A blog becomes a living, breathing resume for an individual. Build credibility through an authentic voice. By Maria Sipka (Co-Founder & CEO, Linqia)
I consider myself a natural networker, but for some crazy reason I never felt comfortable attending a mom blogger summit, at least until I became a mom. Last August, I became a proud mom to baby Lyla. Now armed with my (mental) ticket, I set out on my maiden voyage to Miami for Mom 2.0 in early May of this year.
3 days and 52 conversations later, my eyes were cranked open as the breath was knocked out of me whilst I sat at this exciting intersection between the moms who blog (it’s so not cool to call them mommy bloggers) and the brands vying for their attention. I was excited to understand more about this phenomenon, which is quickly becoming the most powerful and influential media channel the world has seen to date.
Unlike my own paranoia, bachelors Matt Cherry and Nick Lagalante from startup Timedog, a personal virtual assistant service for moms, invest 100% of their marketing dollars into attending “mom conferences”. The 100 mom influencers Timedog has built relationships with have been instrumental in creating awareness around their recently launched service.
So how do you not become “the odd-guys-out” at mom events?
Matt’s advice is to be respectful to the essence of relationships. Don’t pitch your product, stare at the ladies in that strange way or say the wrong things. Prior to each event, Matt and Nick record a spoof video based around the conference theme and featuring key influencers attending the event. I giggled my head off when I watched their witty spoofs for SheStreams 2012 and Can’t Tweet This for Mom 2.0.
Matt said, “It’s about listening to the moms and genuinely showing they care over time. Personal follow-up notes, on-going conversations on Twitter, regular Skype conference calls and just hanging out in person works.” That’s how the guys at Timedog build relationships.
Brands like Tide believe summits like Mom 2.0 are a great way to continue to strengthen their relationships with many mom bloggers, as well as develop relationships with new bloggers. Social media has become a part of what Tide does every day, it’s built into every aspect of their communication. Tide’s world is based on 24/7 conversations, it’s important that they are a part of it, fuel it, and learn from it.
Moms who blog have become citizen journalists, and remarkably, the top 15 mom bloggers influence more people than the New York Times. The 5 million moms with smaller individual followings are also being approached by brands, businesses and organizations looking to have their products reviewed, stories shared and conversations sparked.
Take for example Kristen Chase and Liz Gumbinner from Cool Mom Picks, who are amongst the top 50 influential mom bloggers. With over 230,000 Twitter followers, 28,000 Facebook fans, and monthly traffic in excess of 1 million page views on their blog, these cool moms earn decent revenues working with some of the hottest brands and celebrities. They also love partnering and profiling smaller, emerging brands with eco-friendly products by offering small space ads on their blog for as little as $150.
Kristen and Liz are real role models for other moms, and they strongly advise other mom bloggers not to get involved with marketers and advertising too early. “It takes time and patience to establish a signature voice, and brands are looking to partner with bloggers who have stood the test of time while displaying consistency in their blogs.”
Amongst the myriad of established and emerging bloggers, networks such as Babble, Clever Girls Collective, Social Moms, Moms Central, Federated Media, Linqia and Martha’s Circle are syndicating a highly fragmented publisher base. If brands are looking to scale their outreach, it’s a necessity to partner with a network. Digital Royalty founder Amy Jo Martin recently activated an influence outreach campaign for Tony Hsieh’s book launch for Delivering Happiness and recounts how her team managed a list of 800 influencers through an Excel spreadsheet.
Another example is Babble, the content/publishing arm of Disney. Babble boasts 150 bloggers on their payroll and hundredss more with less formal relationships representing diverse interests around parenting. Content curated by their network of bloggers lives on the Babble platform, offering partnering brands a cross section of community, marketing and relationships.
It’s common and smart for networks to employ respected moms who have been blogging for many years.
Jane Maynard, mother of two, was an accidental blogger 5 years ago when her blog This Week for Dinner went live. On the editorial team at Daily Buzz Moms (Federated Media), Jane oversees the tech, style, health and moms segments. Whilst brands and bloggers are still figuring out a standard pricing model, $50 - $250 is what bloggers are typically earning for each post, some can even earn thousands depending on their traffic and reach.
When asked what does it take to be considered by a brand? Jane advises moms to choose to write about what they love and to stay true to their writing. A blog becomes a living, breathing resume for an individual, so knowing when to say no becomes instrumental in building credibility through an authentic voice.
Having started her first blog 14 years ago, another super mom, Helen Jane is a true pioneer in the social web. Helen juggles a family, a blog, a cheese lover’s community in Napa Valley and a day job at Federated Media. Interfacing with thousands’s of bloggers, Helen is responsible for curating highly engaging experiences between brands and bloggers. It can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months to customize and design an outreach campaign.
A recent success story was the Levi’s Curve ID campaign. Levi’s took note that one jean size in no way fits all—especially for new moms — and came up with Curve ID for women to build their own jeans according to their shape, a friendlier measurement to the traditional size metric. Through the extensive community of Federated Media bloggers, mom and blogger Sarah James (also attending the Mom 2.0 summit) was chosen to be the centerpiece of the story which was subsequently shared by 200 lifestyle bloggers.
Federated Media selects bloggers who ooze authenticity, a history of valuable content, and transparency. Helen says, “Brands want their stories to also look beautiful with emotive photography captured by the blogger”. With more channels emerging beyond the blog, brands are seeing their stories and content curated and shared across Facebook pages, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ pages.
Keep in mind that bloggers are also very selective around the brands they desire to partner with. Brands who maintain a strong set of values, are organic or sustainable and support charitable causes are highly sought after. Moms smile when you mention P&G’s Thank you mom campaign or Dove’s self esteem movement. We’re now witnessing a shift from brands asking bloggers to write about their products, to sharing heart-felt and compelling stories.
