Moms are joining social networks en-masse. If you're a mom, or married to one like I am, you've probably noticed a lot more activity with moms on Facebook in the past six months. I was even friended by my own mom last week. Of course not wanting to rely entirely on my own circle of family and friends, I dug into the numbers a bit to see if the data supported what was a reality for me. It does.
According to comScore, year-over-year growth of women 25-54 with children in the household has gone up nearly 50 percent on Facebook since November of 2007. Café Mom, a social network for moms, has seen equally impressive growth, albeit from a smaller base of 34 percent. Further, MySpace continues to gain strength among online moms, and while MySpace's 4 percent growth was slower than rival Facebook's, MySpace still attracts more moms on a monthly basis overall. Of course, there are also several smaller social nets dedicated to women and moms, like SisterWoman, that are likely to have experienced similar growth over the past year. A 2008 study from MindShare estimated the number of moms on social networks to be around 33 million, and that number has only gone up since then.
As the sheer number of moms on social nets climbs, so does the amount of time spent on these sites overall. The average MySpace mom spends more than 12 hours on the site per week, according to a recent MySpace study. Interestingly, the same medium that women are spending more time with is the one that 75 percent of moms voted saved them time, according to the same MindShare study. And beyond saving them time, moms selected the internet as their second favorite pastime behind reading.
So what are all these moms doing on social nets? Social networking sites, along with the internet, TV, and radio, are the "daily use" media for moms. In fact, MySpace moms are more active in online and social media than they are in watching TV.
When do they find all this time? Late evening (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) is when most moms are on MySpace. This is also a time when moms are most active with other media, indicating a high degree of simultaneous media usage. MySpace moms in particular report engaging in 1.85 other media activities while surfing. This makes perfect sense, of course; the kids are finally in bed, and the focus shifts back to mom's external interests again. From an advertiser's perspective, this knowledge can be used to influence the tone and messaging of a campaign by tapping into that "me time" mantra made so famous by Oprah and her legions of spiritual guides.
A recent report by Café Mom and Razorfish provides additional insight into various segments of moms and their digital activities. MySpace moms with younger kids, for instance, are more likely to visit social networks mid-morning, perhaps during their children's nap time. This is a perfect opportunity to daypart target those moms with younger children. But keep in mind the value that moms place on this coveted interlude, and ensure your communications are consistent with their expectations.
Those expectations might include using this time to catch up with friends. In fact, 78 percent of MySpace moms report first joining for this very purpose. Moms are also cultivating new friendships online through applications like Circle of Moms. This Facebook tool allows moms to connect with other moms based on common interests -- like using cloth diapers or raising twins -- through a discussion board, polls, photo galleries, and other interactive features. Circle of Moms currently boasts more than 2 million active monthly users and nearly 11,000 fans.
Despite the proliferation of social applications that cater to mom-related activities and kids, moms are, of course, much more than just mothers. Their core interests -- whether they are current events, fashion and style, cooking, music, or business -- are still a part of who they are outside of being a mom. And the brands that cater to those interests can find great success with moms on social sites.
How are brands using social nets to reach moms?
Unfortunately (and somewhat surprisingly), many brands still aren't doing much of anything at all. The top advertiser on Facebook in 2008 was a public service ad supporting the National Problem Gambling Hotline. Of course there were ads for telecom companies and financial services, but those appeared to be driven by a larger ad network buy than part of a specific social media strategy. There were, however, a few brands that did stand out.
Tide's "Dress to the Sevens with Tim Gunn" program is a great example of using a social network to connect with moms -- and women in general -- about a special interest area. Aligned with Fashion Week, Tide partnered with Tim Gunn, famous for the Bravo TV reality show "Project Runway," to bring style tips to moms on MySpace. Ads featuring the style expert are also now running on Facebook.
Betty Crocker uses MySpace to provide recipes, links to coupons, and fun seasonal interactive features like the Chocolate Love Spinner for Valentines Day. This isn't rocket science; we've all seen this type of campaign somewhere else before. It's just a matter of bringing useful content one step closer to the users where they're spending their time.
Aside from well executed promotions and brand pages leveraging the massive audience of social nets, advertisers have been trying to find ways to enlist vocal networkers to participate. One such example can be seen in a recent effort for the Mercedes GLK model. Mercedes enlisted popular blogger and mom Amy Allen Clark (of MomAdvice.com, a part of the Real Girls Media network) to conduct test drives and post the reviews on her blog. Readers are invited to comment for a chance to win gift cards.
