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Developing Your Personal Brand Through Social by Nina Lorez Collins

Join Nina Collins at the Gibbes Museum of Art as she discusses a movement for women over forty, What Would Virginia Woolf Do?, on October 24.

Three years ago this month, when I was 46, I started a secret Facebook group purely for my own entertainment. The idea was to create a safe and funny space where I could be self-deprecating and candid and talk about all the uncomfortable things that were happening to both my body and my emotions as I hurtled toward menopause. Why was I hating my teenagers? Why did no one ever warn me I’d get back fat? Was my period really over, already? Would I ever sleep through the night again? What’s the difference between Viagra and Cialis? These were just a few of the burning questions that I felt a need to ask, and I craved a forum in which to do it. My doctor wasn’t much help (she offered the pill when I complained about night sweats), and I wasn’t finding that my girlfriends, much as I loved them, were really tackling these issues either. Were they perhaps embarrassed? Was there a reason to feel ashamed?

I called the group “What Would Virginia Woolf Do?” because my friends are a bunch of fierce feminists who read a lot, and Virginia Woolf is one of our heroines. And she killed herself in her 50s. So that dark joke of the title is basically “we’re getting old; should we just throw in the towel?” The answer, it turns out,  is resoundingly, “of course not!” The group, which started with 50 women in Brooklyn, is now 24,000 women all over the world, all fantastically smart and funny and resourceful, and we learn from each other, and inspire each other, every single day. It’s addictive, and it’s been weirdly life-changing for many of us.

The FB community is the heart of what we do, but we’ve now grown into a larger enterprise called The Woolfer (that’s what we call ourselves, Woolfers, and our secret handshake is a The Crave Vesper, a necklace that also happens to be a vibrator!), which includes a website, newsletter, online shop, and a podcast called Raging Gracefully.

I’m the voice of the brand, but I’m not alone. I have a team of 15 amazing moderators, all women I chose because they each uniquely “get” the concept, and have perspectives and personalities that embody what I’m trying to do here, which is ultimately to destigmatize female aging, to empower women to help each other, and to be funny, sexy, smart, and proud while doing it.

Nina Collins
Collins began her online community three years ago, at age 46. It has grown to include over 24,000 members worldwide!

How have I done it? Truly from the heart. What’s been most amazing to me about this entire experience is how utterly organic and authentic it’s been. I write what I feel and think, honestly and without much filter, and I love the community. It’s honestly that simple. Looking at it from above, here are a few principles I’ve come to rely on as we grow:

  • Post Organically – Now that we’ve gotten bigger, we do schedule some posts, but only ones that are about logistics. All of my personal posts (articles, questions, thoughts) are impromptu; I post when I feel like it or when something occurs to me.
  • Take Care of your Members – one of our core principles is “Assume Goodness.” This is a pretty basic concept that comes straight from my personal values: the idea is that everyone is struggling and generally doing the best that he/she can do. Don’t go for the jugular when you get triggered; assume the other person means well or is in pain, and try to see things from a perspective not your own. We can all learn from each other things way, and grow.
  • Decide Whether it’s a Club or a Business, and Behave Accordingly — this is a concept I’m only just beginning to embrace, and I think it’s sound advice. Because I started this enterprise as a gaggle of my own giggling girlfriends, and it’s now actually trying to engage in commerce and is full of women I don’t know personally, it’s transforming, and I need to be constantly aware that both I and the group have become a brand. That’s not always entirely comfortable; I can’t always be as candid about my personal life as I could in the early days, and I do need to be conscious of the larger needs of a growing body (are we diverse enough? Are we presenting options at the right price points? Also, I actually get recognized in public sometimes by lovely middle aged women, which is hilarious. I’ve actually wondered if I should start brushing my hair before I leave the house in the morning!

Why does it matter? Women write to me every day telling me that the group has changed their lives. Makes them feel less alone, teaches them so much, offers so much wisdom and comfort. It’s done exactly the same for me, so I know what they mean, and it’s incredibly heartening. So We Persist.

—Nina Lorez Collins, founder of thewoolfer.com and guest blogger

Top Image: Join Nina Collins at the Gibbes Museum of Art as she discusses a movement for women over forty in her lecture entitled What Would Virginia Woolf Do?, on October 24, a program presented in partnership with the Center for Women and Blue Bicycle Books.

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