At the Mom 2.0 Summit, Dove unveiled a new campaign with the video titled “followers” as part of the Dove Movement for Self-Esteem movement. Examining Twitter’s most influential women, this video finds that some of the most remarkable role models truly making a difference in the world are going unnoticed. And Dove wants to change that, so Dove is on a mission to reach 15 million girls with self-esteem programming, partnering with mom influencers with the most reach; engagement and content aligned with Dove’s brand values to catalyze the conversations.
Rob Candelino, VP Marketing for Skincare at Unilever, spoke at the summit and believes moms are an instrumental voice. 66% of moms being the primary role models for young girls, Rob advised bloggers to “swim in their own lanes and try not to copy or compete with other bloggers”.
Establishing a unique voice around your sweet spot is compelling for a brand like Dove.
Dove announced they were creating a unique experience for moms at the summit by having their photographs featured on a live billboard at Times Square in New York. Willing participants were emailed a notice the following day - “your photo appeared in Times Square!”
Family-owned Nature's Path boasts sustainable and organic products, appealing heavily to influential bloggers looking to partner with companies of strong values and ethics. As one of the 25 sponsors at the Mom 2.0 Summit, Nature's Path built relationships beyond the booth by nourishing attendees with packets of their Love Crunch and muesli bars over the 3 days. Director of Marketing & Communications Maria Emmer-Aanes shared insights at two sessions that captivated moms with the Love Crunch story, inspired by a real-life love story. At events, Maria immerses herself amongst the participants where she can listen, learn and connect with fellow moms.
Another magnet for mom bloggers looking to align them with inspiring brands is Glassybaby creator and founder Lee Rhodes, who raised her three small children and fought what would become a 7 year battle with a rare form of lung cancer. She had endured surgery, countless rounds of chemotherapy, and was searching for a few moments of serenity to escape the fear that encompassed her life. Inspired by the beauty of these elegant vessels, Lee filled them with tea lights and scattered them throughout her home. She found great hope and healing in their color, light and love.
With limited production capabilities, Lee turned down an appearance on Oprah and opted to invest into blogger outreach. “Moms are the greatest entrepreneurs in the world and there is nothing more powerful than the moms voice”. Glassbaby is an incredible success story where more than 150,000 Glassybabys are sold annually yielding $8 million, with 10% being donated to charities dedicated to health, healing and quality of life.
The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation worked with Edelman Digital to host a mom blogger dinner as part of a 2-day experience. The purpose was to talk to dozen moms and solicit their input around supporting a program that engaged families. With some of the biggest brands funding the foundation, bloggers are not expected to publicize or recognize them. Founding President Lisa Gable strongly believes bloggers should be compensated for their efforts - “you’re buying the collective power of this group”.
While moms are eager to monetize their blogs through partnerships and advertising, there are some who see their blogs as sacred territory. Tracy Beckerman from Lost in Suburbia won’t review products or accept sponsored content. Reaching 10 million readers a month, Tracy earns her living from writing a syndicated column and selling her book. Blogging is purely a channel for her writing. She strongly advocates staking out your brand and sticking to your values, although agrees it’s hard for moms to make a living out of their tireless efforts, becoming easy targets to be seduced by brands and their perks.
A different approach is Momfluential blogger Ciaran Blumenfeld, who partners with brands, but sees her blog as a door opener for much greater business opportunities. After blogging for 7 years, Ciaran and a partner currently have a reality television show about mom bloggers in development with 3Ball Entertainment and Nickelodeon as part of the new NickMoms line up.
Success can also be found with Sarah Roe. Sarah began seriously couponing when her oldest son was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies 6 years ago and their family could no longer sustain the grocery bills.
Her blog Money Saving Queen now supports her family, with Sarah working a solid 60 hour week whilst employing a team of 6 people. Sarah generates revenue through affiliates, advertising, speaking at conferences and teaching others to coupon through a workshop series.
The last 2 years has seen an exponential increase in brands activating their social media footprint. Brands Sargento and Minute Clinic admit they are learning as they’re going, which is a smart way to approach this fast paced channel. Both brands rely on their close relationships with agencies to help navigate their way. Barbara Gannon, VP of Corporate Communications says “When you need to adapt quickly, working with an agency who is handling social media for multiple clients can fast track the learning process”.
Sargento recently ran a program where 150 bloggers were invited to educate their communities around natural cheese versus processed cheese. Each blogger received a testing kit and were asked to taste, smell and write about their experience. Minute Clinic with 600 clinics across 25 states debuted in social media at the 2011 BlogHer conference and was overwhelmed with the positive response from bloggers. Director of Marketing Kristine McGee says Minute Clinic is focused on nurturing relationships with a quality base of mom bloggers. “If there is a virus outbreak we can spread important information through our base of bloggers and their readers can seek immediate health care through their nearest Minute Clinic”.
Like any powerful movement, Mom 2.0 inspired Doug French and John Pacini to catalyze Dad 2.0 where marketers, social media leaders, and blogging parents connect to discuss the changing voice and perception of modern fatherhood.
Doug felt there was a need to represent the dads who are proud to take on the parenting role and share their experiences. And brands are reaching out to influential dads who blog too. Recently, Kimberly-Clark's Huggies brand was accused of portraying dad as too dumb to change diapers, and as a result, Huggies reached out to a group of dad bloggers and listened to their feedback.
Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Maria Sipka is co-founder and CEO at Linqia, a soon to launch San Francisco technology startup. Linqia is matching brands with influential community leaders who share authentic digital content and meaningful stories among targeted groups of people. Follow Maria on Twitter at @mariasipka.