The growing number of influential Weibo commentators are increasingly opening their own online shops or promoting products.
Wilton Enterprises beefs up its social marketing with mom bloggers.
As marketers and web merchants chase the cutting edge of social media, Wilton Enterprises, an online retailer of cake decorations and related products, is enjoying the rewards of following an ancient if mundane truth: Sometimes, moms really do know best.
Since July, the 80-year-old company has marketed itself through eight blogs written by, and appealing to, mothers. The goal of the Mom Ambassador program is not to directly make sales through links from those blogs—in other words, this is no affiliate marketing program—but to build brand awareness and interest in Wilton’s products among web visitors likely to have a natural interest in what the company calls food crafting.
Participating bloggers periodically visit Wilton’s offices in the Chicago suburbs, where they meet with product managers and learn food crafting tactics, says Cindy Rosenwald, Wilton’s Internet content and community manager. For instance, Wilton can help bloggers be more creative about using sprinkles on cupcakes or applying icing on cookies. Bloggers also get peeks at new products. The bloggers then share those tips and other information with their readers, which in turn generates interest in Wilton. The mom blogs might link to information on the Wilton site, but blog visitors cannot buy Wilton products via the blogs, nor are the bloggers compensated for sales.
“Social marketing, including the Mom Ambassador program, allows us to get closer to our consumers,” says Eric Erwin, Wilton’s vice president of marketing and product development. “We are especially pleased because the people we have attracted through our social marketing have become truly involved members of our community.”
Wilton cannot say exactly what kinds of returns the blogging program has brought in, but Rosenwald says it is a major factor in several areas of growth. In 2010, Wilton increased by 35% its web site visitors, and experienced a 400% jump in Facebook fans, to nearly 170,000. Product views on the Wilton site have increased 25%, too.
Among the main reasons to use the mom blogs is to increase credibility, say Rosenwald and at least one of the bloggers, Shannon Gosney, who operates a web publication called The Mommy Files.
“For moms, everything is word of mouth, and credibility is very important,” Gosney says. “You’re more likely to read the blog of somebody who shares their actual experience. I feel like being honest in posts gives me credibility. If I have a bad experience with a product, I’ll put that in my blog. Ultimately, when a blogger is honest and they say they like something, I’m going to check it out because I believe them.”
Rosenwald says Wilton might add more bloggers to the program this year.