6 Things Parenthood Taught Me About Social Media Marketing

Just last year, I became a mother for the first time. My son just turned one (time flies, doesn’t it?) and after being a full time mom and performing various social media marketing tasks throughout, I’ve learned that there are many parallels that can be taken from parenthood that also apply to social media marketing. Let’s take a look at the similarities.

You Need to Do it All the Time

True social media marketing — that is, connecting with your customers and prospects — is a consistent and regular task. One-off campaigns can help drive viral success, but social media is not a “set it and forget it” type of initiative. You need to consistently work at building relationships and not let them be. And you need to be consistently monitoring the space. Silence can hurt you. If you’re not following the conversation regularly, your customers might just flock to your competitors instead.

Similarly, as much as it might feel compelling to neglect your child to perhaps play in the virtual space or to do anything else for that matter, you can’t take lengthy breaks from your kid. Parenthood is a full time job for either the parent or a caretaker. You can’t just give birth to a baby and forget her either. She needs your attention just like your audience does.

You Don’t Get a Vacation

In the online space, there will always be some sort of mention online that is applicable to you in some way. Maybe it’s on Twitter. Maybe it’s on a forum. Maybe it’s on Tip’d. The Internet never sleeps and neither should your online initiatives. As someone who is required to monitor your brand, there will never be a day when all is quiet. It’s kind of why I don’t really take vacations.

Once you’re a parent, there’s no going turning back. As Tony Hung once told me, you can’t put your kid back where he came from. You don’t exactly get a vacation from your kid. Once you’re a parent, you can’t distance yourself from that role. And if you do go on a real vacation, when you get back from that trip, you’ll need to tend to your child yet again and most likely address issues that arose when you were gone.

It’s Going to Be Difficult at First

When you first give birth to a child, you’re in for a challenge. I must have heard the standard “so, are you getting sleep yet?” question a hundred times. (Thankfully, now I am.) For the first few months, a new parent has to worry about the constant waking and sleeping that interrupts your day, regular feedings (and what to do when the baby doesn’t eat), buying new clothes every 2 weeks, doing laundry 3 times more often than you’re used to, the frequent crying, the regular diaper changes — and that’s just about your child. Think about the dynamics that will change with your work environment (maternity/paternity leave, perhaps) and even with your existing partners or family members. Things are changing and they’re changing permanently.

If this is your first time diving in the social media waters, it’s going to be difficult to make a splash. You’ll be creating that Twitter account for the first time, and you’ll have to grow followers. Your Facebook Fan page will have 0 fans. That’s not really convincing social proof. Then, when you’re joining a community for the first time, you’ll need to study the users and slowly build relationships with them. They won’t be easily trusting — after all, you’re probably there to market — so it may be especially difficult getting people on board with your marketing initiatives.

But as you establish yourself, and as your child grows up, it gets easier. No doubt, it will be hard at first. Just keep on trudging and you’ll start seeing breakthroughs.

The Relationship Grows Stronger Each Day

When you meet your customers and prospects online, you’re usually doing so because of some connection with them. There’s some common ground. That’s only the beginning. As you consistently interact with them, offering value and reason to continue following you, that relationship — and even the brand awareness — grows stronger. This is especially true of other social networks, especially ones where you were originally untrusted. MrBabyMan, Digg’s top user, was an unknown once. Through hard work and dedication, Andy has proven himself and people look up to him. Today, he has an incredibly huge following.

Some mothers give birth and don’t immediately form a bond with their child. Others do. I was one of those parents who was in denial during my pregnancy but fell in love immediately following his birth. Yet, it’s incredible to see how that bond grows stronger each and every day as he begins to understand his surroundings and as I realize how lucky I am.

You Need to Nurture It

A newborn is unable to care for itself. It can’t be fed, it can’t clean up after itself, and it definitely won’t like you if you don’t burp it. A regular daily regimen often entails the caretaker role of feeding the child, changing the diapers, burping the baby, changing the clothes, bathing the baby, teaching the baby new things, taking the baby to the doctor or outdoors, putting him down for a nap — the list goes on and on. It’s hard work. And you, as the parent, are responsible for these tasks.

Many companies that have not embraced social media marketing often do so because of the fear of an uncontrolled message. That’s why social media marketers reassure these companies that they may not be able to change what’s being said (nor may they necessarily like it), but they can nurture the perception that people have of companies (see letter N). Yes, you’ll have to work at it, but you can do it.

Sometimes There Will Be Bumps

Sometimes there will be parts of the job that just aren’t fun. Your child may get sick, he doesn’t like his green beans, he might be very unhappy when he’s teething, or he might have a rough patch and revert to a previous sleeping pattern that isn’t ideal. As a parent, your job is just to stick with it. It’s not the best scenario, but hopefully, it’s only temporary.

