In 2011, Time.com listed CafeMom as one of 50 Websites That Make the Web Great and said, “According to CafeMom, the ‘Café’ in its name stands for conversation, advice, friendship and entertainment. That may be (an acronym), but it’s also a good summary of the site’s appeal. Most of what goes on here focuses on the conversation, advice and friendship part: moms helping moms using features such as a Q&A service and thousands of discussion groups on everything from money and finances to religion and spirituality.”
CafeMom is a very diverse social platform that can be categorized in several different ways. It has features which make it a social network because users can create profiles and build a network of friendship similar to Facebook. Dr. Michael Wu said in Content vs. Social Network, “In a social network, people are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships, such as kinship, friendship, classmates, colleagues, business partners, etc.”
A content community is a platform that has users coming together for a common interest. That interest for CafeMom would be parenting. “Clearly people join the community because they care about this common interest that glues the community members together,” Wu said. “Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community.” There’s content being created by the network and by the community. It all relates back to the common theme of mom but can be segmented out into many different areas.
This article title on SocialMediaToday.com says it best, ‘Content’ or ‘Community’? People Come For Content And Stay For Community Online. That’s probably how CafeMom pulls in a lot of its users. They find the content being produced on the site and once they get there, the community keeps them coming back. Vanessa DiMauro went on to say in the article, “Content is important because it attracts new users to visit the community and inspires them to join. They see a piece of content they would like to have, they see topics that are of particular interest to them, or they spot a discussion that makes them feel like they have found a peer group.”
CafeMom was formed in 2006 by Michael Sanchez and Andrew Shue. According to HowStuffWorks.com, CafeMom started with blogs, articles and message boards. An affiliate sponsor program for user product reviews has been in place since the beginning. In the past seven years, CafeMom has blossomed into an all-inclusive mom community. Its family of properties now includes MamásLatinas.com, TheStir.com and TheProwl.com.
Who is using CafeMom and how often?
It’s no secret, CafeMom is targeted at mothers and mothers-to-be. Mothers come in all shapes, sizes and ages. CafeMom.com’s About section states that it receives 20MM users every month across all of its properties. The Huffington Post reported in May 2013 that the site receives more than eight million unique visitors a month to CafeMom.com.
The obvious growth has been in the platforms CafeMom continues to launch. In January 2012, CafeMom went after the Latina community by launching MamásLatinas, a bilingual website to serve Hispanic mothers. The most recent addition was The Prowl, a social shopping destination, in August 2013.
Heather Huhman in a Huffington Post article said the following, “It has raised a total of $17 million in venture funding, and is valued at over $150 million. Keep your eye on this startup as it continues to impact the way mothers keep in touch.”
What CafeMom has to offer
The social networking side of CafeMom allows users to create profile pages which are as elaborate as a user would like them to be. There are options to add friends along the way and join specific groups. Private messaging and an instant messaging system can be used to communicate within the platform. A user’s activity is easily tracked so they can quickly return to certain posts and keep up with the conversation.
CafeMom’s community boards are an area where moms post questions and comments and other moms respond. There are topic groups for everything you can imagine: kids, recipes, sex, cleaning, entertaining and a whole lot more. There are communities you can join for the month and year your baby was born. This allows a mom to connect with other moms who have children at the same stage in life.
There’s an events and giveaways area where contests are run by brands to win prizes. An advice area offers up topics which start with pregnancy and go all the way through teens. Along with the content in this area comes real mom advice.
According to Mashable’s article 6 Valuable Social Networks for Parents, there’s a bit of game mechanics in CafeMom. Points are awarded for asking questions, replying to others as well as the option to give points out to those who respond to you. As points are earned, the user’s level increases and badges are earned.
CafeMom Studios is the video portion of the site. There are more than 25 different shows which range from topics of beauty, healthy living, holidays, home and parenting. New videos for each show are added frequently. The hosts have a wide range of talents and include doctors, mommy bloggers and a reality TV celebrity.
CafeMom has added a few other platforms to its family. The Stir is a very active news area where articles are posted daily about hot topics which can range from anything about parenting to celebrities and politics. MamásLatinas was an area developed for Hispanic moms so they can connect in their native language of Spanish as well as consume content specific to them. Brands can specifically target this area, assuming the area fits their market.
An influencer program is offered on CafeMom. The site finds influential moms and recommends them to brands to complete product reviews, which are then featured on CafeMom. There’s no way to specifically sign up. Moms are targeted based on writing ability and being an influencer on the site. The key to getting picked is to be active on the community, write well, show interest in topics related to advertisers and be patient. Moms are not paid for the reviews but they do receive free products to test.
