The Big Mommy Shift

Something happens to parents on or around the time their kids turn 12. Most of us know intuitively that we are dealing with a different kind of sentient near-adult by this point, and the sheer terror of parenting a teen must kick in some kind of special defense mechanism. But the change is not only in the way we relate to our kids. Our children's move into that next scary stage of their lives also triggers different media consumption behaviors in us. As we drill deeper into social networks and watch more carefully how people gather information online, the behaviors become more varied than one expects.

According to a new study by Razorfish and online community CafeMom, there is a predictable difference in media use between moms under the age of 35 and those over 45. The older moms are "demonstrating information-seeking behaviors," says Terri Walter, vice president, emerging media, Razorfish. Over 45, moms are veering more towards traditional authorities and sources: online news, consumer reviews and podcasting. Under 35, and the moms are much more heavily reliant on social media and mobile. In fact, overall, Razorfish found that mothers of children under 18 are remarkably adventurous when it comes to emerging media, from gaming to mobile, podcasting to social networks. And they ascribe different levels of authority and influence to sources. For instance, while only 10% of "Digital Moms" use mobile browsing, the ones who do say it has greater influence than other channels, perhaps because they tend to consult this source closer to the point of purchase.

As Digital Moms veer more into social networks, Razorfish and partner CafeMom are trying to innovate with ad units that leverage this peer-to-peer authority. They are looking at ways of allowing moms to input their responses to products and marketing messages within the ads themselves and then share the ads in groups. "It is less about the marketing message and more about finding a connection between the discussion threads and connecting people through the ads," says Walter. Razorfish is finding that one size and format of social advertising simply does not fit all because the range of behaviors is so broad. "There are so many different activities that can happen within social environments," Walter says. "The more we look at social we realize we are not comparing apples to apples. For instance CafeMom is a network but there are so many groups and blogs to join, topics and threads. They also have events."

The number of variables that figure into determining digital behavior among moms escalates as you look more closely at the networks themselves. A striking change in behavior seems to occur in parents as their kids pass the age of 12, and this is apart from the parents' own age. "They are more likely to watch online video" -- at a rate of 40% vs. 34% -- says Walter They are also more likely to play games online, read consumer reviews and watch or listen to podcasts. Razorfish believes that some of this shift involves the increased leisure time moms with older children may have. On the other end of the spectrum, the youngest moms actually are among the least social online and the most determined in finding information. Moms with children under the age of 5 are spending less time interacting with others. "They just want answers," says Walter.

In addition to situational differences affecting behaviors online, marketers need to understand the complex social dynamics and diverse composition of segments we once defined so simply as "soccer moms." "There are different personalities that make up these segments," says Walter. "There isn't just one type of approach." Razorfish and CafeMom segmented their moms into five different types of online behavioral clusters. There is the "Self Expresser" who often has a pre-schooler, is hot on parenting topics, and likes to work on a personal profile page. A "Utility Mom" usually has several kids of varying ages and goes online to unwind with games. The "Groupster" is a community organizer who builds and relies on larger social networks for advice. The "Info Seeker" often has a baby and tends to laser-target the information she needs. And the "Hyperconnector" tends to have older children and likes to network and voice her opinion.

"The way you deal with each of these moms would be different," says Walter. A community actually is more complex than the usually 80%/20% split of watchers and participants. "It's these personalities that make the social network, and each one has an influence on one another." And each requires discrete approaches, Razorfish recommends. "With a 'Self Expresser' you might use theme packs or widgets for their profile page," she says. A "Groupster" might be most receptive to brands that engage in blogs and groups and recruit her as an advocate. Finding influentials in a group might be the best route to "Utility Moms."

Trying to learn from and influence the social graph means diving headlong into the true complexity and diversity of human relationships. According to Walter, it is not about cracking a single code to social media. If we recognize the diversity of activities and the sheer complexity of community membership, then marketing plans have to be equally diverse and multi-faceted. "It's not just about reaching the infleuncer, we are finding," she says. "We are finding that Digital Moms are both infleuncer and influenced, depending on the topic. You don't have to do everything at every time. It is about building a well-rounded strategy that takes into account the different personalities that make up the social graph and start to understand how this way of socialization influences the way we need to market."

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Note: OMMA Behavioral takes place on Thursday Feb. 26. We will be ending the show with our customary “Grilling of the Vendors,” in which the always-entertaining Jim Meskauskas of ICON International will man the fire and pose his own tough questions. As always, we are soliciting your questions for this panel of representatives from key companies in the latest wave of data-driven target marketing. Media6Degrees, Lotame, Turn, BlueKai and eXelate will be on stage, too. How would you like us to challenge this group? What provocative questions about their value proposition and methods need answering? Pass your questions for this group on to Steve Smith at popeyesmith@comcast.net.

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4 comments about "The Big Mommy Shift ".
  1. Linda s Fitzgerald from A Women's Place Network, Inc. , February 20, 2009 at 2:51 p.m.

    And those of us who have long since passed the mothering phase, but have entered the g'mom stage, are a growing phenomenon on the social media. Don't leave us out as we learn to manuever new technology & keep up with the latest trends.

  2. Steve Smith from Mediapost , February 20, 2009 at 3:53 p.m.

    Good point, and with grandparents one of the biggest buyers of children's items I wonder where the marketers are tracking this demo's grandparenting behavior online?

    Anyone?

  3. Bruce Christensen from PartyWeDo , February 21, 2009 at 9:50 a.m.

    I have watched with great interest as my 55-year-old wife uses the internet. She started very slow, but when she discovered that she could watch her grandchildren grow and keep connected with her dispersed children, she became addicted! Now she can't find enough social tools to help her recall memories from the past and rebuild old friendships. Any application that allows her convenient ways to spend money on her family seems to be winning her pocketbook... I certainly see more E commerce credit card charges on my bill !

  4. Jim Pounds from The College of St. Scholastica , February 24, 2009 at 1:36 p.m.

    Fascinating stuff! I'm teaching at a local university and my students are working on a project that involves reaching mothers with school age children via digital media. If anyone has any insights into this audience, we are all ears.