Mom Central

It once took a village to raise a child. Now, it takes an Internet connection, a Facebook or Twitter account, and maybe a blog or two. According to Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder of "one-stop" Web resource, 21st-century mothers are looking outside their local neighborhoods for parenting advice. "We no longer grow up with moms and aunts and best friends next door," DeBroff says. "The online space for moms has proved a really core source for socializing with and finding people who identify with particular issues that you wrestle with."

Whether sharing photos of the kiddies with friends on Facebook or blogging to a national audience on an instant-access content platform, individual moms are projecting their influence outside their immediate families and onto other mothers in cyberspace. "Moms have naturally relied, across time, on first-person recommendations," DeBroff says. "From picket fences to social gatherings at school, we've always relied on turning to different circles in our lives to share first-person impressions - about not just life experiences, but also products and recommendations." The only difference? The neighborhood Alpha Mom, simply put, can now be followed on Twitter.   And where the moms are, go the marketers. Through her firm, Mom Central Consulting, DeBroff works with companies like Pepsi, Clorox and Johnson & Johnson to effectively market to the "mom perspective," engaging mothers - deemed major purchase influencers - to share their brand passions within the social media sites also frequented by their kids.  

"[There's been] a dramatic marketing paradigm shift from third-person marketing to dialogue with consumers, especially with moms," DeBroff says. "[They're] hijacking the conversation away from what you think you want them to hear about the brand to what they want to say about the brand. Social media ... gives moms a tremendous stake in their own consumer purchasing." By linking up to social media, brands can ignite their influential fans to be more engaged by experiencing (then sharing) both online and offline opportunities - whether through sampling, insider messaging, loyalty programs or other invitations to exclusively communicate with the brand.   "Brands are being challenged to build sustainable relationships with their consumers. [It's] not just, 'I'm going to offer you samples and coupons,' but 'How do I make you feel that you're connected to our brand?' " DeBroff says, noting that most mothers no longer hang onto the brand loyalty that made '50s housewives famous. "The brands have to continually win back their loyalists and keep them connected."  And according to DeBroff, the Alpha Mom online voice is only getting stronger. "Where people look at the rise of mom bloggers and see that as rising into a sort of maturation ... I think it's only beginning," DeBroff says. "Brands don't want mom consumers to hijack their messaging without the brand's participation. They need to move faster to get into that river of conversation flow; otherwise, they're going to be trying to canoe when they need a speedboat."

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