresh, intelligent, witty, relevant and thought-provoking. I just love it!

And finally, I adore Jennae Peterson of GreenYourDecor.com, for her design aesthetic and beautiful eye. When I first got into the space, her site was the one that I fashioned MyBrownBaby after; as a green blogger, she created a space that is targeted and specific and never strays from the mission. That tenacity and focus is what I strive for with MyBrownBaby, and I’m grateful to her for teaching me how to do that by leading by example.

10) Share several ways women can use social media to define and express their personal leadership brand.

  • Blogs are a fine way to express yourself and craft your personal brand. You write, you have total control over what you pen and people can interact with you in ways they can’t in person, especially if they are not physically near you.
  • In becoming a thought leader, women who use social media can parlay their experiences and journey into off-line opportunities, like speaking engagements, charity work, and the creation of businesses that really move lockstep with the brand they’ve created online.
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