Earlier this week, the Washington Post published an article about the new shiny and spotless void that is the “mommy Internet”. Do sponsored blog posts and beautiful Instagram pictures mean the “real” mom blogger of yore is dead and gone? As people who work with parenting influencers day in and day out, we argue that she’s far from the grave – she’s just evolving alongside a changing digital world.
First, let’s talk about what has changed: namely the landscape of what The Washington Post coins the “mommy Internet.” (Side note: at Everywhere Agency, we prefer the term “parenting influencer,” but oh well). The reason it doesn’t look the way it did a decade ago is simple. The Internet in general looks nothing like it did in 2008. Think about it, in 2008, there was no Instagram, Twitter was non-visual and restricted to 140 characters, and uploading a video on Facebook required a degree from MIT. Not to mention how the cell phone camera has advanced over the years.
The early mom bloggers were true pioneers. Today’s writers and consumers of parenting blogs have changed in age and perspective. Millennials are moms now. Believe it or not, 8 in 10 births in the U.S. are to millennial women. Social media usage, especially among the millennial generation, has only increased in the past few years. What we’ve seen is that the newer parenting influencer may start with a primary platform like Instagram or Facebook and evolve later to a blog as their digital presence grows. In the olden days, the blog was your primary vehicle for sharing content with the world.
We’ve seen a seismic shift in the online platforms influencers use to express their thoughts, opinions, and advice. If any social media site is king in the mom influencer space, it’s Instagram. With 700 million users, this visual story-telling platform is manna for a parent with cute kids, a passion for decorating, or a love of fashion. The mom influencers we work with tell us that with the rise of Instagram, they’ve had to seriously upgrade their photography and editing game. Who can blame them? Quality photos appeals to brands that are accustomed to using advertising images to tout their products.
It’s true, the graphic nature of today’s social media landscape and the increasing ability for women to earn a living by showcasing their life from the comforts of their home has led to shinier, more curated images of their lives.
However, I do take issue with Washington Post author, Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s contention that there is no grit in today’s mom blog landscape. Sarah singles out Amanda Watters of the blog Homesong. Yes, she has three kids, her home is spotless, and her Instagram feed features a simple homespun life. What’s wrong with that? In fact, on both Instagram and her blog, Amanda tackles some difficult subjects: post-partum depression, her own adoption, and the daily hardships of motherhood. If you peruse the Instagram feed of a favorite influencer of our agency, Trina Small of Baby Shopaholic, you’ll find a gorgeous mom with two of the most adorable kids you’ll ever see, decked out in the latest fashion. It would be easy to dismiss Trina as lacking grit. But scratch the surface, and you’ll see confessionals on her blog of having trouble getting out of a funk or her honest thoughts on race in America. Yes, there are plenty of influencers who only show the perfectly curated version of their lives. That’s social media in general though, right? I would implore The Washington Post author to stop judging the book by the cover and making pronouncements about the death of what I consider good old-fashioned story-telling by moms.
At the end of the day, we find that the best influencers are authentic, real, aspirational, and strike a good balance between sponsored and non-sponsored content. Yes, their images might be staged. Yes, that’s probably not what their kitchen looks like 100% of the time. Yes, their kid probably spilled apple juice all over themselves two minutes after the photo was taken. And yes, they are compensated for some of their posts. You can say all the above. But you can’t say these women don’t tell meaningful stories, tackle serious issues, or have real opinions.