Move over, Mumsnet! Meet the new breed of cyber mothers
They use the internet to start businesses and boost charities rather than to obsess about prams and moan about au pairs
Sunday 26 June 2011
Forget Mumsnet, the virtual coffee morning which debates boring biscuits and hopeless husbands. A new breed of "cybermums" is using the internet as an office, PR agency and campaign HQ to launch businesses and charities from their front room.
The so-called mummy bloggers are establishing literary careers, making their names as social activists or simply earning extra money through social media. Rather than just discussing issues affecting fellow mothers, the bloggers actively use the net to change women's lives.
And the trend is growing. The number of such blogs in the UK has shot up from 100 to 2,500 over the past two years, and they are getting more than 10 million page views a month.
This weekend hundreds of mummy bloggers came together at a new CyberMummy conference in central London, which boasted former first lady Sarah Brown as its lead speaker.
Susanna Scott, who co-founded the conference last year, explained: "I think you would go to MumsNet for a conversation on topical issues, whereas you would turn to blogging if you want to create your own online brand. These women all have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and an influential online presence.
"The difference is between being part of the chatter and leading the chatter – and I think mummy bloggers are leading the chatter."
Meanwhile, Mrs Brown told the CyberMummy delegates yesterday: "Mummy bloggers have been able to find their own voice and through that voice have collectively got a sense of power in order to make a difference. That's the beauty of social media."
Ms Scott, 46, set up the conference with journalist Jennifer Howze. And three years ago, the former marketing director also started the first mothers' blogging network – BritMums.
Big-name brands such as Tesco, Argos and Xbox have been quick to spot the potential of mummy blogs for selling to female consumers. The deals being offered to web-savvy mothers vary from buying advertising space on popular blogs to full sponsorship.
But the influence of the cyber-mum extends beyond the realms of business – as illustrated by Save the Children's Blogladesh campaign.
Sian To, 38, joint founder of Cybermummy, joined two other mothers on a two-week trip to Bangladesh for the charity in September 2010. Their mission was to document in a daily blog their experiences meeting Bengali women who were losing children to diseases such as malaria and pneumonia.
The success of Blogladesh in raising awareness of the plight of these mothers was unprecedented.
It has since been lauded as one of Save the Children's most successful campaigns, and is reported to have reached up to 75 million people across the world. From this success, Ms To and her fellow blogging mums were invited to a UN summit in New York where Ms To met Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister.
Another mummy blogger, Erica Douglas, 28, has made a career from advising other women how to start blogs and enjoy some financial freedom from them. She started writing her first postings five years ago when her daughter Erin was just a couple of months old.
Karen Cannard, who has two children, also went down the activism route when she launched her Rubbish Diet blog. She initially started blogging anonymously under the moniker 21st Century Mother in her home town of Bury St Edmunds in 2007. But after becoming a community champion for a council Zero Waste campaign, she launched a blog in 2008, documenting her mission to reduce her household waste.
Her "Rubbish Diet" blog immediately attracted huge interest from local residents, eco-campaigners and others – including Radio 4. The 42-year-old is now a regular voice for green causes on the BBC. "I thought that none of the people who followed the 21st Century Mother blog would want to hear about rubbish," she said. "So I was overwhelmed when more people were interested in my Rubbish Diet than I could have imagined."
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