Meet Digital Sisterhood Leader Elena Sonnino — She’s headed to #Blogalicious12!


Photo Credit: Elena Sonnino

Meet Digital Sisterhood Leader Elena Sonnino, founder of CiaoMom.com and JustBeEnough.com.  Elena is a mom, a teacher, a wife, a runner and triathlete, and a cancer survivor.  She is also a member of the Heart of Haiti Campaign’s Bloggers4Haiti and the American Cancer Society’s Blogger Advisory Council.

Fun Facts: Digital Sisterhood Network founder and Elena met during the Heart of Haiti event at Macy’s in December 2011. They serve as Heart of Haiti blogger ambassadors. Elena traveled to Haiti with a group of mom bloggers earlier this year. Click here to watch a video about her experiences.

In August, Elena and Ananda reconnected and shared memories of Susan Niebur a/k/a @whymommy, an amazing blogger, scientist, mom, and wife, at the American Cancer Society’s booth at the BlogHer 12′ Conference. They will spend time together at the American Cancer Society’s “Bowl for More Birthdays” event at the Blogalicious Weekend Conference on September 29, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada. If you are headed to Vegas, make sure you say hi to Elena and support the American Cancer Society.

1) How can people find you online?

2) Why did you start using social media?

I started using social media with Facebook when I was recently separated and was looking for ways to connect with others in 2007. In 2009, I started blogging when I realized that it was time to begin to tell the story of being a cancer survivor, divorcee, and mom.

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

My blogging has evolved from a hobby to a passion and has allowed me to leave education and teaching to pursue a full-time career in freelance writing, social media, and social action. I am incredibly lucky and honored to be involved in social action campaigns like More Birthdays, Bloggers4Haiti, and Shot@Life as well as having had the opportunity to share my voice as a cast member for the DC Listen to Your Mother. More importantly, social media has enabled me to believe in my voice and has led me down a path of new friendships where I learn and laugh with women in this space every day.

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 believe that social media has helped me carve out leadership roles as my confidence has increased and the belief that my voice matters.  I founded a collaborative site in 2011 (Just.Be.Enough.) and have been able to lead a team of women writers that contribute to the community each day. Additionally, I believe that I am an active leader in the social action arena inspiring others through my work with More Birthdays, Bloggers4Haiti, and Shot@Life that they can make a difference by just doing it.

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 love the idea of these roles.  Collaborator and facilitator would be two that I would add (although they might be redundant). I believe that to be a leader you need to be able to collaborate and work to foster independence and self-sufficiency in others.

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

Advocate, community builder, creator, educator, motivator, social do gooder, and influencer

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

My biggest lesson is that there are a lot of us in this space, some even doing similar things and sharing similar messaging. The important thing is not to see others as competitors, but to identify what our individual strengths are and then work collaboratively to strengthen the entire community.

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

I absolutely would like to start increasing my role as a public speaker. In the education space I was an expert in my field and spoke and facilitated workshops at the local and state level. I thrive when speaking to groups and engaging people in conversations that lead to new thinking.

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

Leticia Barr is the epitome of professionalism, mentor, and friend. Morra Aarons Mele is a mentor and an incredibly savvy woman. Christine Koh is a thought leader, community manager, influencer, and advocate. Sheila Dowd is an incredibly brilliant leader, business woman, and mentor. Cat Lincoln is an incredibly thoughtful leader, business woman, mentor, and friend. Chrysula Winegar is a fabulous connector, motivator, thought leader, and mentor.

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

  • Identify what you are truly passionate about and use that voice to be positive and impactful.
  • Collaborate instead of compete with others.
  • Remember that you are your brand. Staying positive and being generous with your voice and your knowledge will only strengthen the community as a whole.
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