Similarly, your social media marketing initiatives might sound great until someone goes out and ruins it for you. Perhaps you’ve prepared really well for what you thought would be a great viral video campaign, only to find out that the audience does not care in the slightest. As a social media marketer, you might be ill-prepared for these unpleasant experiences. Still, though, you trudge through it. It isn’t going to be a walk in the park; everything is a learning experience. Life gets better.

Conclusion

Parenthood for me has been an incredible journey, one that I realize now I appreciate wholeheartedly. On the other hand, I’ve been doing the online thing for more than fifteen years. Sometimes it’s tough and requires more attention of me, but it is also incredibly rewarding. The daily gains are substantial.

None of this is easy, but social media marketing isn’t supposed to be. Neither is parenthood. Working at it, though, is extremely powerful, both for the relationships you build online and the ones you grow offline.

Update 6/8/10: Natalie Bourre posted the toddler version of this post with more great parallels!

Photos (with the exception of the first one) provided by Shutterstock.

84 Comments

  • Ronen Mendezitsky says:

    I love seeing the personal touch mixed in with the more professional stuff, and just last night you said on David’s interview that you don’t know if you could ever incorporate this personal touch in your posts again. Happy to see it’s still possible.

    And mazal tov for your son being born, and becoming a mother. Even if i’m a year too late to say it.

    • Thanks Ronen. It’s hard to inject the personal into the professional, even though my work is so mixed with that! But I’m glad that this post came out all right. :D

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks for this great post, Tamar! I will forward this to all my fellow mompreneurs !

    Sarah
    http://twitter.com/sarahsantacroce

  • Ching Ya says:

    This is just lovely and so true at the same time! :) I plan to do a post like this when I have my baby too (since I’m incredibly enthusiastic about social media too), although now there’s clearly no sign of anything just yet. I’m always admire how mommy bloggers/entrepreneurs able to cope between work and family. Even now as a housewife I can feel the ‘hectic’ness! In my opinion, these tips are also applicable to marriage. *chuckle* Regardless of no vacation, and we need to nurture the relationship, plus an on-going effort.. we’re going to reap the fruit of our dedication, surely.

    **btw, your son is soooo adorable! awww.. hugs!**

    @wchingya
    Social/Blogging Tracker

    • Thanks so much! Yeah, you know, we should do another post – “6 things my marriage taught me about social media.” I bet there are a lot of other types of parallels too. :)

  • Ross Hudgens says:

    Great analogy! My favorite part was this: “You don’t get a vacation.” I don’t have a kid but I can see how they work together – the only difference is that you can quit social media a lot easier than you can a kid.

    How about #7 – Everyone thinks they’re a great parent? (Everyone thinks they’re a social media expert?)

    • Thanks Ross! Interesting suggestion for #7. I don’t know if it would be applicable to my personal experience. To that end, I’ve recently discovered a TV show called “The Locator” (it’s on WeTV) about parents who actually give up their kids for adoption — so I don’t know if everyone thinks they’re a great parent after all! But good point… I guess if I wanted to poke fun at some of the folks in the industry, I’d have considered including that. This was more of a personal story for me. :)

  • Pingback: BizSugar.com
  • I love the parallel you’ve outlined between parenthood and social media. I’ve been doing both for 12 years and I agree with you analysis. There are times though when it feels like my social media efforts requires more of me than my children do.

    • I know! It’s sometimes a whole lot harder! I know that I’ve had to really focus on some of the work I’ve done and it can sometimes be stressful with a kid and the online “stress” in the same room.

      Thanks for commenting, Cynthia :)

  • Rekha Srivatsan says:

    I really loved your post! There is a lot of juggling and I truly admire the way you handle both. Am a social media enthusiast and hope to conquer both worlds someday!

    David looks absolutely adorable! :)
    Best wishes!
    -Rekha Srivatsan
    http://www.twitter.com/rekhasrivatsan

  • Cari McGee says:

    Tamar –
    Very well done! I think the two most important points were it being difficult at first AND the relationship growing stronger daily. Until my son smiled at me for the first time, it was just a thankless job. I was constantly giving everything I had and there was no recognition, no acknowledgment, NOTHING coming from this perfect, cute, loads-of-potential little blob! I love social media now because I get instant responses, but before, I’d post a status update and there was nothing in response.
    Thanks for the perspective!

    • Thanks Cari! :) LOL, I can just envision little cute Cari and Matt blobs. (I do know what Sean looks like!) But I *totally* hear that. David smiled later than many kids his age (at almost exactly 3 months) and it was work — lots of it! But each day brings new developments and it’s super exciting to participate in the the process and to see the outcomes.

