||Harnessing the Power of the Mom Blogger
The latest advice on child-rearing, baby products and prenatal yoga stretches is not being found in conversations over the picket fence, but rather in Twitter messages, blog rolls and on Facebook walls. To that end, marketers have been increasingly harnessing the power of mothers online to reach their intended audiences for products.
Whether it's building brand awareness or promoting television shows, advertising industry experts say that they are finding that the mother blogger niche is active, loyal and deeply involved with spreading its messages. And, the wealth of demographic information available about online users allows for better directed campaigns, marketers say.
The mother bloggers can become "ambassadors of brands," said Sarah Hofstetter, senior vice president for emerging media and brand strategy at 360i, a digital agency owned by Dentsu, the Japanese advertising agency. "These mom bloggers have tremendous personality and tremendous opinions."
The analysis firm eMarketer estimated that in 2010, there were more than 3.9 million women with children who were bloggers. In a recent report, eMarketer said that mothers were more likely to visit blogs than users in general, particularly to seek advice on parenting issues, and that the popularity of social media like Twitter and Facebook was helping to drive traffic to their postings.
"Advertisers are extremely interested in integrating 'social' into their advertising campaigns, and for certain brands, it can work really well," said Megan Calhoun, a mother of two and founder of SocialMoms, a 30,000-member community of mother bloggers, which previously was called Twitter Moms.
But as many marketers have discovered, harnessing mothers who blog for their campaigns is not as simple as asking them to encourage their followers to "buy this product." After trial and error, marketers have realized that the public can react negatively to overt marketing messages in many social media settings.
In addition, the Federal Trade Commission has now imposed full-disclosure conditions on marketers online. As a result, advertisers are finding that subtle approaches work better on campaigns.
"It's not just about pushing a brand out there, but to get a two-way conversation going," said Thomas Donovan, interactive manager with Haworth Media.
Haworth, an independent agency, last September conducted a brand-awareness campaign for Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products, owned by a subsidiary of S.C. Johnson & Son. It worked with Mrs. Meyer's, which makes environmentally friendly cleaning products that are sold in stores like Target, to increase the brand's visibility among consumers. The agency devoted 52 percent of its initial introduction budget to online media, and a big part involved the SocialMoms network.
On behalf of Mrs. Meyer's, the site, under its previous name Twitter Moms, put out a call for submissions to its network, asking bloggers for their best ideas for a "cleaner, greener home."
The bloggers didn't need to mention a single Mrs. Meyer's product in their posts or messages. In fact, many of the ideas that were part of the campaign were age-old conventional remedies.
One blogger advised readers to use baking soda to clean pet stains on carpets, while the mother who runs the Canning With Kids blog sent a message suggesting that readers "decorate with plants that clean the air." The bloggers' Twitter messages all carried the #mrsmeyers hashtag, which allowed the company to track what messages were going where.
"People were re-tweeting things that they found useful; green tips are points of passion for people," said Jim Calhoun, creative director at SocialMoms and Ms. Calhoun's husband.
The 53 bloggers in the network who were selected to participate in the campaign were given $50 Target gift cards. They in turn had an average of 1,762 Twitter followers, many of whom forwarded messages to others.
The one-month campaign resulted in 7.68 million Twitter views as well as millions more through blog rolls and display ads, Mr. Calhoun said.
Other campaigns involving the SocialMoms network recently included promotions for the juice Simply Orange, inviting mother bloggers to talk about "simple changes" they want to make in their lives.
A current campaign on the site is for the Hershey Company, which started a promotion soliciting blog posts of 400 words or more on "ways you share happiness with those around you" as part of a tie-in for a new product called Hershey's Drops.
"We are huge believers in paying moms for writing a thoughtful blog post on a topic of discussion," Megan Calhoun said, adding that the SocialMoms network required participants to follow the F.T.C. disclosure rules.
Even as many campaigns have found that Twitter is a great word-of-mouth strategy, other avenues of social media like Facebook are becoming more important, Ms. Calhoun said. Also, video blogs, display ads and online surveys are all integral parts of promotions on the sites.
"Brands are really mixed on Twitter," Ms. Calhoun said, partly because of the 140-character limit on posts. "Facebook is much safer for brands because it gives them a lot of control," she said.
Ultimately, marketers are hoping that by getting consumers via social media, they will engage their audience and tailor their messages.
"You can get rich information back," Mr. Calhoun said.
(Source: The New York Times, 03/15/11)
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