Beware the mommy blogger

That’s the message many companies have received after mismanaged communication with young Mom’s online. We know women buy or influence over 80% of all purchases. We also know that women under 40 are one of the largest populations online. And we know that women use the internet heavily to research and share information with their piers. Their powerful word of mouth and word of mouse is exponential. It should then come as no surprise that mom’s are an active force online, both in a positive and negative sense.

Marketing has changed dramatically over the last few years. With the advent of social media tools like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, plus the millions of blogs in the digital universe, it can be pretty challenging to monitor the face of a brand online. Even big companies like Walmart and Johnson & Johnson have stumbled publicly.

Consider the damage that can be done to a brand over the weekend. Executives at Johnson & Johnson, responsible for the Motrin brand posted an ad to their website and Youtube intended to appeal to young mothers who carry their baby in a sling to keep their baby close to their body. However, the attempt to bond with their customers backfired when a number of online Mom’s were offended by the suggestion that carrying their babies this way was “fashionable” and they were outraged at the suggestion that they look “crazy.” And they didn’t race out the door for Motrin to ease the pain, as was suggested in the ad.  By Saturday evening Motrin was the most tweeted subject on Twitter. By Sunday there were parody videos posted on Youtube. Bloggers posted comments. (Try Googling “Mom 2.0” or “Mommy blogger” if you want a sense of how many bloggers exist in the Mom-sphere). Bloggers began calling for boycotts. They asked readers to alert the mainstream press. By Sunday afternoon a few persistent Moms had located the executives from Motrin’s ad agency at home on the phone. They didn’t seem to have a clue about the anger piling up online, much less much about Twitter. That in itself is scary! By the following week the VP Marketing for Motrin removed the ad and responded to concerns – essentially saying they had intended to generate genuine sympathy, but had missed the mark. They took the feedback seriously and had now removed the ad. However print versions in magazines had already gone to print. Negative print media stories persisted for weeks. Check out the offending ad here:

View the official apology here:

How can you avoid a mess like this?

1. Position your brand so that women become natural advocates. Some people suggest hiring an advocate, but this can be touchy territory. Better to earn the trust and endorsement of a ‘social media mom’ who actively blogs, is connected on Facebook, or has a following on Twitter. Harder to do, but more authentic in the end. And this approach will pretty much guarantee you avoid costly missteps.

2. Join the conversation. But, remember you need to be authentic. Conversations are two way. Product pitches are one way. The biggest blunder is to jump in and push a message before a relationship exists. Don’t just pitch your brand. Give information that would be of interest to your audience. There’s a big difference.

3. Monitor the conversation.
Having joined groups on Facebook, identified leading bloggers in a subject area, and following them on Twitter, while participating in dialogue you then need to monitor what is being said. Big companies assign someone to this. If you’re small start by setting Google alerts for your subject area, company or product. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you become tapped in. Link here to create Google alerts:

The bottom line? Social media has changed the way brands communicated with their audiences. You now need to monitor this to be able to connect and learn from your customers.

Mary Charleson

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