Guest post by Meg Akabas
I recently ventured into the world of Twitter with the encouragement of friends, colleagues, and my kids who convinced me it was an important medium to help link me to people who might benefit from my new iphone app ParentSmart. I was told Twitter is the way to find people who want my parenting expertise.
A few weeks into my Twitter journey, I’ve seen a whole new community of parents and discovered that while one might assume parents, especially those of young children, might be too darn busy for social media, moms and dads alike are thriving online.
As a parenting educator, I wanted to understand why so many parents are gravitating towards social media. I examined the content and found four main areas of attraction for parents on both Facebook and Twitter:
Taking care of a newborn or young child can be an isolating endeavor. No longer! Parents need not rely solely on meeting other new parents at the playground or through mothers groups to stay connected. They can immediately tap into a community of parents on Facebook by joining groups, on Twitter by following other parents or parenting experts, and on any one of the thousands of mommy blogs by joining and participating in discussions. Social media provides an accessible forum for discussion with other moms and dads about public policy concerning families. This is the stuff we used to talk about at our weekly mothers group while our babies crawled around on the floor and spit-up on our shoulders.
2. Product Recommendations
When I was popping out babies (four of them), in order to get a full picture of what was available in stores or to compare products, I had to load the stroller/baby carrier/bags/etc. and visit the baby supply or toy store. Now, parents can quickly compare and review all possible infant seat models AND get recommendations from other parents through social media channels. Twitter parties and give-aways abound as a way for marketers to reach an audience eager for products and services that make life easier. On www.CoolMomPicks.com, recommendations are linked to thoughtful reviews and product details fly fast and furious from their twitter feed.
In addition, product recall information hits social media sites quickly, giving new parents piece of mind that they are aware of any safety hazards that arise.
3. Health Information
Linking with other families or professionals who can share tips on almost any health issue saves worry and time. It’s one thing to look up symptoms in one’s dog-eared copy of Dr. Spock, but quite another to get the benefit of hundreds of other parents first-hand experience with curing a nasty diaper rash. When my son recently ran into trouble trying to take his first un-chewable pill without gagging, a swift online connection with parents who had faced this problem resulted in a perfect solution…feed him the pill in a spoonful of applesauce or pudding; it worked like a charm.
4. Parenting Advice and Inspiration
Because babies don’t come with a “how to” guide, one is constantly trying to figure things out. When I was a new parent, I read lots of books and relied on guidance from my own parents. Social media provides much easier access to a wealth of parenting advice, and it has completely crumbled the barrier of shame or embarrassment that formerly plagued parents who thought they were the only ones struggling. Sorting through so much advice, much of it conflicting, can be difficult, but mothers and fathers are finding experts or other parents whose strategies ring true for them, and they are developing a trust in those sources.
In addition, life as a parent of a baby can be extremely tiring and often feels tedious. Now, parents are just a smartphone away from ideas for activities, recipes, positive thoughts and humor. Social media enables moms and dads to tap into the larger community, helping them to ”know better,” “do better” and “feel better” in their parenting role, which represents an opportunity for those with products or messages aimed at helping them achieve those goals. This is good news for parents, good news for me — the parenting educator — and excellent news for anyone who wants to reach this eternal market.
I just hope that all this connecting through social media isn’t distracting parents from interacting and being present with their children! (For my thoughts on that issue, click here).
Meg Akabas is a mother of four, a parenting educator, and the founder of Parenting Solutions. Meg specializes in working with parents of children up to age 10 both individually and in workshops. She helps parents tackle non-medical issues such as communication, discipline, learning, sibling rivalry, separation, and sleep problems. Download her ParentSmart app on itunes and follow her on twitter.