Social media efforts target moms

Recognizing the influence that these women can have on a brand, many companies are using social media to reach and engage this group online.

Moms are an important target audience for Walt Disney World (WDW) Resort. So when internal research revealed booking a Disney vacation could be overwhelming, especially for first-time moms, it decided to create an online forum where vacation-planning moms could seek advice from a panel of moms who are seasoned Disney travelers.

One reason the WDW brand, working with Coyne PR, wanted to create a space that facilitated interaction among this group of influencers is that moms tend to place a high level of trust and value in one another's opinions, both in the real world and online, explains Leanne Jakubowski, director of social media at WDW Resort.

“You are much more likely to believe what you hear from a family member or friend, and put more value in it than when you hear it from a company,” she adds.

The diverse panel of moms, and one dad, was brought down to Florida for training to make sure they really understood the brand. The online panel was designed to help prospective travelers overcome preconceived notions they harbored about planning a Disney vacation.

“We knew they wanted to come to Disney, and we could overcome any barriers they had by answering the questions,” says John Gogarty, SVP at Coyne.

The program is now in its second year, and the team hopes to build upon its social media outreach to keep the program interesting. In a new development for this year, panelists have the option of answering certain questions by filming videos, rather than writing a response.

“We have to constantly challenge ourselves to make sure it's fresh and a good resource for consumers,” Gogarty says.

Moms today spend increasingly large amounts of time interacting online, so it's no surprise that many companies are finding social media is one of the best means of connecting with this highly coveted and influential demographic.

Engaging the audience
Procter and Gamble's Pampers brand has also found success in leveraging social media to reach this audience. Working with Paine PR, the company invited 15 influential mommy bloggers to its Cincinnati headquarters in July 2008 for an event that exposed them to the ins and outs of P&G and the Pampers brand. This included tours of product development facilities, Q&A sessions with P&G executives, demos, and presentations.

It made sense for the brand to engage mommy bloggers to reach its target demographic because the company knew moms would respond best to authentic and unscripted content, says Bryan McCleary, associate director of external relations for North America baby care at P&G.

“Moms are online in numbers that are growing exponentially each year, especially new moms,” says Beth Balsam, MD at Paine PR. “It's really how they're reaching out to each other now in ways they used to reach out to health professionals and other influencers. They're reaching out to each other online for advice, guidance, and support.”

Entering the social media space and engaging bloggers involved significant risk, so the PR team prepared by studying mistakes other companies made in the past when they tried using social media and blogger events to reach the mom demographic.

Balsam says the company was cautious after seeing other brands get punished for their mistakes in this space, but “at the same time, we felt we could plan an excellent experience for these moms if we did our homework.”

One of the decisions to come out of their research was to use the event to build credible relationships with mommy bloggers, rather than try to sell them on the products.

“That's not al-ways an easy decision for a brand team to buy into because they are so proud of their products and... want to show them off,” Balsam says. “But everybody realized there was a greater mission here.”

Thus, the event was designed to encourage a two-way dialogue between the mommy bloggers and Pampers team.

“We wanted to hear the opinions, get the feedback, and really have an open and frank discussion with these moms and with these bloggers,” McCleary says.

The team remains in regular contact with the mommy bloggers who attended the event, and considers them a significant set of influencers. In the future, this group “will continue to grow in importance to us as a brand,” McCleary says. 
Recruiting influencers
Somewhat similar to the Pampers event, Mom Central is working with Feld Entertainment on the “Feld Family Activators” effort. The program is designed to recruit influential online moms in 20 different markets to act as brand ambassadors for its signature Disney on Ice and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus events.

Mom Central tapped its network of mommy bloggers to invite moms and their families to attend information sessions and opening night Disney on Ice and Ringling Bros. Circus events. The team then encouraged them to share their thoughts on the experience with both the company and their friends.

“They're coming to an offline event, but then turning around to generate online buzz,” says Stacy DeBroff, CEO of Mom Central.  “If you find brand enthusiasts who love what you're doing, you can really connect with them and even deepen their enthusiasm about your company or your brand.”

Amy Dubinsky, VP of event marketing and sales for the Midwest at Feld Entertainment, says the most important element is that the influencers are able to share first-person experiences with many people.

“They have a voice and a following of people that trust them,” she says. “It's them telling someone, it's them making a recommendation, not us. It's a lot more legitimate when it comes from someone else.”

Sites where moms connect
Highlights blogs, stores, Web sites, articles, and promotions that appeal to moms
A social networking community where mothers can join groups, participate in polls, seek advice, and write about issues important to them
Highlights and reviews products and services, mainly from indie or emerging designers and mom/women-run companies.
Features blogs, product reviews, links, and giveaways, all focused on providing moms with eco-friendly options to help them go green.
Designed for home-based working mothers, the community highlights blogs, tools, and resources to provide advice

The title of this story appears in print as "The mom factor"

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