Rise of the ‘Mom Networks’

I’ve written many times in the past about the importance of women, and moms in particular, in terms of who makes the buying decisions on and offline. And, as many people know, I also love to talk about the local power of totally non-commercial sites like The Berkeley Parents Network and other, similar groups around the country.

Though not as pronounced, the phenomenon of these parent communities is analogous to the grassroots power of Craigslist.

The NY Times (reg req’d) wrote about one such group, LA-based “Peachhead,” in June:

Unlike some of the larger sites for parents, like Urbanbaby.com and iVillage.com, Peachhead does not accept advertising or sponsors. [Peachhead founder Linda] Perry personally screens all members and monitors the discussion.

This combination of factors has made her disproportionately powerful in the small community of businesses that serve affluent mothers on the fashionable West Side of Los Angeles. A rave or a thumbs-down from her can make or break, say, a children’s hair salon or even a pediatric practice. This clout has made her the don to a kind of mommy mafia in the hyperattentive child-rearing circles.

These trusted, “grassroots” social networks of parents — mothers in particular — are extremely powerful as the quote above suggests. And just like the rise of InsiderPages and Judysbook, which have sought to emulate and “commercialize” the success of the non-commercial parents groups, we are about to see the rise of the “mom networks.”

More broadly, the success of search spawned “vertical search.” Similarly, the success of broad-based social networking is spawning and will continue to generate “niche” networks that cater to particular demographic or interest segments. Yet moms can hardly be described as a “niche” as this eMarketer compiled data suggests:

There are about 80.5 million mothers of all ages in the US, according the Census Bureau . . . According to a recent study by Lucid Marketing . . . 22% of stay-at-home moms and 19% of those who work part time said they visit message boards or chat rooms daily . . . In March, more women with children visited blogs than women without children. Nearly 8.8 million women who are ages 25-54 and have kids visited blogs, according to comScore.

Here are a few of the new mom-oriented sites:

Then there are sites like BlogHer, which is seeking to create an ad network targeting women.

comScore previously reported that 7 out of 10 moms who are online have visited social networking sites. These trusted “mom networks” will be a potent marketing channel, if they succeed, for national advertisers (e.g., Target) and they will also be a powerful driver of local business recommendations and referrals. Indeed, they become competitors to local directories in this regard.

7 Responses to “Rise of the ‘Mom Networks’”

  1. US Population, Internet Population « Screenwerk Says:

    […] Here’s my post from yesterday on the rise of the Mom Networks. […]

  2. Family Networks « Web|Redux Says:

    […] More thoughts on the “rise of mom networks“ […]

  3. Clay Cook Says:

    As I mentioned in your latest post on Maya’s Mom… please dont forget about Minti (www.minti.com).

  4. Momsters and Local « Screenwerk Says:

    […] and Local I’ve written a fair amount about women, moms and how critical these segments are to e-commerce, social networking and local in […]

  5. Ginger Says:

    And here I thought I made up The Moms Network last year — concept and name and all! We put in place a Moms Network last year, and it has been amazing for both the moms and our site. (I wrote a blog about it if you want to go to there: http://www.connectwithkids.com/blogs/stacey/.
    We have found that moms are incredibly eager to learn and share information — beyond selling anything, they are a powerful advice network and grassroots word-of-mouth (or “word-of-mom” as I’ve heard it called. Wish I had made THAT up.) As Redux says, how do you find an authority on parenting? Well, that’s one of the reasons our space is gaining readership — we produce hundreds of news stories each year, as well as a television series — all about kids issues. We go to the source for the true stories, too: the kids themselves. We also interview child experts, counselors, physicians, teachers, youth leaders — for their input on real-life solutions, the latest facts, dos and dont’s, warning signs, successful treatments, etc. All of our news stories are based on the latest research and studies, and we are usually ahead of mainstream media in presenting stories about what kids today are facing, what they’re up to, and what THEY have to say about it. This is stuff most kids will not tell their parents; but the kids in our programs will. It’s amazing what we learn. In fact, mainstream media often comes to us to help them present a topic to a wider audience. My point is, I guess, that our site not only offers a social online community for parents and teachers to shares stories, ask for help and get advice, but we have hundreds of free articles, video news stories, researched-based information that is credible and accurate. Please feel free to join or use anything on our site, and write me if I can be of help about any of our topics. Some of the latest stories we have worked on: Bullying, teen drinking, sex and STDs, cutting, the new drug “salvia,” trunking, huffing — we do tend to cover risky teen behavior so parents can talk to their kids about them and learn the best ways to deal with the things kids go through today. Well, as you can tell I’m passionate about this topic so I apologize for rambling. Look forward to reading more from all of you!

