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Business coach Lara Galloway puts it best when she explains the power behind a mom’s word-of-mouth recommendation, or the “word of mom” as she appropriately calls it: “If moms find something they like, they’re willing to be advocates and pass it on,” she says. “These people are hardwired to share a good thing—or a bad thing. They’re going to tell everyone about it.”
Throw online social media into the mix and you have not only some of the most social creatures, but also a format made entirely for being social. “The social media space is just wildfire for the word of mom,” says Galloway, whose client base is entirely mom business owners. This perfect pairing is exactly why you’ll find most of this year’s Leading Moms in Business highly active in the space. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or a blog, mom business owners are leveraging these web tools to spread the word about their businesses, products, causes and more.
Lucy Mashua, an interpreter by trade, uses social media to raise awareness about women’s rights and female genital mutilation through her nonprofit Mashua Voice for the Voiceless (ranked No. 73). “When you use social media correctly, it’s the best way for any business or cause to get positive recognition and reach greatness,” says the Dallas-based mom business owner. “I don’t know where I’d be without it.”
She may have more than 8,000 Facebook friends and fans now, but a year ago she had never heard of the social networking website. And four years ago, when she came to the United States from Kenya, she barely knew how to use a computer. “The concept was foreign to me,” says Mashua, 31, crediting a US journalist for introducing her to Facebook. “I didn’t know the power it could have, but within the first month I had 900 followers.”
And what’s meaningful to her is apparently top-of-mind for her followers. She regularly posts about the latest news and developments in human rights, violence against women and particularly FGM as well as shares personal stories and experiences on the topics. Despite her daily efforts, she says her extensive fan base is simply due to people “uniting on a common cause.”
Ahead of the curve
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Lanae Paaverud, the Social Networking Nanny (ranked No. 30). This mom business owner started in e-commerce in 2000, first establishing her social media chops on eBay’s feedback forums. When she started seeing businesses sprout up on Facebook and Twitter, she joined, not realizing what she was getting herself into. As an early adopter among the mom business owners in her e-commerce circle, Paaverud, 45, became the go-to girl for social media help.
“I saw that there was a real need,” she explains, “and knew there had to be others outside my network who needed help, too.” In 2009, Paaverud officially established herself as the Social Networking Nanny. And so today, the mom business owner leverages social media not only for her small-business clients, but also her own Shakopee, Minnesota-based company.
In both aspects, she focuses primarily on Twitter and Facebook, where she practices “quality over quantity” and has about 2,300 followers and 440 fans, respectively. She follows individuals and companies with similar interests and those that might be interested in her services. On the flip side, she provides her followers with helpful articles, ideas and tips on effective social networking. If she had to pick one network over the other, it would be Facebook for its more conversational aspect and that it allows her to get to know someone better. With this in mind, she stays on top of her business’ image by leveraging photo albums. “A properly set up album really draws people in,” she says. On Twitter, her favorite feature is hashtags: “I love being able to hone in on a topic of interest.”
While Paaverud and Mashua entered the social media scene through very different avenues, their thoughts on the marketing channel are the same. “Once you open the world of social networking, your possibilities are endless and your pool of people is limitless,” Paaverud says. “Sure, I can find new clients, but I love when it’s the nonbusiness things that you don’t expect that end up benefiting you.” For example, simple Tweeting has led to PR opportunities, interviews, local media coverage and more.
“I don’t know how I would have met the people I have,” Mashua agrees. “I’ve traveled all over the world because of people I’ve met, and they wouldn’t know me if it weren’t for social networking.” She recently met a photojournalist from Norway on YouTube who made a documentary in Mashua’s village. The woman invited her to the red carpet screening in Norway and introduced her to blogging, another concept new to Mashua that she now regularly uses.
Although Mashua is active on Facebook, Twitter and her blog, the mom business owner is a big proponent of the Facebook Pages app that automatically posts status updates to her Twitter account. She also leverages links and videos on Facebook, where she shares links to stories and personal video monologues, as well as the Discussions tab, where she encourages fans to start conversations about specific topics. On Saturdays on BlogTalkRadio.com, you can catch Mashua leading her own discussions regarding news and topics related to her cause.
How else do these mom business owners use social media? You can bet they used the forums to garner votes for this very contest, contributing to Paaverud’s 1,844 votes and Mashua’s 1,200. Mashua even created a button on her social network pages to link to her StartupNation.com voting page.
But contest aside, it’s clear these moms know how to make the most of social media. Whether it’s their social nature, a desire to spread the news about something good or simply the “power of mom,” they understand its value. “[Social media] is not going away,” says Paaverud matter-of-factly, “so you might as well jump on board.”