Especially through mom bloggers.
The Modesto Bee says the California Raisin Marketing Board—the folks who brought you the Dancing California Raisins —are now "going after the mom bloggers and using Facebook. Studies show that women tend to to use social media tools more than men."
The town of Galena, Illinois invited eight mom bloggers from Chicago in April for a look-see. "We're specifically, this summer, going after family travel, and showing how the destination is an affordable place to bring your family, from throughout the midwest," says the head of sales and marketing for the convention and visitors bureau.
Chris Simms started the Lazy Dog Cafe chain of restaurants in Southern California in 2003. This former manager at P.F. Chang's and graduate of Cornell's hotel school now runs seven stores. Lazy Dog has been able to grow in a recession because Simms says he provides more value than your typical Cheesecake Factory. The average check at Lazy Dog is $15.50. ?
A year ago, Simms discovered the power of the mom blogger. He credits the PR firm he hired, Frank Groff, with the idea of bringing in bloggers to the opening of a Lazy Dog Cafe in Thousand Oaks, CA. "They definitely saw the trend of where consumers were getting their information," he tells me. Simms also invited reporters from traditional media, but he believes the bloggers generated so much positive buzz at the opening that he invited more of them to subsequent openings. At the launch of the Lazy Dog Cafe in Irvine, Simms invited Suzanne Broughton, the Lead Blogger for OC Family/Inland Empire Family publications , who has nearly 2,000 followers on Twitter. "I am a professional blogger...a rare breed," says the 42-year-old stay at home mom who used to be a TV producer before she became a mother. ?
Broughton started blogging a few years ago, but she says it wasn't until recently that PR professionals recognized her value. "A year ago I couldn't get invited to anything, now I get invited to everything." She says she gets up to 50 invitations a week to restaurant openings or spas or other events.
Lazy Dog owner Chris Simms says he doesn't have any concrete evidence that bloggers help drive business, but "we just hear it a lot." He says bloggers "get it from a guest perspective." Suzanne Broughton is an admitted fan of Lazy Dog Cafe ("Their social media voice is one of the best"), and she says her blog readers "accept the more personal view knowing that your biases are out there...they feel like they're getting authentic news this way." ?
But do bloggers—especially mom bloggers—ever say anything critical?
"I never really say anything bad," Broughton admits. Instead, if a place is too crowded for kids, for example, she'll advise readers "don't bring a double stroller, or try to come when it's not too busy". She says there is some justification to criticism that bloggers may go easy on companies which ply them with freebies. "Mom blogging, and blogging, is still progressing," Broughton says, adding that PR firms have thrown "a wide net" to offer access to just about everybody. That should change in the next year, as quality rises to the top. "It's not done cooking yet."
Cooked or not, Chris Simms has no complaints. Tuesday night he sponsored a blogger party at the Lazy Dog Cafe in Irvine, and Suzanne Broughton was planning on being there. Simms says the only criticism he's received from bloggers has been for individual dishes. "We had a blogger say the apple crisp we make did not have enough topping," he says. "We actually put more topping on the apple crisp because of it."
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