Meet Digital Sisterhood Leader Laura Tellado

Photo Credit: Laura Tellado


Meet Digital Sisterhood Leader Laura Tellado, a journalist, social media consultant, activist for Spina Bifida awareness, and founder of Holdin’ Out for a Hero blog.

Fun Facts: Digital Sisterhood Network founder Ananda Leeke discovered Laura through her Facebook page postings about her work with Latinos in Social Media. In December 2011, Laura appeared on Digital Sisterhood Radio and participated in a panel discussion on how women transform health challenges into life opportunities with social media. Click here to listen to the show.  

1) How can people find you online?

2) Why did you start using social media?

I began using social media as early as high school, but really got serious about it after I decided to use blogging as a platform to raise much-needed awareness about Spina Bifida, the number one cause of paralysis in children in America, and a condition I was born with.  It was then that I really started using Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms for a cause which I truly believe is greater than me or any one person.

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

It has allowed me to connect with the best of the best– whether in business, medical, legal, artistic, and philanthropic paradigms, I have been blessed to make friends and build lasting relationships with people I’ve often only known online. It has offered me a higher purpose– to use technology to give a platform to a little-known cause (Spina Bifida), and to also engage with the Latino community in a way that I never did, despite growing up in Central Florida.  It has also given me the tools I require to become a leader of communities, such as LATISM Central Florida, and has provided me with the opportunity to become a social media consultant for a medical research company doing a study on Spina Bifida (@EBGenetico on Twitter, and EB Genético on Facebook).  Many people are often skeptical that social media has too much negative influence on society and on young generations, but my experiences are hard evidence that, when used to encourage and promote positive change and community involvement in different areas, social media truly is a force to be reckoned with– for GOOD.

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?

As a die-hard advocate for the Spina Bifida cause, as well as a supporter of many other civil rights causes, social media has been so instrumental in connecting me with leaders (both celebrities and unsung leaders) in different niches. I was interacting online with leaders and followers of the #LATISM community on Twitter and Facebook months before I met several of them at BlogHer ’10. I will always treasure the memory of recognizing familiar faces I had only seen as avatars and hugging these people in real life for the first time.  I never dreamed several years ago, that I would be such a respected member of several communities both online and off– and that I would even be invited to speak at conferences on topics that I’m truly passionate about.  Topics I usually speak about include how to create a community of followers and engage with them for the good of a cause. These are opportunities that I never imagined I’d have when I was in college, struggling to figure out what I’d specialize in.  Social media has also challenged me to find solutions to problems on my own– and it’s also taught me that I need to be humble and accept help when what I know isn’t working. Learning that your knowledge isn’t the be-all, end-all of the problems you will face is an important step in the process. There will always be people who are more knowledgable than you are in certain areas, and I’ve often needed to realize that there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, learning where to get help and when to ask for it is to me, the hallmark of a true leader.

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 think the sky’s the limit when it comes to the roles women can play in social media. Of course, I’ve focused chiefly on the roles of educator, advocate, and social do gooder because they are the roles I sought to adopt when I first started Holdin’ Out for a Hero.  But I have been continually amazed at how women have embraced and redefined the role of entrepreneur using online tools and platforms. Women are literally building business empires from the ground up online, and as women are also the chief influencers driving consumerism from their own households, they have that key insight about what consumers are looking for as an added bonus. Businesses and non-profits alike should take note that, if they want to remain in business and become household names, they need to tap into a previously underestimated resource– the power of women’s intuition. We will be the influencers leading the charge in all the areas that matter.

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

I consider myself to be an advocate and activist, not just for the Spina Bifida cause, but for health care issues, and Latino issues, and other “minority” causes.  In the near future, I also hope to adopt the role of brand ambassador for companies whose values are in line with my own.  I’m also a supporter of my friends and acquaintances who are seeking a platform, whether it’s sharing a link to something good and useful they are doing, or giving them some pointers on how to effectively engage people.

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

I think a big part of being a good leader is also being a good follower, because to be an effective leader, you have to understand why people are following what you do. I feel I’ve spent a vast majority of my life being a follower of other people because I believe in what they do, and it’s important to not lose sight of that. When you support what another person is doing, you are empowering them to become a leader. It’s not just about “Oh, I’m in charge here.” It’s about being a team player and supporting people even when they are doing things differently than you do.  You also need to have bulletproof integrity. You can’t allow someone to force you into compromising your values, by sharing an article or post about something that you don’t fully endorse or believe in. So, it’s about finding that balance where you can agree to disagree with your peers online, but you won’t do something that is in blatant contradiction to what your followers know and respect you for.  That being said, it’s not only okay to sometimes share the torch with the people whose messages you believe in– it’s vital to your credibility as a leader in the digital space. If you are territorial about your platform and don’t want to share it or encourage discussion, you come off as insecure about your own message. Be generous with others– but maintain the integrity of what you believe in.

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

I definitely have plans to expand my leadership roles in the digital space. There’s a new Web site in the works, but I’m a little superstitious so I won’t go into too much detail. I will say that I hope this new site, this new venture, will be embraced by the Digital Sisterhood community, as it is all about empowering social media engagers and redefining some already-stale roles the online space.  When it’s ready to launch, I hope I can turn to my friends at Digital Sisterhood for support!

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

I will have to name some of my LATISM hermanas, because if it were not for them, I truly wouldn’t even be doing this right now!  Ana Roca-Castro and Elianne Ramos are two social firecrackers who I love dearly as my sisters. They embraced me and took me under their wings when I was not yet known or recognized in the social media realm and blogosphere. Their lessons and conversations with them have provided me with so many resources, and I have them to thank for so many positive experiences during the past nearly three years of my life.  I must also acknowledge Kety Esquivel, one of my earliest online role models. She harnesses so much power with both the Latino and female communities.  Elisa Camahort page of BlogHer is one that I’ve been honored to meet in person. She is a social media force for the ages, and the community she has helped created is one that pays it forward, in providing support and platforms to women bloggers.  Really, there are just too many to name, and my leaving some out does not mean they haven’t greatly impacted my life. These are just some of my favorites, and among the first I connected with.

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

  • Allow others to become part of a community, and don’t let it be just you on your soapbox. Your brand is only as strong as your followers, and you need to give them the power to evangelize for you, too.
  • Don’t let your desire to remain consistent overpower your need to evolve. We ALL need to go through the process of evolution multiple times throughout our lives. Know that it is an organic process, and that it is a necessary one. Once you know who you are as a brand, it makes it easier for people to follow and tout you. Let your social media profiles reflect the desire to GROW and EVOLVE. People will respect you for that.
  • Do try to be consistent with your branding to an extent. Your Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts should be a reflection for what you stand for in your branding. Share articles, videos, or other content that reflect your message(s). Don’t be afraid to be YOURSELF. You are your most important brand.

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