Since 2004, the community of mothers who blog has exploded. Currently, one in eight moms online writes a blog, according to research by Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst, social media marketing, at eMarketer. But contrary to popular perception, these blogs aren't just "mommy blogs." They cover a wide range of topics, including parenting, couponing, travel, technology, and finance. And the audience of moms who read such blogs continues to grow as well.
In her presentation at the iMedia iMoms Summit in May, Williamson will share the details behind eMarketer's forecasts for the growth in the mom blogger audience and highlight some of the best examples of how marketers and mom bloggers are working together. In this interview with iMedia Connection, she gives us a preview of some of the insights that attendees will hear.
iMedia Connection: In recent years, we've seen mothers become an increasingly coveted online demographic. Most marketers know that moms control the majority of family dollars. What's another important statistic regarding this demographic that you think marketers are less familiar with?
Debra Aho Williamson: I think marketers need to take seriously just how important social media is to moms. Three-quarters of them use social media sites! They are accustomed to asking friends for advice and sharing their knowledge; social media simply makes it easier to do those things, and for the information to spread much farther.
According to NPD Group, the top two reasons why moms use social media are to post news or pictures of their kids, and to keep in touch with their kids' friends or parents. But one in five moms who use social media also do it to get offers or discounts on products for their kids, and one in six want to get tips on parenting.
iMedia Connection: Many brands are looking to connect with mom bloggers as a part of their outreach to the mom demographic. In trying to find the right blogger partners, what qualitative elements of a blog are most important for marketers to consider?
Williamson: At 3.9 million people in the U.S., the ranks of moms who blog are by no means limited to women who blog about parenting or their family life. The common thread may be motherhood, but that does not make them a single audience segment that is easily marketed to. There are as many different types of blogging moms are there are hobbies, interests, and activities.
In addition, smart marketing to moms who write or read blogs means realizing that blogs are just one part of the package. Moms who engage with blogs are active on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. Blogger outreach is essentially morphing into community outreach.
iMedia Connection: Beyond qualitative consideration, what quantitative measures should brands evaluate when considering which mom blogs are best suited to their business objectives?
Williamson: Monitoring the effectiveness of marketing via bloggers can actually be easier than tracking the success of other forms of social media marketing.
Measuring how many people are sharing mom blog content about a brand, how many new readers the blog and brand are getting, tracking people influenced by the blog who are talking about the brand elsewhere -- these are all things marketers can do to measure success with mom blogger programs.
Search engine results are another common way marketers determine whether outreach programs have been successful. When bloggers review a product, their reviews can end up very high in organic search.
From a monetary standpoint, marketers also need to consider whether bloggers want to be compensated for writing reviews or running contests. Updated guidelines issued by the FTC state that anyone writing online about a product or service must disclose whether they have been compensated in any way (such as receiving payment or free products to review). Marketers are the ones ultimately held responsible by the FTC, and they must work even harder to make sure the bloggers they work with are ethical and make disclosures when necessary.
Williamson: Frigidaire's Test Drive Team, coordinated in part by Mom Central Consulting, gave 40 blogging moms Frigidaire appliances to test and review over a three-month period in 2009 and again in 2010.
General Mills has worked with mom bloggers for more than four years via its MyBlogSpark program, usually offering products to sample and review. The company also works with bloggers through events and content sharing. One outreach effort involved sending boxes of Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix bars to bloggers to review and to promote in a giveaway offer.
Kraft in 2009 named five blogging moms its "VELVEETA it! Kitchenistas," charging them with coming up with 25 meal-time ideas over a five-week period. The kitchenistas also participated in a Velveeta-branded page on Facebook, answering questions from other moms. Kraft continued the outreach effort again in early 2010, asking moms to develop recipes themed to the Super Bowl.
iMedia Connection: What's your favorite example of a brand-blogger partnership that benefited the blogger, marketer, and readers alike?
Williamson: Mabel's Labels of Hamilton, Ontario, makes name labels that moms can stick to their children's clothing, sports gear, household items, and more. Much of Mabel's Labels' marketing strategy revolves around public relations, and the company has placed its products in numerous magazines over the years. It also employs Google AdWords ads, Facebook ads, and magazine advertising. But the company has found that working with mom bloggers has had dramatic impact across its business.
Among the successful strategies Mabel's Labels has employed:
- Providing merchandise for bloggers so they can run contests and giveaways.
- Sending out free products for bloggers to review. A summer 2010 program touting a back-to-school combo pack netted more than 200 reviews.
- Linking with Facebook. The company encourages bloggers and people who read blogs by moms to join its Facebook page. Mabel's Labels uses the page to interact with customers and link to its own company blog.
iMedia Connection: What faux pas are we still seeing brands commit when it comes to connecting with and partnering with mommy bloggers?
Williamson: It is questionable whether marketers and bloggers really understand the new FTC guidelines. In a survey from advertising company IZEA, more than a third of PR, social media, and marketing professionals had not heard of the rules at all. Only 29.9 percent said they had read and understood them. This is more than a faux pas -- it's a critical necessity for brands to understand and to act on.
iMedia Connection: On the flip side, what faux pas do you often see bloggers commit when working with brand partners?
Williamson: Some bloggers still aren't disclosing their relationship with brands. Again, this isn't just a faux pas -- it goes against the FTC guidelines. Bloggers must be ethical and accountable for what they write. And in order to be the best partners with brands, they must play by the rules.
iMedia Connection: Do you have a good example of a brand-blogger partnership that you like to point to in terms of what not to do? If so, what is it?
Williamson: When I spoke to Tricia Mumby of Mabel's Labels last year, she told me an unbelievable story. A company that marketed expensive slippers asked a friend of Mumby's to review the slippers on her blog. The friend happily agreed and waited expectantly for her package to arrive. When it did, she opened the box and found only one slipper. The company hadn't even bothered to send both slippers!
It's a funny example, but it shows that companies need to think things through completely before partnering with moms who blog. How hard would it have been to send both slippers?
iMedia Connection: Beyond what we've discussed above, what is the single most important insight into forming mom-blogger partnerships that you wish all digital marketers were aware of?
Williamson: Marketing via moms who blog requires daily effort and regular participation. Successful marketers create real relationships with blogging moms and work hard to make it easy for moms to support their marketing initiatives. This means understanding that moms have different points of view and don't always focus on the same topics. What's more, having an influence means more than simply flooding the blogosphere with coupons and giveaways.
Lori Luechtefeld is editor of iMedia Connection.