While the campaign itself isn't executed on a social network, it's generating a conversation about the vehicle and how specific product attributes fit within a mother's busy life. It's being promoted via widgets on other mom's blogs and some custom ad units on DivineCaroline, which features friending capabilities and other social network components. The campaign may have been even stronger if Mercedes had leveraged those components and provided DivineCaroline users an easier way to share the promotion with their friends.
As with all forms of media that incorporate consumer-generated content, advertisers that target moms on social sites have to be ready to take the good with the bad. We all know what happened to Motrin recently when it wasn't prepared -- if you don't, just Google "motrin moms." A surprisingly cohesive group of connected moms took issue with a Motrin video and used the latest social media tools to voice their displeasure. Thanks to the power of Twitter, Motrin and its agencies got a painful lesson in how to plan for the wave of responses, both positive and negative, that can come from a campaign.
So what should you consider for your brand?
Let's start with the most basic options, display ads. Beyond traditional banner ads, there are options like Facebook's engagement ads. These text and graphic (or video) ads run on the main news feed page. They allow users to enter their own comments and have those comments displayed on other people's feeds, as well as when those people are served the same ad.
This enables a well executed creative to leverage the power of a person's network to help spread the brand message. According to Facebook, these comments are fed out to about 10 percent of someone's network, but advertisers can pay to have them included in the feeds of additional users. While the initial ad can be targeted precisely using Facebook's built in capabilities, the first feed out to the network is based on their algorithm and won't follow the same targeting scheme. However, if you do opt to pay to have the ad pushed out to additional people, those people will match your initial targeting criteria. A quick search on Facebook today reveals there are well over half a million women who've stated interests like "being a mom" "playing with my kids," etc. Of course, those are only the moms who took the time to fill out those fields in their profile... there are obviously millions more.
Another really interesting form of display advertising comes from SocialVibe. The company enables social networkers to post a branded badge on their profile pages, and in return that brand will donate money to a cause the user chooses. In this win-win-win scenario, users get to support a cause they believe in by leveraging their social networks or exposure, rather than having to reach into their own wallets. Meanwhile, brands get exposure and, finally, causes get much needed support. Personally, I'm hoping this idea really takes off as it's an incredibly simple concept that has the potential to make a real difference for a lot of worthy causes.
While display ads are often a brand's first foray into social marketing, branded pages usually come next. Earlier I gave a couple of examples of well executed brand pages (i.e., Tide and Betty Crocker). Unfortunately, executing successful branded pages is where most marketers start to stumble.
First, while I know it seems like the rage to rush in and create a branded page, please have a plan before you do so. Branded pages work best when they offer real value to the conversation taking place on social networks Perhaps it's in the form of new recipes, or the latest advice on fashion or beauty. Maybe you could even put those pricey spokespeople to work for you. Isn't it about time they truly earned those endorsement deals? If Ashton Kutcher can find time to Twitter insults about his neighbor starting construction too early in the morning, I'm sure your endorsers can too.
Second, please consider the long term value you can create with a branded page. You'll undoubtedly spend some media dollars to help build the fan base in the first place, so to create pages around one-and-done campaigns seems short-sighted to me. Some consider well executed branded pages closer to the actual intention of a CRM program -- the creation of a relationship -- and I tend to agree. Others believe branded pages are just an extension of your website. It's okay to have some product information available on your branded pages, but you have a real opportunity to create a connection with users that isn't easily accomplished on most brand sites. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and some brands are now using Facebook Connect to bridge those two worlds together (although not targeted to moms, check out Red Bull for a great example of this).
Social product placement
Another method of marketing to moms on social networks that seems to be gaining traction is the formal enlistment of social networkers. Sites like Café Mom offer programs where advertisers can get their products into the hands of real moms and have those moms share their experiences with their networks. Transparency is key to making these programs work... and so is having a good product. You'll undoubtedly receive some negative feedback -- if not about the product overall, at least about one aspect of the product. As a marketer, you've got to have the stomach to let that feedback go public. The good news is, brands that allow users to be completely honest about product gain credibility -- particularly if they actually listen and respond to that feedback. And if a person is just in a cranky mood and writes the equivalent of nasty graffiti on your site, chances are your brand's fans will come back to defend against the attacker. (If they don't, you really need to start listening.)
A bond among all the components
Given a mom's role as the primary decision maker for household purchases, and her great influence over other purchases in other categories, an effective social network advertising strategy targeted at her can generate significant ROI for a brand. The great momentum with which moms are adopting social networks doesn't seem to be slowing, and likely won't anytime soon. So if you were hesitant to invest in social networking at this time last year because you felt it didn't provide enough reach, now's a great time to re-evaluate your options. Just be sure to gain a thorough understanding of how and when moms are using social networks, and how your brand might provide value in that conversation.