Reb Carlson is an award-winning strategist, social media expert, and an expecting mother! We caught up with her to understand how she’s getting inspired, and what she’s been noticing in the mommy influencer space. Additionally, with over 10 years of experience in marketing, Reb has keen expertise on how to engage moms in a culturally relevant way. This Q&A explores the mommy space, tackles the “mompreneur” phenomenon, and shares insights for brands to plan their next parenting campaign.
Setting The Stage
Q: First of all, congrats! What are you most looking forward to as a mom?
A: Thank you! I love having a reason to celebrate anything, and tend to go big around the holidays. I’m definitely excited that my kid will be born before October so we can really ham it up for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Chrismukkah and pass down traditions I loved as a kid but can be hard to fit in your schedule as an adult. I’m also very excited to introduce music and reading to him, which are two of my biggest passions.
Q: Has social media inspired your entry into, and plans for, motherhood?
A: It’s funny because I’ve followed mom influencers over the years for work and usually was introduced to them for another reason, like the fact they were really into food, design, or art. Or I followed them long before they became moms and as they moved forward with their lives, motherhood became a natural next step for them. I think, for myself, the mom influencers that inspire me are the ones who are the mom-entrepreneur-designer-content creators who never claim to have things perfect but try their best to create the life they want, which means being both business owners and parents. Of course, as you dive in, you learn that these influencers have help, whether from a partner, nanny, assistant, or family member, which I think is great. There is a ton of societal pressure for modern women to “have it all” and balance motherhood, career, running a house, and some form of personal fulfillment on their own. In reality, it really does take a village to raise a child, and we need to acknowledge the work that goes into being a parent and running a business, and look past the facade we see on Instagram.
Q: What mommy influencers do you follow and why? What new perspectives or tools have you gained from them?
A: Who I’ve followed personally has evolved over my career and personal life. I used to follow Love Taza early on in my 20’s because the world she put together through content and storytelling was a form of escapism and I still admire how much she values family. I started getting into Australian YouTuber Sarah’s Day early in my pregnancy when I was looking for prenatal workouts and stuck around because she is an impressive business woman, has a great, positive energy, and I appreciate her holistic approach to health and her own pregnancy. Some influencers I love to follow include Madeline Lu (@lumadeline), who is a travel photographer I’ve worked with a few times whose photos are absolutely stunning and takes the time to expose her two children to new cultural experiences through travel. I want to be Daneille Krysa (@thejealouscurator) in ten years; she’s an advertising vet who put her passion for art into a successful blog, multiple books, a podcast, many successful curated art shows - and her son Charlie is a frequent guest on her podcast. Matthew Chambers (@matthewachambers) is a father-husband-content creator I met a few years ago who launched Springable, a lifestyle platform for caregivers and people living with disability, special needs, and chronic illness. My perspective on parenting influencers has evolved along with my belief that we need to challenge clients to think beyond “reaching mom” and really consider a range of lifestyles and points of view among parents today.
Q: What will your baby’s presence on social media be like? Why?
A: My husband and I met nearly ten years ago when we were both working at the same social media agency and though we’ve both evolved as marketing strategists, we can’t shut off the social marketing bug. However, while we had a hashtag for our wedding (#twobecomedrumm) and for our birth announcement (#twobecomedrummplusone), we don’t plan on launching social presences for our child. One, we haven’t nailed on a name, and probably won’t until the baby is born. Two, we both want to give our child some semblance of privacy as he/she grows up and not have a ton of images connected to the name before being old enough to use a computer. Three, I would rather our child have control over his/her own personal brand and presentation to the world once able. As an alternative, we’ll probably use private channels for friends and family like Google Photos or WhatsApp to share images.
The New Social Media Mom
Q: For years, the quintessential ‘mommy blogger’ was all about tips & tricks and frugal living–how has social media helped the vertical transcending the cliché? What does the modern mommy influencer look like?
A: I think the rise of these types of influencers was due to the fact that women have been underserved by traditional media on information that is valuable, such as the realities of pregnancy and birth, finances related to maintaining a home, along with a look into parenthood that was more realistic and authentic. Social media and blogging allowed actual moms to connect online, have an outlet, and be the ones to dictate the content they wanted to share, which was and still is very powerful. I think initially influencers weren’t taken very seriously by brands and marketers because a majority of them were (and still are) female. Today, there is a big debate around influencers about who gets taken more seriously based on their gender. You’ll also find that more women are referred to as influencers and men are referred to as content creators. When it comes to the “modern mommy influencer”, we need to acknowledge that to be a successful influencer includes maintaining a business, that there is a wide range of parents to consider, and being a parent is just one facet of what an individual influencer represents.
Q: By the nature of the vertical, mommy influencers have been sharing pictures and stories of their kids–with or without the kids’ permission–often for monetary gain. What do you think about this, and what do you think marketers need to consider when working with moms and involving their families?
A: Every parent is different in how much they want to include their children on their own social media presence. There are also different considerations to be made on whether existing influencers are talking about their family life on their channels and get brand partnerships based on the family dynamic, versus others launching their own child’s channel and seeking partnerships from brands looking to reach children. My point of view for my own kid is likely biased because I work in marketing and have witnessed the seedier sides of the Internet. I think influencers need to consider that talking about their families publicly exposes a vulnerability and leaves them open for public scrutiny on how they are raising their children. Marketers also need to be prepared for that, and consider whether the values of a particular parenting influencer are ones they want to align with.