“Moms can sniff bullshit a mile away,” says Sanchez to BusinessInsider.com when explaining why using mom reviews to promote advertisers’ products work. “We tell advertisers what’s going to work with moms. And if a mom writes a bad review, it’s ok. If some of the moms don’t like it, chances are someone else will jump in and defend the product. It all tends to balance out.”
There are 10 areas of the site which large brands sponsor. For instance, Inside the Kitchen is sponsored by Reynolds Wrap. This landing page consists of a branded page for Reynolds Wrap, user generated recipes, discussion boards, aggregated content areas, Reynolds Wrap social media and a Reynolds Wrap discount coupon. Another area similar to this one is First Time Moms and it is sponsored by Baby Orajel.
How CafeMom works
The way this social network works is up to the users and how they want to engage. There’s enough content on the site that users could just browse and consume what they are interested in. If users are compelled by the social aspect of the community, they can post to the message boards and create a network of friends to engage with.
What’s in it for a brand?
CafeMom strives to be a place for both readers and advertisers. “When we started out early on, we thought we could build something symbiotic between brands and content,” says Shue to BusinessInsider.com. “Getting the moms involved was one of the smartest early decisions we made. Just being a media company wouldn’t have been enough. But if you can figure out how to get other moms to spread your message, you’re going to score points. And advertisers will pay for that kind of direct involvement.”
A brand that wants to target moms should place serious consideration on CafeMom. There are several options for brands to get involved. It can sponsor an area of content and have its own landing page. The content would tie directly in the brand for a seamless integration. Within that space advertisements can run, social integration can be in place and promotions can be utilized.
Another area of interest for a brand is the influencer program. This allows a brand to provide a user with its product for free. It in turn gets a review, positive or negative, and it is promoted on the site. Reviews from real moms are why women flock to this site. They want to know what products have been tested and are liked. The site is full of influencers who can steer other users in different product directions.
Advertising is included all over the site. If a brand doesn’t want to fully integrate with the content, it can purchase advertising space. Lastly, a brand should monitor the discussion boards to gather data. Its product could be discussed and the brand has potential to receive real feedback. It could also gain insight into reviews on competitors and in general find out what its target audience of moms wants. The site is full of consumer insights waiting to be utilized by brands. The hard part is figuring out where within the site this information is posted.
Integrating Social Media
CafeMom knows the importance of having a presence on other social channels, even when it’s a social network. It has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest. Conversations happen outside of its platform and CafeMom wouldn’t want to miss out on what is being said. The other social channels provide a way to extend conversation and then drive traffic back to CafeMom.
What CafeMom is lacking is synergy between the platforms. It is not taking full advantage of having an integrated marketing communications plan. Each channel is being used to mostly push messaging. Engagement would increase if CafeMom took a deeper look into how it should be utilizing each social media platform.
Its Facebook page is being used as a website traffic driver. All the posts I saw were links back to its website. CafeMom is picking articles which will grab attention and produce a lot of comment engagement. The positive side to its posts was the headlines. Text was used that made a user want to read the article. The downside to each post was a lackluster visual. Facebook should be about having a conversation and CafeMom is lacking in this area. It generates engagement by posting controversial articles but doesn’t join in on the conversation. I also found it posted way too many times a day and its engagement may suffer because of it.
CafeMom’s Twitter account mirrored its Facebook tactic of driving traffic back to its website. There wasn’t much engagement besides a few retweets. When it comes to Google+, CafeMom has forgotten it has a presence in this space. The last update was in mid-July. My guess is the little engagement it was getting wasn’t worth the time posting to the platform.
Pinterest and YouTube are two social platforms I feel CafeMom is utilizing well. On Pinterest it posts content that will be in popular searched categories. Mashable.com reported in 2012 that the most popular categories on Pinterest are related to home, arts and crafts and fashion. CafeMom put a focus on visuals which is extremely important. The descriptions it uses for each pin could use some work to grab attention and a focus needs to be made on keywords to help with search ability.
CafeMom is fully utilizing YouTube by posting all of its video content on the platform. Its page is very well organized. With YouTube being the second most popular search engine, this is a smart move. TheBlaze.com said in March 2013 that YouTube has one billion people visiting its site each month. Every brand that has video needs to utilize YouTube.
Click photos below to open a photo gallery of social media post examples.
Moms are constantly on the go. CafeMom knows how important it is to have a mobile friendly website. The site can be utilized while waiting in a child’s car pool line or when roaming the grocery store looking for ingredients for that evening’s dinner. When visiting CafeMom on a mobile phone you are taken to its mobile website. There is a full site option in the footer for those users who are more comfortable with the full site. The full site also functions well on a mobile device. I could not find an iPhone app.
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Retrieved on October 11, 2013 from http://mashable.com/2011/01/21/parenting-social-
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