Who influences parents online?

It may seem there is an unstoppable rise in the popularity of mummy bloggers, but there is a backlash and trust in their recommendations is declining according to consumer research for the Motherhood #Unfiltered report from agency Diffusion PR.

Time for a refresh

Discussing why influencer marketing strategies are becoming outdated, Natasha Cobain, director of consumer at Diffusion PR, says: “The current methods that brands use to engage consumers with influencer marketing are due a refresh for the new decade. The explosion of influencer culture in recent years has grown into something wholly different to what the industry originally intended, with influencers now being positioned on pedestals as perfect archetypes: an entirely new kind of celebrity.

“It’s become a reflex action for many brands to gravitate towards social influencers who are projecting an aspirational, near-perfect image of success, however smart brands need to be mindful of their choices. Consumers could be forgiven for thinking some influencers are walking ad campaigns – many promote a different product on a seemingly daily basis. This may be why there is now growing cynicism around influencers’ recommendations: if they praised an item in a sponsored post yesterday, how can we be sure that an ‘unsponsored’ positive review of another product today is trustworthy and reliable?”

Parent views

Parents are a key demographic for whom trust and credibility on social media is vital. Cobain describes why Diffusion PR decided to do research into how parents’ attitudes to social is changing: “Social media is an essential source of advice to parents and can help them to cope with the feelings of isolation that are so common. We’ve started to see a shift in how parents, and mums in particular, are engaging with consumer brands. So critical is this audience that we commissioned our report in collaboration with founder of Motherkind, Zoe Blaskey, to learn more about the realities of modern parenting and the role being played by social media and influencers.”

Key findings

  • Social media is taking up vast amounts of time in parents’ lives: on average, mothers are spending 3 hours and 12 minutes more online every day than before they were parents.
  • One-fifth (21%) of mums agreed that parenting influencers provide helpful advice and support – but parents aren’t naïve about the content they’re being fed.
  • Almost a quarter (23%) of mothers find influencers difficult to trust as it’s not always clear if they’re being paid to promote a product.
  • One in 10 parents say they’ve already unfollowed ‘perfect’ mums and parenting influencers on social media.

Too perfect

Discussing how parents feel these days about influencers and the pressure to be ‘perfect’, Cobain says: “Aspirational shots of parenthood can paint an unrealistic view of what it’s really like to be a parent, fuelling a vicious cycle where parents feel the need to project their own image of perfection. Our analysis of mums’ social media conversations shows that close to half (46%) feel under pressure to have a better or more interesting presence on social media, and over a quarter (28%) admit to cropping images to remove signs of mess in the background of their shots before posting.

“It’s a sad fact that while many influencers and celebrity mums have an entourage of ‘invisible help’, such as nannies, cleaners and assistants, normal mums are bending over backwards to emulate them with nowhere near the same level of support.”

Negative consequences

One of the most worrying findings, says Cobain, is that one in 10 of respondents feel parenting influencers leave them feeling anxious or depressed and only 8% said they feel positive and uplifted by the content they’re exposed to from social influencers.

Cobain concludes: “The industry is in desperate need of an overhaul. Influencers and the brands that work with them clearly need to pay more attention to the authenticity of the content they create and the image they portray. We all have a responsibility to help ensure PR and marketing remain a positive force, with a genuine commitment to authenticity and a determination not to perpetuate, however unwittingly, the myths of perfection.”

Methodology

Consumer research for the Motherhood #Unfiltered report was conducted online by OnePoll with 1,000 mothers aged 23-38 living in the UK. Research was conducted in July 2019. For more information click here.

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