The hardest part of attending an event for bloggers, like today’s SV Mom’s Bloggers/Brand Symposium, is capturing the day in a way that expresses the value of what transpired without making it sound like the geek version of a People magazine article about a Hollywood bash. Because these events aren’t just about who was there (though reconnecting with these fantastic blogging women in person is incredible and re-energizing and doesn’t happen nearly enough), and it’s not about the goodies that come home with me (though they were very nice, and I thank all the sponsors for them). No, it’s about how the social media movement is turning industries on their ear and more importantly (to me) how this is giving a lot more say about products and product development to women.
Pre-social media, the consumer had limited input into product development. Sure, there would be focus groups and market research, but a simple flaw in assumptions (What if you assumed your market was X and it was really Y? Your focus group would consist of X and much of your input would be flawed.) and a product could with many failings. And what if customers had questions, concerns, or (gasp!) suggestions? Whom would they reach? A phone bank of “customer reps” who may not even actually work for the company, but just had scripted responses.
Social media has changed the game. And, yes, to a large extent, bloggers, parent bloggers, mommy bloggers, “brand mammas” — whatever you want to call them, but a lot of them are likely to be women, are part of who/what is changing the game. Savvy consumer brand marketers have learned to tap into the power of “connectors” and “influencers.” But that’s not where the power ends. YOU, dear readers, have the power as well. Though social media is relationship base and is soft and squishy in many ways, marketing budgets and still based on hard data and return on investment. Whether a company will advertise with Blog A or Blog B often depends on the number of unique visits per day, the number of commenters, and the ability of a blog to “show (them) the numbers!” Visibly demonstrating your presence on a blog through comments is a form of exercising your consumer power — even if the post you are commenting on isn’t about a consumer product! And when the post is about a consumer product, believe me, the brands are watching — so speak up about your likes and your dislikes, you may find that your thoughts are listened to by the higher ups at the manufacturer of a product.
I found it particularly exhilarating, today, to be in a room of nearly 30 women this morning, as BitDefender, makers of digital security software (anti-virus, parental controls for safe surfing and more), picked our brains about what we wanted out of this type of software. We were women with many different backgrounds — writers, teachers, lawyers — but we all had opinions and we weren’t afraid to share them. We’re bright, we’re avid users of technology, and we have families we want to protect. Why wouldn’t a company ask us what we wanted in “digital protection”? And yet, who had asked? The exercises ranged from technical discussions to a quick creative “make a collage of an ad that speaks to you.”
Later in the day, the group grew larger for the main event, and as we covered many topics, I was struck by the image of Amie from MamaLoves taking the mic to make a very well received point, the reps from the brands listening to her, while she was holding a baby. This is not the way Corporate America usually works, people, not matter how far we think we’ve come. Go to any blogger event, and you are likely to find nursing moms holding babies (Amie, by the way, was holding someone ELSE’S baby.)
At these events, sometimes you have the ear of the PR person, sometimes you actually have a C-level (CEO, COO, etc.) executive. There are opportunities to make real change. Some bloggers have a dizzying level of influence with these companies and are personally wined and dined and consulted before big launches. But that doesn’t mean you are left out of the opportunity to have some influence. You, are the key. After all, it is you, the consumer, the marketing people are trying to reach. Your voices are heard by making it known where you are, which blogs you read, whose opinion(s) you trust, and what you think of how you are being marketed to.
Pendulums have a way of swinging far one way, and far to the other. Right now there is a huge swing in favor of listening to the consumer — seize the opportunity!
I learned about a lot of great brands today and you will likely see me write about some that I like as I have a chance to research their products more — as always I’ll disclose when I do. In compliance with FTC rules, I’ll disclose that I received “swag” (goodies) from them, but the same goodies that all attendees received today (in other words, nothing more or less than anyone else who attended). They were sponsors of the event and they included: BitDefender, K12 (online education — I can’t wait to dive into their site and sample kit), The Ritz-Carlton (we were at the Arlington site, which was gorgeous!), Stonyfield Organic Yogurts (yum! We not only eat their yogurts, but when I make homemade, I use their plain or vanilla as my starter), TLC (who brought local retailer Georgetown Cupcake because they are having a new reality show!), iGo Green (whose energy-efficient charger products you will definitely hear more about from me!), Love/Avon Army of Women (I’ve written about them before — join NOW — we’re fighting breast cancer and we need ALL women!), Lice Happens (seriously — a mobile service to treat head lice! How ingenious!), Cultural Care Au Pair, Lawry’s (did you know they make marinades?), Dorel Juvenile Group (they have several product lines and they seem to always support local blogger events, so I have to give them big props for that) Yoplait Kids (Did I mention I love yogurt?), Cinnabon cupcakes (it’s as sinfully delicious as it sounds), Easyprintdesign.com (there is a coupon in my bag I am looking forward to trying), Organically Grown (largest wholesaler of organic fruits, vegetables and herbs in the Pacific Northwest), 23andMe (a genetic profiling kit I can’t wait to learn more about!), Litl(a netbook so simple it’s almost impossible to break) and edenfantasys (I won’t direct link as my kids sometimes click on my site, but that’s for uh, grown-up stuff.)
And here’s the “Hollywood” part. When I say that these are great people and great bloggers, I really mean it. Every time I get together with any selection of these ladies, it makes my day (weekend, or evening)! I will invariably have missed someone from the list, so if I did, please add yourself in the comments section and know that it was an indavertent error. As some bloggers are not “out” I’m listing blogs not people’s names.
Car Mamma’s Day In The Life, BananaBlueberry, Everyday I WriteThe Book, A Parent In Silver Spring, Lawyer Mama, Not Ever Still, Parenting By Dummies, Scraps of My Geek Life, Urban Mama, Stirrup Queens, Toddler Planet, Wife And Mommy, Chef Druck, Mamma Loves, jodifur.com, Mommy Needs A Cocktail, Motherhood and Me, Laundry for 6, The Mummy Chronicles, Well Read Hostess, A Spiced Life, Be Nice To Mama, Connor and Helen Grow Up, Dial M for Minky, I’m Not The Nanny, Morning Light Mama, The Travel Mommy, Parentopia, Sarah And The GoonSquad, Musings From Me, Uppercase Woman