Mom.com: The Virtual Power of Moms

Mom Power

Of course, moms have always been socially and politically active. And they've been hanging out online since the first message boards cropped up more than 20 years ago. But their growing sophistication, combined with ever-developing technology, is now adding up to moment-defining mom-power blasts such as the case of the "Motrin Moms," who in November 2008 took offense at an online painkiller ad they believed portrayed mothers as shallow and slightly unglued. The company responded quickly by apologizing for the ad and removing it. The impromptu campaign got results -- and the attention of mainstream media. Same goes for "nursing gate," when moms launched the "Facebook Sucks" campaign to get the social network to reverse its policy banning photos of breastfeeding mothers; mobilization was swift, huge, and creative, leading to nursing videos on YouTube and even the formation of the Facebook group "Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!" The group boasts close to 250,000 members and prominently features pictures of happy nursers -- despite the fact that Facebook never officially reversed the policy.

Even legislation has been affected: Political megaphone MomsRising.org, modeled on the powerful progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org, counts among its victories passage of bills that made Washington and New Jersey the second and third states to mandate paid family leave.

Before the full-on "discovery" of mom blogs by marketers, the community was a smaller, more motley crew of writers embracing both the sheer power of chronicling their lives and the mighty resonance of "me too." Now there's no such thing as "just" writing about the trials and foibles of parenting or Precious's first potty poop. Anyone who confesses, cathartically, to having locked the baby in the car along with her keys, is likely to receive instant amnesty. ("You should hear what I did.") "Mommy blogging is a radical act," Alice Bradley, of Finslippy.com, said in an off-the-cuff but now oft-quoted statement at the first gathering of mom bloggers at BlogHer in 2005. Her point: "By telling your story, you can help other people. You can change the world by just telling the truth."

Liz Gumbinner, author of the personal blog Mom-101.com and publisher/editor-in-chief of CoolMomPicks.com, agrees. "The online mother community has created a huge shift in the parenting zeitgeist from expert experts to peer experts. There's the sense that other moms are more likely to tell it like it is. That trust creates authority, which creates power."

The fact that people will buy what these women write about has created a feeding frenzy among companies and advertisers, who are well aware that mothers control family finances and that, therefore, trusted moms online wield great influence over where those dollars go. "Brands looking to tap the influence of mom blogs have changed the dynamics of the community," says Gumbinner. "It used to be that moms were blogging to express themselves and connect with other moms. Now there's a new generation blogging specifically to connect with companies who want to sell stuff.

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