Danielle Guzman: How an online influencer found her ‘why’

With 20 years of experience as an insurance marketer, Danielle Guzman is hardly a newcomer to the financial industry. However, her appearance on a variety of online influencer lists for fintech and insurtech over the past year is a relatively recent phenomenon. “I’ve had a Twitter account for a while, but as of a year ago I had only a handful of followers,” says Guzman, who now has over 9,000 Twitter followers. “I love change, I love doing new things.”

Inspired, in part, by the Simon Sinek TED talk, How great leaders inspire action, Guzman saw an opportunity to elevate her career and professional journey by building her personal brand. “In the past 10 years, everything about presenting yourself professionally has changed with social media. I watched Sinek and realized I was that person who could only talk about ‘what’ I do – and I needed to be focussing on the ‘why’.” Guzman immersed herself and became a student of social media. “If I was going to do it, it was going to be all or nothing,” she added. Over the past year, Danielle Guzman has emerged in online social networks as a thoughtful and engaging influencer. She is an active participant in a variety of online communities and can be found sharing relevant industry content daily. I reached out to Danielle to try and understand why she is focused on social networking and how she is gaining traction.

JP: Can you give me a brief sense of what you do professionally and how your career arc brought you to this place?

DG: I help brands build and market products and solutions, and tell compelling stories about them. Over the past 20 years I’ve focused my time in both financial services and insurance, first on the consulting side and then working inside insurers in various marketing roles. The majority of my career has been predominantly internationally focused, working in-country across the globe which taught me early in my career critical skills for success in a multi-cultural business environment.

Over the past 10 years, my career highlights include having built two start-up functions in a large traditional insurer, starting with global product development and more recently building a global customer insights function. Through these roles I helped the organization accelerate its journey to truly understanding their customers’ motivations, anticipating their behavior, and using the insights as a source of competitive advantage.

I’m a strong believer in putting the customer at the core of decision making to stay relevant in today’s fast-changing competitive environment. I’ve truly enjoyed this work as it has allowed me to experience how my contribution makes a difference in people’s lives. Most recently I made a career move back into consulting and through that process I was reminded of the tremendous value of online social networking and personal branding as part of my professional life.

JP: Why did you decide to focus on building your visibility and following in online social networks? What was your original motivation?

DG: I’ve always been a social individual, I enjoy networking and meeting new people, and much of my career has been enriched by the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with. So a focus on building my presence on social media was a natural extension. Why now? I was on the cusp of a new adventure last spring. I reflected on the industry and the growth of social media and social selling over the past years when it hit me – personal branding was replacing resumes and cover letters – and I didn’t have one.

Those who knew my character and my work were predominantly limited to my face-to-face interactions. So, I set out to build a social media presence for myself. I made some mistakes, but I learned from them. At first, I was all over the place in terms of the content I was sharing, when I realized I needed to refocus and go deep on topics I am interested in and have expertise in. I also realized that social media is not a media platform, it’s an engagement platform.

JP: How have you achieved so much recognition? What are you doing online that you feel is most effective in building your audience?

DG: First, I am honored to be thought of as an influencer amongst the men and women that I engage with online, and fortunate to have met so many incredible individuals that inspire me daily. A favorite quote comes to mind: “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.” (Albert Szent-Györgyi). That quote is a source of much inspiration for me. These past 11 months have been a journey into the unknown, a very enriching and rewarding journey. One key to my success has been making mistakes, which have helped me learn quickly, and have helped me find my voice.

Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.

Albert Szent-Györgyi

Honestly, I don’t have any magic tricks – it’s about rolling up your sleeves and building relationships, expressing gratitude and giving generously without expecting a return. It’s about approaching this as you would face-to-face networking, except virtual networking has greater convenience and reach. It is about knowing and connecting with your audience, and paying attention to the conversations they are having on social media. If you roll up your sleeves a bit and do some social listening, you’ll gain rich insights into what type of content is most valuable and relevant to them, and to you.

JP: Do you use any tools to help you? For instance, how do you find relevant material to share? How to you maintain your active sharing schedule?

DG: I’ve had different tools recommended to me over the past year but have not found a single one that I really like, so I use a few. For the most part I publish live. If I’m going to be away for an extended period of time, or when I’m in the office, I use Buffer. With regards to curating content, I use Pocket any time I read something that inspires me, so that I can return to it at a later time. I find Flipboard to be a nice tool as well, especially if you take the time to personalize it to your interests. I subscribe to several newsletters, email lists and blogs as well, and enjoy their daily feeds to my inbox. I love to read, and I’m always looking for new sources of interesting and mind-expanding content.

JP: People often tell me they’re too busy for social networking, yet every online influencer I’ve ever spoken to is extremely busy. How do you find time for it? Specifically, can you describe your routine and estimate the amount of time you invest daily/weekly?

DG: I believe social networking is more than just finding time – it goes much deeper. To borrow from Simon Sinek’s well known TED talk, ‘knowing your why’ is at the core of how I find the time. If you are passionately connected to your ‘why’ the rest comes easy, it’s no longer a task. Balancing work, and a family with a vibrant 4 year old, I do have to be very efficient, so I do a fair amount of multitasking to curate content and remain active on a daily basis.

I spend 2-3 hours a day, 7 days a week. Mostly I find time in the morning and late night, while commuting on the train every day, and while working out on the elliptical machine. Occasionally I can grab an extra few minutes here or there. I love reflecting at the end of each day on what I curated, learned, interacted with and shared.

JP: That’s a lot of time, 2-3 hours a day. How do you justify it?

DG: I use social networks for work and professional development. It keeps me relevant and on top of so much rich content that people are sharing. I love to read and I love to learn. It keeps me fresh. Social media is such a rich source of what’s new and developing in one’s industry, I believe it’s a great source for news. And the way I use it, social networks help me to be productive while doing other things.

JP: What have you accomplished so far? How has your visibility as an influencer impacted your business activities? What are the benefits?

DG: Social media networking keeps me in a state of constant learning – to me it is a source of inspiration and innovation into my day-to-day work. I engage with my professional network on a daily basis, and I continue to build and nurture a community of engaged followers that compliment a mix of my interests. I’m also focused on continuing to build relationships with influencers that are having conversations about the topics that are important to audiences I am trying to reach. This alone has enabled direct access to such a diverse group of brilliant people who are thought leaders in their industries. Some of the many benefits to me personally and professionally include:

  • getting access to expert opinions across a vast range of topics;
  • finding excellent curated content on specific topics to support programs or strategies in development;
  • garnering recommendations for vendors and meeting new vendors;
  • identifying, meeting and building relationships with influencers;
  • building relationships with trade editors and writers.

More recently, as my own visibility as an influencer has continued to grow and mature, opportunities to contribute to blog posts, articles and trade publications are materializing more and more. Plus opportunities to mentor fintech startups, and speak, and/or participate at industry events – just to name a few.

JP: What have you learned from your experience over the past year or so building your online network?

DG: The power of online networking is incredible, and the community of individuals I’ve met is a blessing. In less than one year I have expanded my social network virtually in a way that would not have been possible face-to-face, and I have learned a tremendous amount along the way. And there’s no shortcut, sharing content, building a following, and connecting with others in a meaningful way takes time and commitment. The more time you invest in one network the more you’ll get out of it. At the end of the day it’s not about how many followers you have, but rather the quality and engagement you have with your community.


Danielle Guzman is Global Solutions Marketing Leader for Mercer, based in New York City. You can connect with Danielle online:

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