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The Power of Mom

November 2, 2010

Anyone who works in marketing or particularly online marketing and communications will have heard of the infamous “mommy bloggers.” They’ve spawned a number of marketing case studies, conferences and have created their own robust online communities. And as a spending and family decision-making powerhouse they’ve garnered a lot of interest from major PR firms and company flaks looking to tap into the mommy network to get their products out there.

To be honest, I’ve always rolled my eyes a bit at the PR wonderlust for mommy bloggers. It’s not that I don’t love moms, or blogs, but I’ve always found outreach to this community a bit disingenuous. There are certainly benefits to being a sought after PR case study – free samples and trips are just some of the benefits some mommy bloggers have garnered. But anyone who isn’t a mommy blogger can easily find themselves scratching their heads at the marketing mommy-force that sometimes seems to take over the web.

I was among the head scratchers until just recently – when I myself entered the ranks of future moms with the expected arrival of baby Kyzer this December. It didn’t happen suddenly, but it seemed like within a month of announcing our baby’s impending debut and joining the mommy club I was suddenly receiving weekly e-mails from dozens of communities and visiting message boards for others. Suddenly I was obsessed with my “Bump” the Pea in my Pod, and became an authoritative source for advice and diaper coupons.

If you take a moment to study mommy communities you’ll note a lot of diversity – from philosophies on sleep, income, and age moms come in all shapes and sizes. The differences are apparent but the similarities unite this group in a way that keeps them chatting, commenting and brand building together. This shouldn’t be surprising – motherhood has always been a shared experience. In the past decade moms discovered blogs as ways to expand the circle of advice, photos and stories. Now with more millennials entering mommyhood it’s becoming an experience shared as much online as it is over a coffee-cup playdate.

According to eMarketer mommy bloggers increased to 3.9 million from 3.7 million in 2009. One can expect the numbers to level-off as conversations move from blogs to social networking sites like Facebook, but one thing is for sure – moms will be talking online, and they are conversations marketers should be paying attention to (as if we could get them to stop).

As one of the most robust, engaged communities we owe it to ourselves to learn from the web of moms online rather than just sell to them. Any community manager should pay careful attention to the passion, and shared experience that drive this group together. It’s an important lesson to keep in mind – always study a group before you pitch them. Just ask Motrin.

Like any large group, the differences outnumber the similarities, but here are a few of my take-aways for anyone looking to tap into the mommy market:

1. They’re a community united by experience. The experience of being a mother is an absolutely unique one, but also an absolutely binding one. Moms represent a special stage in life and have a special role. Too often moms are approached as a vocation – being a mom is a job, but it’s more like joining the priesthood than being an accountant. It’s a service-oriented field that respects shared experience.

2. They want a discount. I work most with government organizations who often have difficulty grasping the reality that folks most identify with brands online because they’re hoping to get something. Moms want cheap diapers – or cheap groceries or discounts on something. Parenthood is expensive (I had no idea!). Mommy bloggers are great at spreading and rallying behind a deal, and many online communities for moms are focused on deals. A key lesson we should all keep in mind – we should be offering value to our community, not just information.

3. Moms keep the criticism inside the community. This should be common sense but all too often it isn’t. If your marketing campaign is edgy it shouldn’t be critical. Moms have made a number of mistakes, and tune into any Lifetime movie marathon to see that some moms are downright evil. Inside mommy communities you’ll find some limited criticism but critics coming from the outside are rarely appreciated. And that includes telling a mom that she’s currently buying the wrong baby product for her child.

They’re a few simple thoughts just meant to be a reminder – you’ve got to know the community you’re engaging. And whatever you do, remember that interacting with moms online is just like interacting with your own – don’t come to the table uninformed.

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