  6. Sean Says:

    A friend of mine recently pointed me to this site, and more specifically to this thread. And while I am not a woman, or a mother, or even have children for that matter, the use of media to address the needs of a society fascinates me. Since I have neither the experience nor the expertise to speak to content of mothers and their domains, I will focus my post on the broader topics of social networks and their execution.

    The survival and subsequent explosion of humankind is a result of our networks, through our ability to support and foster one another. In today’s world these networks enable us to connect with other people that share similar interests or experiences. And while the advent of the Internet has enabled us to push beyond the constraints of time and proximity, it has simultaneously created a new set of obstacles to overcome, some of which have already been pointed out here…

    Mama!
    While it may seem so, today’s social networks don’t just pop out of nowhere. In many cases they are born through a labor of love (in other cases money buys the labor). Either way, you will typically find a central figure at the center of the community. Malcolm Gladwell identifies them as Mavens in the “The Tipping Point”. These are individuals who know all there is to know about something… your local expert so to speak. And when they speak on topic, everyone listens. These are the people that influence others within a community. They have both authority and trust with their peers. How does one become a maven? I’ll swing back around to that when I discuss trust and authority.

    Size Matters
    It pains me to say it, but it does. In the case of networks however, there is a definite limit on size. According to the research conducted by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar in 1992, humans only have the capacity to maintain stable relationships with 150 people. Going beyond that, we can no longer recognize and feel for all the members in a group. But clearly most Internet-based networks have more than 150 participants, right? True. And you’ll probably notice that they quickly begin to categorize themselves into sub-groups. Mothers could attempt to address other moms as a whole (all 80.5 million of them), but their messages go far without the ability to recognize and relate to one another. Hence categorization… Single Mothers > Living in Pittsburg > Who Adopt > Ukrainian Babies. Perhaps a bit too focused, but you get the idea.

    Trust Me…
    Cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling wrote of trust networks in his 1988 book “Distraction”. In it he describes communities in which a person’s rank in their society is measured by their actions, which is translated into a trust rating. A year later Epinions.com was launched, giving people the ability to rate products and services. They developed a rather complex rating system (it was secret, in fact) called the Web of Trust what was ultimately taken advantage of when they monetized it. But the idea had merit… by letting a network rate the contributions of each member, mavens were quickly discovered for various topics and sub-groups. In order to earn trust and authority the members had to participate and be qualified by their peers.

    Umm, I’m Still Here
    Another obstacle facing is online communities is how to evolve without losing their relevance. Looking back at our ‘Mom Network’, what happens as their children get older and their issues begin to change. Some mothers will be in the same situation of course, but what about the moms who just joined the network with newborns? Mavens are people so they will evolve, taking on new interests and pursuits. So how does a community keep historical topics relevant? New mavens will need to pickup where the previous mavens left off. Mentoring might be an interesting option to explore, but personalization an also be leveraged.

    I Am Who I Am
    As communities expand and their topics explode, it becomes exponentially more complex for members to find the information that is meaningful to them. Amazon pioneered the recommendation engine based on purchases of other customers. Netflix took it one step further by recommending movies based on the movies they already watched (personal experience). By extending the rating of submissions concept and tracking what members liked and disliked, online networks can present members with a personalized version of their content. If a mother is interested in the most kid-friendly parks in metro DC, then it’s within easy reach for her. The less time spent looking for content, the more time a member has to participate in the community.

    Stuck With the Tab
    So we’ve all learned by now that no one gets a free lunch. Building, supporting, and maintaining a community costs money. There are of course several ways to pay the expenses, but with competition growing, the model that seems to be gaining traction is advertising. Done poorly, advertising does not serve the community and doesn’t generate the revenue necessary to pay for all the bells and whistles mentioned above. Properly executed, however, advertising can do more than pay the bills… it can support local businesses, businesses started within the community, and businesses willing to change their model to meet the needs of the membership.

    Going Global(Village)
    Content is a key draw to any community. If a social network can’t deliver on what it promises, it won’t survive. So Ginger’s point about gaining readership due to segments that are produced is on the mark. The demand for a media-rich environment is finally being made by the mainstream. YouTube and all the subsequent online video communities have moved beyond the reams of text. Some are even making it into mainstream media. New approaches to content can be executed. Mothers can now be shown the proper technique for feeding a sick newborn. Children can share they views, and feel that they are finally being heard. It creates a lot of opportunity, but requires the same discipline as with other content. It must be categorized, trust-worthy, and relevant.

  7. TheKnot Launches Parents Network « Screenwerk Says:

    […] written a great deal about the power of the “Momster segment,” social networks and local. What’s the difference between a site like Lilaguide or a […]

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