Social Media Moms Are Really Alpha Consumers

Last month in this column, I talked about my thoughts about this year's Blogher conference and how marketers often struggle to determine how social media savvy moms fit into the marketing mix. The traditional answer has been to treat them in the same manner that top PR firms have long treated smaller regional and niche publications with traditional outreach vehicles and methods. But that is changing.

As social media matures, we find not only mom bloggers, but also moms who are heavy hitters on micro blogging sites, have lots of Facebook fans or play a prominent role on Flickr, YouTube, Foursquare or other social media sites and can wield a lot of influence. These content creators, as opposed to the vast majority of social media participants who lurk, are what I've termed "alpha consumers." Alpha consumers have vast reach -- much greater than their blog uniques or Twitter follow numbers might indicate.

To understand their true reach, it helps to think about the small world experiment popularized by the game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." (A fun party game but, more importantly, a truly important concept for marketers.) In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes this phenomenon, that any two people in the world can be connected by fewer than six people.

The small world experiment was originally conducted more than 40 years ago by giving a letter to random people in the Midwest and asking them to get it to someone in Boston by passing it onto a personal acquaintance, who would then pass it on to a personal acquaintance and so on until it reached the target. What was most striking about the results was not that it took, on average, only six steps to reach the target, but that over 60% of the letters delivered were given to the target by just one person. Gladwell calls these people, with a vast web of social connections, "connectors."

In many ways, moms on social media exemplify these connectors. They are less journalists (though many write extremely well and provide both information and support) than they are highly influential consumers. But, it's that journalistic component that often trips us up. Marketers are used to reaching out to consumers with samples, coupons and offers in a highly targeted demographic/psychographic but, really -- in terms of reaching the most influential consumers -- willy-nilly way. Social media changes that.

For the first time, marketers can accurately gauge the influence of consumers to whom they direct offers by targeting these "connectors" who are suddenly easy to find using social media. Direct marketing sample sizes can shrink to include those consumers that are most likely to pass the word along. Response rates and, more importantly, buzz generated can vault to heights not seen before. Budgets can shrink ... or can they?

If only these highly influential consumers, were just that -- consumers. But they are not. These alpha consumers know their worth (or are starting to) and are building businesses, small and large, of their own. So, marketers who are well aware that nothing is really free will start to respond and treat these alpha consumers as a whole new category. It's already happening.

4 comments about "Social Media Moms Are Really Alpha Consumers".
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  1. Maria Bailey from BSM Media, September 15, 2010 at 6:08 p.m.

    Great topic, great post. Companies need to look not so much at "top bloggers" but top influencers- the mom mavens. These are the women who influence online and off and via a variety of channels. BSM Media recently interviewed over 600 mom bloggers abou their level of influence offline and 80% of them said they also recommend products to moms offline.

  2. Maryanne Conlin from RedRopes Digital/4GreenPs, September 15, 2010 at 6:42 p.m.

    So true, Maria,

    I think I read your report...can you post the link here? It really supports what is becoming clear to many of us in social media. The Social Media Mom is a whole new bird and we need to use classic strategies, but new tactics to reach her.

  3. Linda Landers from Girlpower Marketing, September 15, 2010 at 7:21 p.m.

    I totally agree with Maria. While social media sites are great influencing tools, they are indeed one part of the equation. Women/moms still continually engage in conversations and provide recommendations offline as well. Marketers would be well served to look at an integrated approach to reaching these key influencers.

  4. Mary Hunt from In Women We Trust, September 17, 2010 at 8:55 a.m.

    It might be easier if we call it a social media market mix... some methods will be to influence online, others to influence offline and other methods to build the brand through association. Social media isn't a one-stop-concept anymore, but many, mini-approaches.

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