I spent a majority of day 3 at SXSW in awe. I had a chance to connect with a majority of my favorite female influencers, learned about Cory Booker’s new start up venture, WayWire, and spent 15 minutes catching up with Dhani Jones on his career switch ups and entry into the digital agency space.  

Many of fellow female influencers finally converged upon the scene and we spent a lot of time building and talking about what it means to really activate our potential within this industry.  It is interesting to be a female of color within the digital space making a place of her own.  

By reflecting upon the expansion of female entrepreneurs such as Luvvie Ajayi of Awesomely Luvvie, Christen Rochon of Divas and Dorks, Kathryn Finney of Digital Undivided and Sian Morson of Kollective Mobile, it is important to understand the hard work and ethic of what it takes to reach the glass ceiling of personal and sustainable success.

The success of these folks is the result of their engagement, integrity, and adaptability to the digital marketplace.  The SXSW Interactive experience serves as a great place to learn and meet with emerging tech platforms, brands, and potential investors, but without a strong plan in place one can get lost in the shuffle.  This is not a place to just booze and schmooze.  A chance night time run-in with Mark Cuban at the Hilton Austin hotel bar could be the biggest break of your career…if you have a 30 second pitch ready to go on the spot. And yes, things like that happen at this conference.  My hotel mate, Felicia Pride of Pride Collaborative, bested him with a couple of shots during our first night in Austin.

Myleik Teele of CurlBox on authenticity: “Being authentic works.  Reaching out to bloggers that have engagement, trust and influence. Engagement means everything! You have to decide if this is a hobby for you or a business?” “If you want to make a business and get rid of a 9 to 5 you have to make the investment if you really want to make your mark as an African American business woman”

Franchesca Ramsey, YouTube Beauty/Comedy Vlogger on audience crisis management: “Don’t be afraid to talk back to your audience.  Comments can be powerful in terms of building mass engagement and showing the human connection between yourself and people who are willing to trust your opinion based on your online personality.  People should also be inventive on social media platforms. Do not post and repeat the same thing over and over.  Stop doing hair videos in bathroom settings.  Do something for kids and guys.  You can focus on other niches and demographics. Be innovative. What are some different ways that you can put a spin on how you are sharing the story of styling natural hair?

Patrice Yursik of Afrobella on editorial integrity and brand promotion:  “People are just reaping rewards without being ethical and fair within the space when it comes to direct product recommendations from brands in the interest of making money. You should have an editorial standard for yourself. Brands should be coming to you with a personal touch and their outreach should be catered to fit your brand and audience.”

These ideals fall mostly in line with another standout personality who I deem next in line for everything to fireman, president—and maybe even my next best friend–-Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey.  His hour long interview at SXSW, held at the Long Center, was one of the most engaging and surprising experiences that I have encountered thus far.  Outside of being an awesome mayor and advocate for his community, he is launching a startup venture, WayWire, based on providing quick and easy video content to its users.

The platform and its functionality are geared towards helping people search and find video content with more speed and optimization. This came out of the need to refine and target content for users verses YouTube’s current functionality when it comes to the shuffling through of content. Booker stated the following during his panel discussion:

“We created WayWire to help people discover videos that they love and this allows you to create a video identity where people can view and learn more about you.  Waywire is to get about 35 hours per day of video content. The purpose is based on helping to win the battle of staying engaged and helping them to float up content that they will love. The authentic view that many of us have we can capture best through the power of video.”

Mayor Booker wants users to take advantage of the data that the government has and move towards creating something creative and innovative around it. Given his new venture—on top of running a city, and being a real-life superhero—how does he make the time to tweet to his audience?  

“I live a lonely and boring life. I was a Blackberry addict. Twitter is a tool that lets me communicate with thousands of people daily and I value that connection. It’s valuable to me to let me know that I can have all of these consumer and community impressions that matter. This technology is allowing us to show the full depth of who we are.”

It's inspiriting to see all this moving and evolution within the digital space for people of color.  We are expanding beyond the reaches of our conceivable job titles, responsibilities, and limitations.  Boundless opportunity waits for those who have the talent and the savvy to master digital advancement, audience engagement, and social interaction. The best way to put this would be a matter of understanding your personal ROI (return on investment) when it comes to thinking about how you want to best be represented as a brand or a business in this changing marketplace.