The Social Media Playground – Part 1

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There was a lot of chatter about bloggers at Toy Fair this year both by bloggers and by exhibitors. Some companies engaged bloggers3woman at computer  productively and others were ambivalent or didn’t engage at all.  I asked Mary Kay Russell, ChiTAG’s Director of Social Media, also an inventor – her most recently licensed game, The Ultimate Party Block debuted at NY Toy Fair, to give us feedback from bloggers who attended the Fair and ideas going forward. 

Mary Kay: This year’s NY Toy Fair hosted bloggers, all excited to check out and blog about the newest and hottest toys and games to their loyal followers.  I had a chance to speak with several, and here’s their feedback:

 

Keri Wilmot, owner of Toyqueen.com, found most exhibitors at Toy Fair to be welcoming and eager to share.  As a pediatric occupational therapist, Keri provides parents with a resource where she blogs about toys and games that promote children’s development.  Having worked with companies like Spinmaster, Hasbro, Mattel, and Gamewright, her recent blog posts are a comprehensive run-down of her favorite finds at Toy Fair. 

Anna Sandler of ShePosts.com writes, “In general, exhibitors at Toy Fair New York expressed interest in working with bloggers … Other exhibitors spoke of increasing collaboration with bloggers and of the difficulty they had determining which bloggers to work with out of the many there.”  Some exhibitors were less enthusiastic about the value of working with bloggers, as evidenced by a tweet from Amanda de Beaufort, who said that some of the toy reps were not so sure, even asking “what’s a blog?” when approached. 

Cecelia Mecca, PhD, owner of CoolBabyKid.com, said her Toy Fair experience was a mixed bag, “On one hand, it was great to connect with companies that understand blogger outreach who I've worked with previously. Seeing firsthand the up and coming toys is a great way to bring cool picks to my readers. On the other hand, the term "blogger outreach" baffled many companies I spoke with while some expressed outright hostility to my status as a blogger.” 

While new to some, marketing to moms and dads through social media is here to stay, and the toy industry provides the perfect playground on which to build great relationships with bloggers that can help catapult brands. 

Why do they blog?  Most moms didn’t start blogging to help pay the bills.  They started out by creating an online outlet to share ideas, engage in conversations, and build relationships with other like-minded moms.  Since then, they have quickly become the fastest growing, most popular influencers both online and offline. 

Top consumer brands are realizing just how much influence these bloggers have, and they’re battling for their attention, seeking out reviews from real moms and gaining access to their loyal followers.  A recent New York Times article describes how marketers are increasingly harnessing the power of the mom blogger to reach their audience.  Social media expert Wendy Piersall, who was named by Nielsen as one of the 16 most influential moms online, backs this up with 16 market research facts proving social media moms influence.  

And let’s not forget about the dads out there.  With more and more stay-at-home dads playing an increasingly active role in the management of the household, dad bloggers have been attracting significant attention from major brands.  Appealing to a distinct set of brands, many dad bloggers do product reviews on gadget-oriented products.  Perhaps one of the most active bloggers to use Twitter during Toy Fair was DadaRocks.com owner Adam Cohen, who tweeted his product observations and top picks at rapid-fire speed to his 25,000+ Twitter followers during the Fair.  Working with companies like Hasbro, Mattel, Crayola and Lego, Adam says, “Moms buy toys based on what their kids want; Dads buy toys based on what they want to play with.”   

More and more brands are hiring bloggers to represent their companies as brand ambassadors.  Here’s just a sampling: 

Walmart Moms are a group of 21 influential bloggers who’ve been engaged by the retail giant as their brand ambassadors, all3Walmart  specializing in different areas that best fit Walmart’s consumer demographic, and all active on Walmart’s online parenting community.  These bloggers are accessible to consumers, discussing their opinions about products, Walmart and lifestyle, yet they are not seen as spokespeople. 

Disney conducts their annual Walt Disney World Mom Search, where carefully selected advisors are given a free trip to Walt Disney World3Walt-Disney-World-Moms-Panel  for training, and then work from home, offering their park-savvy smarts to guests planning Disney vacations.  In March, 2011, Walt Disney World Resort will host Disney’s Social Media Moms Conference – a mom blogger conference that hits the mark by including their families in on the fun with affordable conference fees and deeply discounted theme park passes.

 MEGA Brands recently announced their search for Mega Bloks Moms, seeking five mom bloggers for a year-long engagement as ambassadors for Mega Bloks Family Club – their new blog and online community. 3Mega-Bloks-Family-Club These bloggers will post about new products, play tips, contests, etc., in return for a nominal fee and free products.  Corine Ingrassia, owner of  ComplicatedMama.com, hosted a Twitter Party to launch the search.  Corine says, “MEGA Brands is making great strides this year to really connect with the families who love their products.”

 Over the last few years, the mom blogger landscape has changed dramatically.  While some are still blogging solely as a way to engage in open and honest conversation at their digital kitchen table, more and more bloggers are realizing that their influence can have a positive impact on their family’s bottom line.  Leveraging their power by rebranding themselves as Social Media Moms, they are partnering with companies to promote their products online, aiding them in their outreach efforts to their loyal followers on Twitter and Facebook, extending their reach far beyond their blog.

Has your company been successful on the Social Media Playground?  Tell us about it.

 Up Next:  Part 2 – Building Blocks for Better Blogger Relationships

4 thoughts

  1. Good article. It concerns me that toy companies and stores will pay bloggers for their opinions. I believe this will confuse consumers who most likely will not realize the bloggers are being compensated.

  2. Great post Mary. It’s great to hear that bloggers actually made an effort to attend Toy Fair and engage in conversations around the value they bring to toy manufacturers image and brands. I can relate to Anna Sandlers comment, as I got similar reactions at Toy Fair 2008 whenever I’d mention “online extensions” for products. I think the industry as a whole needs to take more risks and be more active in social media, whether its on Twitter, Facebook, or just connecting with bloggers/brand ambassadors. The publics perception of the toy industry is that it’s fun, creative, ambitious, innovative and social. I think it’s time that toy manufacturers start leading the charge in this regard, and not waiting for Walmart or Disney to show them the way. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the year ahead.

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