  • Briana says:

    This was a great post Tamar. All your points were valid. I would’ve never compared social media to parenting but now I’m thinking “how could I not?” Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Briana! The thought came to me while standing on a subway platform last week with the baby, which is a huge change of scenery for me (I’m working from home and watching him all day). I guess that’s what triggered the interesting line of thinking! :)

  • Ken Mueller says:

    As the parent of 3, I couldn’t have said it better myself. These are all great, and I often have to remind my clients about that “all the time” and “no vacation part”. Some forms of marketing may have a start and an end date, but Social Media is a continuous process. I’m 48 years old and I appreciate the fact that my parents are STILL there for me when I need their help or advice. I’m grown up, married with children, and yet my parents are still able to “parent” me at times.

    But, like good Social Media community members, I’m thrilled to be able to help my parents out and give back as well!

    • Awesome, thanks Ken — and you’re so lucky to have your parents there to guide you. I’m truly looking forward to hearing my son say that about me in a few decades. I hope I’ll be there! :)

  • Nat Bourre says:

    What a great article – fun and so true! As a work-at-home Mom with a toddler and an 8-week old, and still working on social media projects for my clients, your comments resonated with me 100%.

    As a Mom of an almost 3-year old who speaks a lot, but the sentences don’t always make sense, I often find myself communicating with him to put his thoughts into context. With social media, if you’re not there to listen, you might miss opportunities to put misconceptions about your brand or organization into context.

    Love the article and will link to it from my blog. But it might take a few days as I hold baby in one arm and 1-finger type with the other (very slow process). I’m sure you can relate ;-)

    • Congratulations Nat! I hope you’re not working now! Then again, yeah, there really is no vacation. I forgot to mention in the post that I worked through labor (yes, seriously — my husband has the pictures) and never took maternity leave.

      You have some true dedication. Again, huge congratulations on the birth of your baby!

  • I can totally relate. After more than 14 years and 4 kids, there are no vacations. The time you invest in the early stages will directly affect the results you see down the road. My wife and I were adamant that we would give our children all the help and support required to be successful in school. They are all great students now.

    Who knows? Had we let them try to figure out how to read and do math on their own, they may have turned out well anyway. Why leave that to chance.

    Like raising kids, you need to be proactive with social media. Always be there for your customers to support them, help them, and educate them. The rewards will be worth the effort.

  • Joydeep says:

    Awesome a very creative way to explain it (:

  • Eric says:

    yea time flies. i’ve been watching your blog for almost 2 years and this is the first time to comment.

    your daughter (hope i was right :) ) is lovely

  • Alexandra says:

    Ha-ha! Really loved reading this :) I’m glad it’s working out and you can even find great subjects like this one in your private life. I would be interested in reading what social media taught you that you could use in your personal life (not necessarily as a mom), is that too far fetched? :)

  • Heather says:

    Thanks for the great post~ I loved the analogy…I now can say I have 3 kids!

  • I have four kids. Love the comparison…. it is SO true :)

  • Marcus says:

    This is so sweet. I agree with many of the other commentators that the personal touch and the sweet analogies make this an outtanding post. I am in the happy position to takke both sides of your advice. I am somwhat interested in social media (actually more from the anthropological, tribal, perspective) and in a few weeks, I will also be a father.

  • Tola says:

    Wow!! This makes me want to have my own baby, real baby, lol! But patience is a virtue, so I’ll wait, some.
    But really I admire all you blogging mummies! I honestly pray I’ll have to strength to do what you guys do when the time comes…

  • Suzanne Vara says:

    Tamar

    Happy 1st Birthday to David. Working with a child lurking is never easy. My son is now 5 and while his “baby” needs are less his big boy needs are more. There are no vacation days, no sick days, no signing off for a few hours when it comes to parenting. It is incredibly rewarding but also a lot of work that we never really pay all that much mind to when we are doing it. I mean we do not blog about how many diapers were changed, being up all night caring for our children when sick but with business we do talk about how much we did that day or the lack of sleep we got from working.

    Social media is not easy and does require a lot of time and nurturing to build relationships and garner trust. Just because you have a blog does not mean that thousands of people will stop what they are doing and run over and read it. It takes time to get noticed and that is through constant hard work and knowing what the audience needs are.

    Both are incredibly rewarding when all is going well. We hit hiccups with our marketing efforts and also our parenting skills. Hard work always reaps the best rewards but it does not happen overnight.

    @SuzanneVara

  • Roger Wilson says:

    Funny, I just yesterday heard a representative of an agency that creates integrating campaigns for clients in which online social media is an important component, describe getting into it as “like having a child” meaning a making a very expensive, long-term commitment. Thinking back to my kids, I thought…”but it was fun and easy though to get it started!”

  • Suzanne Hilgert says:

    Very insightful post. I coming from opposite side, kids in their 30′s and new to social media marketing. Another parellel I would add is adaptability. Change is a constant with kids and business, so be open, honest and willing to adapt as necessary. Also each child is an individual just like each customer is unique so acknowledge that and adjust. Everyone needs to be treated with honesty and respect, kids & customers. I enjoy your blog very much.