Q: What is a "mompreneur"? Why is this phenomenon happening now?
A: Due to the access to social media, the economic need for dual-income households, and “stay at home parents” also wanting some form of fulfillment, there has been a rise over the last decade of parental influencers, multi-level marketing structures (ie. Tupperware), and the moms-turned-entrepreneurs. Some businesses have been inspired by an entrepreneur’s own experience of childbirth and early parenthood, like Courtney Klein of Storq who wanted more functional maternity and nursing wear, or seeking out resources and services that didn’t exist, like Kimberly Bryant’s Black Girls Code, which was inspired by her daughter’s interest in tech but being the only African-American girl at a summer coding camp.
There is also the fact that childcare is incredibly expensive, and more often than not it’s the mom who has to give up a traditional career to stay at home with her children. I also think that pre-COVID, corporations had only just started to become more flexible for working moms and parents in general, which leads parents desiring a more balanced lifestyle where they can be there for their children and gain financial independence by launching their own businesses. With permanent remote work likely being a possibility for a majority of working professionals, I think we’ll only start to see a rise of more parents-turned-entrepreneurs.
Q: How can brands inspire, enable, and celebrate the "mompreneur"? Have you seen any solid examples of this?
A: The unfortunate statistic is that a lot of female-owned businesses do not get the financial support or funding they need in the early stages, and it’s incredibly dismal for women of color. With the current cultural and political climate due to the murder of George Floyd and growing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, brands are searching for ways to show their direct support for black people. For brands wanting to reach the “mompreneurs”, a good first step today is to support not only women-owned businesses (which includes moms!), but black women-owned businesses (that also include moms!) Aurora James (Creative Director of Brother Vellies) recently launched a campaign called The 15 Percent Pledge, calling for retailers to promise that at least 15% of their brands on their shelves or ecommerce sites represent black-owned businesses (Sephora has accepted that pledge). Glossier launched a new grant initiative for black-owned beauty businesses. According to an AMEX study, 1,817 new women-owned businesses launched every day in the U.S. in 2019, and 42% of them were started by black women. There are many women-owned businesses out there, and within that mompreneurs, and brands just need to dive deeper to find the right ones to collaborate with.
Q: Why do you think some mommy influencers have such loyal followers? What can influencers from other verticals learn from them?
A: Becoming a parent is truly life-changing. Talking about it openly puts you in a vulnerable place, and I think audiences connect with that on a deep, emotional level. Other influencers can learn from that by getting personal about what matters most to them versus just posting nice visual content.
Q: What makes the mommy community unique? What do marketers need to know as they plan their next campaign?
A: Parents are going to be very particular about the products they use for their children, so you need to get a good gauge of whether the values of the influencer match your brand’s values. For instance, if there is a parent who chooses only hand-made toys made from organic materials, you are not going to sell them on toys made from plastic. I also think parents are becoming wary of baby and personal products that make claims about safety, being organic and green, etc., because we’ve seen multiple examples in the past of large brands (Johnson & Johnson and The Honest Company) being caught for not addressing claims related to their products or being misleading with their packaging. Brands need to remember that for a successful campaign, the product needs to be integrated into the existing routine / lifestyle of the influencer, versus trying to convince influencers to change their habits or pretend to be something they’re not.
The Future Mommy
Q: As their children age and become adults, how do you suggest that long-time mommy influencers evolve to stay relevant for brands but stay true to their audiences?
A: Acknowledge that the social, political, and cultural climate is continuously changing and your family shouldn’t look like they live in a vacuum. Acknowledge the privilege and access you have by being a successful influencer. A lot of influencers got dinged for flaunting their access to private healthcare, second homes or flexible work/living situations at the start of the mandated stay at home orders (Love Taza, Something Navy) in New York City because not everyone has those options available. As children get older, I think parenting influencers should consider how else the platform they’ve built can provide value for something else, whether it be a new business venture, a social cause, or a personal interest they want to explore.
Q: Where is the whitespace in the mommy vertical? Where can brands and influencers evolve and create a positive impact?
A: Addressing political and social issues on an ongoing basis is something very important for influencers to acknowledge. Many parenting influencers have gotten on board with promoting green lifestyles, but there is a lot more we can do in terms of social injustice and civil rights. In the past, parenting influencers might have been inclined to create a false, fairy tale perception of their lives on social, when reality looks a lot different. Audiences and brands are looking for more authenticity, and the first step is to present yourself as a well-rounded person who does have challenges. I think about Molly Rosen Guy (@stonefoxride) who had a very successful wedding business and what looked like the perfect family, then she went through a divorce and lost her dad within a couple of months. She used her channel to show a raw look into the life of someone having to rethink their business, relationships, parenting, and grief all at once and eventually focused her efforts into launching the Brooklyn Writers Collective.
Q: Look into the crystal ball. What do you think the mommy influencer space will look like in the near to distant future?
A: Same as with other influencers: more TikTok, more video content, more private networks and communities. What I’d love to see are clear legal guidelines about the gray area of establishing your kids as influencers/entrepreneurs, a more public discussion about revolutionizing pre and postnatal care in the United States’ health system, more guidance and advice about being productive on building a business while taking care of your kid (I need this especially!), and more promotion and collaborations with companies supporting mothers and women in their professional careers, like The Mom Project, Chief, Werk Labs, Ladies Get Paid, and Girlboss.
|Reb Carlson is a Marketing & Business Consultant at Mad Focused. For more from Reb, follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and visit her website www.rebcarlson.com||