Meet Digital Sisterhood Leader Kathryn Buford

Photo Credit: Kathryn Buford

Photo Credit: Kathryn Buford

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Meet Digital Sisterhood Leader Kathryn Buford, Co-Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Live Unchained. Kathryn is also a writer, digital media consultant, and sociology Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland, College Park.


Digital Sisterhood Leadership Project (#DSLead) Interview

1) How can people find you online?

2) Why did you start using social media?

I started using Twitter at the recommendation of my friend Michelle, Facebook (after a long hiatus) at the recommendation of my friend Ciara, and created a blog at the recommendation of my friend Abadeu. My friends were active on these outlets and they recommend I joined to promote my organization, my baby, Live Unchained.

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

Wow, I don’t think this is enough space 🙂 Personally, I have built some great relationships with artists, activists and experts across the country and world. Here, I’d like to give shout-outs to my friends Kristen Nicole (Texas) and Lucia Asue (Equatorial Guinea) who have been so supportive. And, our offline relationships first began with requests to feature them on Live Unchained. It’s help me realize that my organization can be everything I want it to be and more because I get to meet talented people from around the world who have great ideas to share. From a business perspective, it helps me to establish Live Unchained as a taste maker and international platform for women’s creative works across Africa and the diaspora. Also, Twitter, especially, helps me appreciate the beauty in brevity and not overthinking things.

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?

Well, actually, it has taught me that sometimes being a leader means letting other people lead. Thanks to the persistent advice of one of my advisors, I learned to accept that I am not superwoman and cannot be on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and writing regular phenomenal blog posts 24/7. So, I’ve decided to take on interns to help out with our social media presence. And, as I lead them, I plan to play to their strengths and encourage them to share their own ideas. I want our collective internship experience to be an exercise in communal leadership.

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: A Memoir of Fierce Living Online (2013), 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 that’s a great list and I think what I’m about to say is reflected in those roles. To that I would add that women lead through demonstrations of humanity. By that I mean, I’ve seen a lot of women share vulnerable emotional sides of them through their blog posts and social media that they normally wouldn’t share otherwise. And, these aren’t melodramatic women that just want some attention. I respect that and it has encouraged me to be bolder about what I reveal in the hopes that it will resonate with other women as well. One of my greatest inspirations concerning this kind of leadership is Minna Salami of

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

As a doctoral student, I think I’m leading by example, showing how scholars can use social media to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors and engage people outside of academia.

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

Well, I’ve published so many of these lessons as Twitter and Facebook posts, so I’ll quote my own self here.  I’ve learned: You can’t wait for other people to “get” what you’re doing before you start doing it. Just because you’re not getting the results you want, when you want, doesn’t mean you’re not doing anything right. You’re unchained when uncertainty stops stopping you. Three things an artist must protect are their time, energy and emotional well-being. Have fun, but never surf without protection

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

Yes. But, they’re still in the oven, so I’m not really to pull them out yet 🙂

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

Ananda Leeke, Jessica Solomon (@jesssolomon), Lulu Kitololo (@afrilove), Minna Salami (@msafropolitan), Kristen Nicole (@kristennicole2), Laverne Wyatt (@lavernewyatt), Daisy Giles (@daisygiles), Kesha Bruce (@keshabruce) and Ciara Calbert (@blogofciarac) are some of my favorite social media women leaders. What I love about these women is that they write from a place of sincerity and take themselves seriously as entrepreneurs.

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

As far as expressing your personal leadership brand, I’d say it’s important to not overhink it. Recognize what’s important to you and let a theme emerge. If you look back over your life, you’ll see a theme in terms of your recurring interests. When it comes to defining your personal brand, I’d say note your personal core values like honest, creativity and freedom. Then ask yourself what colors and symbols reflect those core values. These colors and symbols can be combined to help create a simple clear logo and color scheme for your online presence.

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