  • Deena says:

    Tamar, wow, for a few reasons.

    First, I always read about the importance of responding to everyone, at least trying to, but yet I almost never really see it. Amazing you responded to everyone here. It’s inspiring for me to see it because I try to do the same and seeing it from the other side, I realize just what a nice thing it is to do.

    Second, very nice blog post. It is a pleasure to hear about the two overlapping. Life really is not compartmentalized, or at least it shouldn’t be so much and it’s like a breathe of fresh air to see that here.

    And thirdly, you’re the one who answered my email to Mashable when my bro’s email went down. It went back up, thank God. :)

    I’m sure if you continue being yourself, you’ll continue inspiring!

    • Hi Deena! Great to see you again.

      As for responding here, I try my best! From experience, though, you’ve probably seen that email is faster :) I still aim to cover ground where I can!

      I’m so glad his account is back up and running! woot!

  • Annika Häuser says:

    Thank you for this nice and personal post.
    I am just working on a social media strategy for my thesis in a German company. Surely, I’ll have to convince a lot of people. Luckily most of them have young children. So your post gave me a perfect inspiration how to reach their minds :-)

    • Annika, that’s super cool. Let me know what they say in response to these juxtapositions!

      • Annika Häuser says:

        Your juxtapositions worked it! After lots of facts about social media and impressive data, your parenthood analogy put a smile on the faces of the young parents in the end.
        Thank you :-)

  • Tamar: first of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!

    Second, love all of the lessons here! DJ from Bluesky wrote a similar post on this today wherein he referenced the fact that sometimes, we learn best by doing. When you practice doing (executing), the gains are noticeable.

  • Juliane Uhl says:

    Dear Tamar, thank you fopr that post. I am a mother of a 10month old girl and I am trying to get back to work with social media management. After I read your book I was trying what you wrote. Now I created Mr.Fanning on Facebook and his blog. He is going online today. I really hope it works and I get contacts on facebook, cause that would mean I am getting a job. Thank you for letting me see my potential ;-)

  • Like so many others, I loved this post too. Sorry for commenting earlier only on Buzz, but I hope you don’t turn off your blog posting to Buzz. Sometimes I see your postings first in my RSS reader, sometimes in Buzz. It just depends on where I go first, but I always enjoy your posts. Oh, and thanks for sharing your pic of your cute son with us.

    Keep up the good work on both the home front and here.

    • Jon, no worries. I turned off the posts on Buzz mostly for the issue that Google doesn’t truncate the posts. Meanwhile, I always share my posts via Google Reader and at least doing so encourages people to click on the post on Buzz. :)

      Plus, with that Stacy spammer on the post, Buzz is getting less and less appealing everyday. :(

  • Becky says:

    Hi Tamar,
    While I don’t have kids, I do feel a tremendous sense of involvement with the people in my various communities/networks that does fit well with your analogy of parenthood :) Using social media can be an all-encompassing, overwhelming experience… Not only can it bring us closer to others, but also provide a mirror to ourselves if we are willing to look. Social media tools can allow us to grow, can even help us to accomplish great things together (i.e. supporting causes), if we are using them with awareness.

    Really enjoyed this post!

  • Juliane Uhl says:

    Hi Tamar, I just wrote an article, kind of ironic on the topic women and social media management. It is in german. Just found not much women here writing like you do as a female expert. Maybe some of your german followers are interested.

  • Becky says:

    haha, that would make a great headline at Mashable!! can you imagine? I can tell you must be a good mom, since you so diligently watch over & respond to our comments… :)

  • Aalis Morel says:

    A really interesting and personal post…and it’s all so true!!

  • Oh, so true, so true. And hilarious to boot. As always, Tamar, you’ve hit it on the head. Doesn’t David agree?

  • niri says:

    Love it! I actually think there are so many more similarities than we imagine. It must be why I feel so spent all the time, 2 little ones and the web that does not sleep, yikes!

  • Superb insights, Tamar.

    All of us, who also wear the parenthood hat, couldn’t agree more with this.

    As you rightly said, social media marketing is more like parenting and less like anything else. It does take all the patience, persistence and perseverance in the world to stick through with both – but those are exactly the ingredients that make a different in the long run.

    I added a few more insights from my experiences to your list – and that of Nat – on my own blog post today.

  • All I can say is that this is a great point. Love it!

  • thank you so much for this post! It really helped me because I had a baby two years ago and only now am I getting back into my artwork, I started a blog and was feeling overwhelmed by how much work I have to do to get back into everything. Nurturing my career is important to me now so the parenting analogy helped a lot. Makes me feel not so overwhelmed because, just like things have settled down with my kid, it helps me realize that eventually, things will work out with my work too!

Comments are closed.