Maybe you’ve seen them on Instagram or Facebook – pictures of babies dressed up in grown-up suits like so many chubby-cheeked David Byrnes. It’s called “baby suiting,” and it’s the latest photo craze instigated by mom blogger Ilana Wiles, who just a year ago launched a surge of “baby mugging,” which is just what it sounds like (well, maybe not) – taking pictures of babies as though they’re sitting in coffee mugs.
Wiles and her blog – MommyShorts – are part of a growing and influential trend of moms who blog. According to recent research by eMarketer, there are roughly 4.2 million moms who blog, accounting for eighteen percent of all adult bloggers. An established mom blog can have hundreds of thousands of regular readers.
As Wiles and her MommyShorts blog has proven, mom bloggers wield an enormous amount of influence. If you can get thousands of other moms to dress their infants up in their husbands’ best jackets and ties, what do you think happens when she mentions – let alone reviews – a product she likes? And like Wiles, many mom bloggers are quite entrepreneurial, and actively court brands to advertise on their blogs or to submit products for review.
The Way I See It
- Blogs are an effective way to reach important demographics. Most moms have a list of blogs they read daily, and almost seventy percent of them believe the word-of-mouth information they get from blogs is credible. In fact, eighty-one percent of all consumers trust the information they get from blogs and social media.
- I see brands actively courting moms and their audiences, often participating at events like the “Mom 2.0 Summit” and other events for mom bloggers, which, among other things, also teach bloggers how to work with brands.
- I see the relationship between brands and mom bloggers, specifically, growing. Who better to receive advice from than a fellow parent?
The Way the Industry Sees It
I sat down with Ilana Wiles, founder of MommyShorts, to discuss mom bloggers and their influence as brand ambassadors.
What was your goal in launching Mommy Shorts, and how has that goal evolved over time?
Almost four years ago, I was laid off from my job as a creative director shortly after I returned from maternity leave. I had a hard time finding a full-time job at my level when most of my portfolio was in traditional advertising – television, outdoor, print. I had very little digital experience. Many of the brands at my old company had recently started paying attention to mom bloggers, and I thought if I got involved in that space, it could end up being a real asset in the advertising world. I decided to work freelance and start a blog in my down time. I became immersed in social media, building my own brand and creating content to engage a growing audience of new moms. As my audience grew, I received more ad jobs where agencies wanted to leverage my reach for their clients. They were building Mommy Shorts into their pitches and their proposals. I decided it made more sense to pursue the blog full-time and see where it could go if I focused all my energy on building my own brand. In the end, my advertising experience helps me be a better blogger instead of the other way around. As I work with more brands, I find the ideation and the partnership possibilities even more exciting than I did at a traditional agency. This year I started to realize my brand can be bigger than the blog. I have a show on ulive, a licensing deal in the works, and an Instagram following I am leveraging all on its own. I’m not going to be writing about my kids in the same way ten years from now, so it’s nice to know there are lots of possibilities of where this can go.
What’s your relationship with your readers like? Do you feel you have a responsibility to them? If so, what is that responsibility?
I put my readers first always. There are lots of bloggers who are writing entirely for themselves, and their readers love them for it. I am more about reader response. Their engagement determines my content entirely. Every sponsorship I take on means my content has to be that much better. You can’t just sell to people. They aren’t interested. You have to be entertaining and authentic.
Blogging is this interesting amalgam of journalism, entertainment, and marketing. How do you describe what you do? What do you get out of it, and what do your readers get out of it?[
That’s an interesting question. A lot of bloggers struggle with monetization because they don’t like writing it, and their readers don’t respond well to it either. But, I love creating sponsored campaigns, and I think my readers can tell. It helps that I come from an advertising background instead of a journalistic background. I like the challenge of working a brand into my content. I try to sell things that are natural fits for my blog and make the stuff I am already doing better, instead of veering off-topic and becoming an infomercial. When I say I’m a blogger, people get the impression I’m staying at home with my kids and writing about poop during nap time. My blog is my full-time job. I’m working with brands just as big as I worked with in advertising. There are proposals to be built, deliverables to be met, contracts, negotiations, promotions, appearances, etc. Much more of my time is spent dealing with the business aspects of my blog than writing it. Currently, I’m redesigning my website, filming the second season of “The Mommy Show” on ulive and negotiating a licensing deal. But, I just tell people I run a parenting site. It sounds better than being a blogger, though doesn’t really encompass what I do either.
You also work in the advertising industry, so you get to see this dynamic from both the traditional and new media perspective. Why do parents trust blogs and other forms of social media so much more than they trust other forms of media?
In advertising, I worked on whatever was assigned to me. I made commercials for Diet Coke even though I hate soda. I worked on cookie advertising even though I think we feed our kids too much junk. It was just my job. On the blog, it’s me. I won’t promote things I don’t believe in. I recently had a cleaning product reach out to me for a partnership, but I’ve worked with a competitor in the past which is known for being environmentally friendly. Even though I have no exclusivity contract, I can’t start promoting something that doesn’t meet the environmental standards I advocated previously. I turned it down. If an advertising agency lost a home care product, the first thing they would do is try to sign another home care product. Blogging doesn’t work that way if you want your audience to continue to trust you.
How do you decide which brands to work with and how you’re willing to use your blog to give them access to your audience?
As I said above, it has be a brand I use and believe in. Beyond that, I have to be able to create entertaining content around it and the brand has to trust me in terms of how I talk to my readers. I’m a humor writer, and I have an oddball tone. I am not going to do a straight sell. If I do that, the content isn’t going to get shared and that doesn’t help anyone. I had a partnership with an over-the-counter healthcare product and one of the posts they wanted me to write was about what activities I do with my kids while they are sick. I thought that was ridiculous. My kids sit on the couch and watch television when they are sick. So I made the post about how ridiculous the post topic was. I got the entire brand’s key messaging in there, but I was true to myself and my readers. My readers loved it and the brand thought it was hilarious. That’s what makes a good partner.
What’s the coolest object in your office?
It’s a peacock made out of popsicle sticks by one of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan for the Arts & Crafts segment of The Mommy Show. It’s second only to the pipe cleaner butterfly made by Julianne Moore.