"A lot of mom bloggers are almost as influential as celebrities, but they can't afford the groceries."
by Jess McCuan . photo by Brent Fleury
She can change a diaper, send a Tweet and type up a blog post all at the same time. She’s a former newspaper reporter turned social networking maven, and last year she organized Asheville’s first-ever mom blogger conference, Type-A Mom, which attracted 300 people and corporate sponsors like HP, Land’s End and Little Debbie. Any way you slice it, Kelby Carr, who has 21,000 Twitter followers and 1,500 Facebook friends, is Asheville’s mommy blogger with the mostest.
When Carr first decided to work at home full time, she thought she would miss so much. She had been a reporter for 15 years and moved to Asheville in 2006 for a job with the Citizen-Times. “Being a career person was such a part of my personality,” she says. By 2007, she had a daughter, Gabrielle, now 7, and twins Kaya and Ethan, now 3. But once she figured out how to work during their naptimes and bedtimes, she realized saying sayonara to her cubicle wasn’t as difficult as she thought.
Now that the phenomenon of mommy blogging has taken off everywhere, Carr wants to establish some ground rules. Or rather, re-establish them. Big companies have figured out that moms hold the purse strings, and mommy bloggers can be tremendously influential in buying decisions. The companies send free products to mom bloggers, who then post “reviews” on their sites. And therein lies the trouble. “Is a person raving about how wonderful this vacuum is because they just got it for free?” Carr says. In 2008, Wal-Mart drew fire when it rounded up 11 mom bloggers, the Elevenmoms, to review Wal-Mart products and offer Wal-Mart-approved money-saving tips on their sites. And Nestle, which has been lambasted for years for selling baby formula in third-world countries, stirred up fresh criticism by flying mom bloggers to California to sample new products.
All the influence peddling brings up even more issues—like how should mom bloggers get paid, if not with free goodies? “A lot of mom bloggers are almost as influential as celebrities, but they can’t afford the groceries,” Carr says. “They’re influence-rich but cash-poor.” Late last year, Carr launched a site called Momtent. It essentially matches up her database of mom bloggers with companies who pay them to generate online content. She also recently joined a Nielsen advisory committee to help measure influence among bloggers. Is sheer traffic a sign of popularity? Or is there more prestige in comments and commenters? “Virtual charisma—a lot of people have a hard time measuring it,” she says. Not hers.