It’s a self-evident truth that moms know best. Until recently, though, this knowledge was largely confined to the family unit. With the spread of social media such as blogs and social networks, the walls of motherly wisdom are coming down. Concurrently, the sphere of motherly influence is expanding, most notably to board rooms and chambers of congress. This isn’t to say that moms don’t already wield influence in these areas. Speaker Pelosi is, indeed, a grandmother. But of all the demographic groups gaining power through the social web, from techies and teens to musicians and green activists, we’d argue that none is more formidable than moms. Marketers, politicians, and CEOs take note: networked moms have become a force to be reckoned with, and they continue to gain strength.
Anyone who’s ever feared or respected their mothers (that means you) knows what we’re talking about. Indeed, when you step back and consider the makings of this phenomenon, it’s nothing short of awe inspiring. The technology of social media has extended the power and reach of the individual to a point where it’s possible for anyone to spark a groundswell of action and impact, fueled by network effects and viral distribution. It is the proverbial butterfly that flaps its wings and causes a hurricane on the other side of the planet. Only this butterfly is highly motivated with a tremendous vested interest in the health and wellbeing of the next generation. And they number in the tens of millions in the U.S. alone.
For the past several decades, Oprah has been the voice for so many American moms. From the serious to the mundane, she covers issues that matter to women and holds tremendous sway with her viewers. We’ve seen firsthand how companies are nearly capsized with demand when their product becomes one of Oprah’s favorite things. But this is a waning, one-way channel. It’s Media 1.0, where companies produce the infotainment and we consume it. By and large, if it wasn’t important to Oprah, it wasn’t important to her audience. Media 2.0, on the other hand, is about creation and participation. According to MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe, some 40% of moms in the U.S. are already on MySpace, “using the site for the same reason everyone else is: to socialize.” Social media is about initiating and joining two-way conversations that matter to the individual and finding others for whom the same topics or issues matter. What matters most to moms? Their children, of course.
That’s what set Robyn O’Brien of AllergyKids.com on her current mission. O’Brien is a mother of four, and her kids have serious food allergies. This was puzzling for her because neither she nor her husband has them. She did some research and unearthed startling evidence that pointed to neglect and outright conspiracy on the parts of the U.S. government and food industry with regard to “the recent introduction and engineering of allergens, proteins, food additives and dyes into our food supply.”
O’Brien promptly launched AllergyKids.com on Mother’s Day 2006, complete with a blog. Her mission: to help parents protect their children from food allergies. Since then, it’s become much more than that. With a bit of media savvy and some luck, O’Brien caught the attention of Robert Kennedy Jr. and made an appearance on his Ring of Fire radio show. By way of Prince Charles, who is a critic of GM (genetically modified) foods, this lead to a feature story in The New York Times, which lead to coverage by CNN, CBS, and a book deal with Random House. She is being described as the Erin Brockovich of food and is even collaborating with Ms. Brockovich herself whose brother, O’Brien says, died of a food-allergic reaction in his 30s.
O’Brien’s fight places multinational agri-business giants like Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland squarely in her sights, alongside their alleged government co-conspirators, the EPA and USDA. Fortunately, she’s not alone. The social web is a support system for moms on a mission as well as a resource for those who want to contribute to a cause or get some advice. Following are 10 more blogs and tools that are part of the nexus of social media, green living…and motherhood.
1. BlogHer: This is an aggregated network of women bloggers, most of whom also have their own blogs. In April, comScore calculated 104,000 unique visitors to the main site. BlogHer also manages an ad network with more than 1,400 related blogs. “BlogHer’s mission is to create opportunities for women who blog to pursue exposure, education, community and economic empowerment.” There is a “Mommy and Family” section of the site as well as an extensive mom blogroll. It is an excellent general resource, but it also serves to connect readers with the blogs that speak to their specific interests.
