On the minds of mom bloggers

Last week, Cohn & Wolfe joined more than 5,000 diverse female bloggers in New York City for the eighth annual BlogHer conference.

Last week, Cohn & Wolfe joined more than 5,000 diverse female bloggers in New York City for the eighth annual BlogHer conference. Prior to the event, we wanted to know what was top of mind for one segment that's relevant to many of our clients: mom bloggers. What brands, products, and issues were they posting about?

We analyzed every post written by the top 50 Mom Blogs, as ranked by online media organization Babble, over the three-month period of March to May 2012. We sorted the data into two separate categories: the number of unique bloggers buzzing and the total number of posts. On several occasions, we found that a single blogger posted about one brand more than 10 times – typically as part of an ongoing promotion – so the two different rankings produced the clearest picture. 

Here's how the brands stacked up:

Most talked about brands, based on the number of unique bloggers buzzing:

Top consumer product and retail brands:

  1. Microsoft, IKEA, Sauza Tequila, Target*
  2. Amazon.com
  3. Clorox, Canon, Dashing Bee, Levi's, Apple, Dunkin' Donuts*

Top media brands:

  1. Babble
  2. Time
  3. Disney
  4. ABC
  5. CNN, NBC, Facebook, Pinterest*
  6. Google, The New York Times*

Most talked about brands, based on the number of posts:

Top consumer product and retail brands:

  1. ASOS
  2. Urban Outfitters
  3. H&M
  4. Forever 21
  5. MAC
  6. Barnes & Noble
  7. Pantene, Sauza Tequila, Nordstrom*
  8. Amazon.com

Top media brands:

  1. Babble
  2. Disney
  3. Facebook
  4. ABC, Time*
  5. Twitter
  6. The New York Times, NBC*
  7. Pinterest, CNN*

(* Indicates a tie for a ranking)

So, what did we learn?

Insight No. 1: These women are prolific! Over three months, these 50 bloggers published a total of 2,494 posts for an average of 49 posts per blog, or nearly four posts each per week. Granted, these averages are slightly skewed by a handful of women whose keyboards are undoubtedly showing more wear than others.

Insight No. 2: Thirty percent of posts mention a consumer product, retail, or media brand. So why did brands like IKEA, Sauza Tequila, and Target top the list? During this timeframe, several moms wrote about experiences with IKEA children's furniture, while others grumbled about buying more than they planned at Target. Tequila manufacturer Sauza was frequently mentioned during this time period as a direct result of a sponsorship program. Among media brands, it's not surprising that Babble ranked No. 1, as many of these moms gave a shout-out to the site for making its top 50 list. Another hot button media topic was Time's May 21 story, “Are You Mom Enough?” about attachment parenting, which pictured a nursing three-year-old child on the cover. Disney also ranked highly due to posts about family vacations to Disney theme parks, upcoming movies, and a few sponsored posts for Disney Baby.

Insight No. 3: Seventy percent of posts didn't mention a brand at all, but instead focused on general issues and experiences. At the risk of sounding like “Captain Obvious,” it's worth noting that the No. 1 issue discussed was parenting.

Most discussed issues:

  1. Parenting (30.2%)
  2. Opinion (16.8%)
  3. Style/fashion (16.6%)
  4. Culture/lifestyle (14.4%)
  5. Home (8.7%)

The majority of these posts were not guides to child rearing, but instead were vivid portrayals of a mom's experience with her children – most under the age of five. These moms don't claim to be parenting experts and are certainly not suggesting the right way to raise a family. Instead they post as unique individuals seeking common ground. Many of these moms are trying to have a family and a career at the same time, identifying themselves as part of a new generation of moms struggling to find the right balance and hoping to shape what “motherhood” means for their generation and generations to follow.

Insight No. 4: Bloggers aren't flocking to “sponsored posts” and “giveaways.” While many writers are seeking opportunities to turn blogging into a business, only 4% of posts were sponsored. Somewhat surprisingly, giveaways were not as popular either; during this timeframe, only 1% of blogs featured a giveaway – making them more of an occasional treat than the norm. It's worth noting, however, that bloggers do take FTC guidelines, which require them to publicly disclose product and payment from brands, seriously. Fifty percent of the blogs on this list clearly post a related policy.

Insight No. 5: A picture is worth a thousand words. These women do a beautiful job of bringing their experiences to life through vivid photography and video. Nearly all posts included at least one photo and, in fact, 34% of the blogs on this list use more photos than text. This echoes the current trend in social media, as blogging continues its shift away from text and toward a more visual form of communication. The success of sites such as Pinterest and Instagram have heavily influenced bloggers' strategies, with pictures generating higher levels of engagement and sharing.

So what can brands learn from these insights? For starters, recognize that not all female bloggers – not even all mom bloggers – are the same. Take time to understand their life stories, which they describe so openly, and the issues that matter to them most. Share ideas and products that are truly relevant to them – making their lives easier, more fun, and more rewarding. Don't rush to a “pay-per-post” model or product giveaways, but if payment is exchanged, be sure to follow FTC guidelines. Lastly, remember that compelling, multi-media content is king, and you have an opportunity to build a relationship (not just “pitch your wares”) that delivers mutual value – a great story mom bloggers can share with readers to build an engaged following, along with invaluable perspective and reach that can help you shape and market your brand.

Brooke Hovey is an EVP at Cohn & Wolfe, leading the company's digital practice for the Americas.

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