How to Make the Most of Partnerships With Mom Influencers

You won’t find today’s advertising power players in a boardroom on Madison Avenue. They’re hanging out at a playground near you.

Prized for their ability to sway other parents, mom influencers — who share everything from advice and product recommendations to snippets of their family lives on social media — are increasingly in demand by brands both big and small.

Numbering in the millions, these women are a mighty force within the booming influencer marketing industry, which is forecast to swell to more than $5 billion by 2020 (up from $500 million in 2015), according to Mediakix.

Experts said the rise of such influencers owes something to modern technology. “For as long as modern advertising has been able to track data, word-of-mouth marketing among moms has been the most powerful. But with the creation of blogs and social media, marketers can now actually witness how conversations about products travel from one mom to another,” said Maria Bailey, CEO of BSM Media and a leading expert on marketing to moms.

“Brands also recognize how many people moms interact with in a day, from their school friends and moms at the office to neighbors and moms online,” Bailey added. “Moms belong to many groups, and their reach is larger than any other consumer segment. They also purchase more products than any other group.”

At Wolverine World Wide Inc., mom influencers represent the largest part of the Kids’ Group’s marketing strategy, edging out more traditional advertising such as TV and print. The division partners with popular content creators such as Brianne Manz of website Stroller in the City and Jillian Warner of Hello Splendid to promote its portfolio of brands, which include Keds, Sperry and Merrell.

And last month, it sponsored the Mom 2.0 conference in Austin, Texas (attended by about 1,200 influencers), offering a prime opportunity to discover and meet potential new marketing partners and learn about their goals for their businesses.

Wolverine Sperry Mom 2.0 Summit
Wolverine Kids Group hosted a booth at the Mom 2.019 summit to connect with influencers.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Wolverine

“Our mantra is, ‘Mom is the new media,’” said Liz Bunnell, VP of marketing. “What makes these women so powerful is the tremendous reach and influence they have. Parents trust other parents. This isn’t a brand telling you that its product is amazing. This is an actual mom who is living and experiencing exactly what you are living and experiencing. Her followers can relate to her on a personal level.”

Indeed, according to a 2017 study by Trybe, 66 percent of mothers said mom blogs and channels are more likely to influence their buying decisions than any other form of marketing. And these women log a lot of time online: Millennial moms — the target demographic of most kids’ brands — spend an average of 17.4 hours per week on social networks (according to research by Weber Shandwick), which makes them a highly captive audience for marketers.

Seattle-based See Kai Run has seen particular success in its outreach to Instagram influencers, including reality TV personalities Heidi Montag and Audrina Patridge.

To build its network, See Kai Run first reaches out and sends product for the children. “We let the shoes speak for themselves,” said Angie Steiner, who oversees influencer marketing. “We often find that when kids try our shoes, they become their go-tos. Because of this, the influencer is able to organically work our brand into their feed. We want moms who are genuinely engaged.”

See Kai Run measures the success of its influencer program by engagement rates and tag URLs.

And the popularity of mom influencers among its consumer base has led the brand to take a big next step: It’s teaming up with well-known creator Joy Cho of Oh Joy! (who boasts nearly half a million followers) for its first collaboration.

Cho’s capsule of colorful sneakers launched online last month. “The styles have quickly become fan favorites among our loyal customers,” Steiner said. “[Joy] couldn’t have been a better match for our brand.”

See Kai Run Oh Joy Kids Collab
See Kai Run’s collab with Joy Cho of Oh Joy! drew on her love of color and floral prints.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

Working with influencers is not without pitfalls, however. When evaluating potential partners, authenticity is key, Bunnell said — otherwise, you risk turning off consumers.

“Parents can see right through advertisements, and they get it when something is not genuine,” she said. “We don’t want to push shoes on someone who doesn’t really care about our brands or the category. We want influencers who will authentically connect with our brands and tell great stories. Oftentimes, we’ll find influencers because they love our products and they come to us.”

Brands also need to look beyond follower numbers to see how influencers actually interact with their fans. “One of the biggest mistakes brands make is searching for influencers with the largest followings rather than the most engaged followers,” Bailey said. “Does she have 10,000 followers but only follow 300 people? This is my first indicator that she is not engaged with her followers — that she is having a one-way conversation. A good influencer will have at least a 3% engagement rate.”

And to appeal to a wide audience, it’s also important to curate a roster of influencers who bring diverse perspectives and content to the table. “We have one mom whose family is traveling the country in an RV,” Bunnell noted. “There are so many different stories these influencers are telling and things they are doing. It gives brands like ours a lot of unique opportunities to partner with them in really compelling ways.”

Here are 4 other tips from Bailey about vetting potential influencer partners:

  1. “Evaluate the conversations the influencer has with her followers. Go back six months and read what they post across multiple platforms. Do her values and lifestyle truly fit your brand?”
  2. “Search out partners with offline influence as well as online influence. Marketers have forgotten that moms talk offline, too. I’d rather have an influencer who has lower online numbers but who is also a scout leader and homeroom mom than one who only has a super-high following online.”
  3. “Look for moms who have multiple ways to spread your message. For instance, many do segments on their local TV stations [or print features], so it offers [marketers exposure on] traditional media as well as social media.”
  4. “Recognize that with the emergence of the Gen Z mom, the influencer bubble is about to burst. A large number of followers will no longer be an indicator of true influence. Gen Z women have been collecting followers since they were 15. By the time they are 25 or 30, they will have lots of followers, but many won’t be relevant to their lifestyle or to the brands that want to get their product in front of them. Think about it: Are you still friends with the same types of people as you were when you were 15?”

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