2. Eco Child’s Play: ECP is part of the Green Options blog network, of which this blog is also a part. The focus is on “green parenting for healthy, non-toxic homes.” It was founded by Jennifer Lance, who lives with her family “on 160 acres off the grid (for 15 years!) in a home built with [her] own two hands (and several more skilled pairs of hands) and trees from [her] land.” Started as a resource for healthy toys, it’s expanded to include a full range of green-living family topics. With a broad stable of contributors, there is something to be found for all shades of green mom, including the activist.
3. CafeMom: This is essentially MomSpace, a fully-featured social network with two million unique visitors in the month of April according to comScore and growing fast. “CafeMom is focused on creating a great site for moms that is somewhere they can come to get advice, feel supported, make friends or just relax.” There is a group called Green Organic Natural Simple Living with more than 1,200 members and many smaller groups organized around healthy-green topics. If you already use MySpace or Facebook, there’s no reason not to also have profiles in purpose-driven networks like this.
4. Twitter Moms: Though Sparkplugging.com is not a mom-specific blog, it is co-written by Wendy Piersall, who is both a mom and a Twitter fanatic. Her Twitter handle is eMom, and she’s compiled a growing list of Twittering moms. If you comment on her post or send a Tweet, she’ll add you to the list (assuming you’re a mom). As a resource, Twitter can provide immediate advice as well as a way to vent and celebrate the trials of motherhood.
5. Green & Clean Mom: This is how “being green can be sassy, sexy, & fun.” Despite its playful page design, G&CM is serious about the subject matter, featuring a photo of the author’s kids, citing them as “the reason I’m on a mission.” But it’s far from fanatical. Posts on climate change, toxic car seats, and an SUV confessional are currently on the front page. You can also join the G&CM social network, which is hosted on the Ning platform, and follow G&CM on Twitter.
6. TeensyGreen: We found TeensyGreen through Twitter. Like many, it grew from an epiphany of sorts. Says founder Stefani, “I couldn’t help feel like there was another way to be able to entertain my kids without all the plastic, the fuzzy, the things they played with for a little while and ended up at the bottom of a basket.” The blog’s focus, then, is highly product driven, and the tone is very much “do what you can” as opposed to “do or die”.
7. Suburban Bliss: This is the cheeky mom’s blog, penned by the very talented Melissa Summers, who is both a blogger and a writer. SB is not green or socially aware but rather a healthy dose of unfiltered reality…as you can gather from the pacifier-in-a-martini-glass logo and tongue-in-cheek title. Summers was made famous (or infamous) for stating that it’s OK to have a glass of wine during a playdate. According to her bio, she “loves her kids, because they are clearly quite loveable. She doesn’t necessarily love parenting. Oh and the amount of talking it requires. And the public humiliation. Also, the guilt. But otherwise? Suburban Bliss.”
8. Moms Speak Up: This is a forum for maternal activism, a “collaborative blog of writers from various backgrounds… about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.” The founders are “fed up with the ‘business as usual’ attitude of politicians & greedy corporations.” It is open to contributions and places green living squarely at the center of its mission.
9. MOMocrats: These moms are “raising the next generation of blue” while trying to put a Democrat back in the White House in 2009. One might find it surprising to know that John Edwards was their original pick for the nominee. So being a mom doesn’t automatically get you a pass. As of this writing, they are split. No matter who gets it, he or she will be wise to check in with MOMocrats from time to time to see what’s on their mind.
10. Healthy Child, Healthy World: This nonprofit organization, once known as the Children’s Health and Environmental Coalition, is “dedicated to protecting the health and well being of children from harmful environmental exposures.” It is also supported by some of the most outspoken celebrity moms including Laura Dern, Gwenyth Paltrow, Olivia Newton-John, Amy Brenneman, and Meryl Streep. The Healthy Child, Healthy World book was released last month and features Robyn O’Brien’s story from AllergyKids.com.
Bonus: Here are five more worth exploring.
To continue this conversation, please leave comments with your thoughts. If you’re a mom blogger or social networker, let us know and leave a link to your site or profile. Let us know how you’re using social media to further the mom agenda or just to meet other likeminded moms.