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Consumer packaged goods  rms are all over social media. Retailers have some serious catching up to do

If you don’t know about mommy bloggers or their widening influence, you should. These moms aren’t just talking face-to-face with a few friends about their experiences in stores and with brands. They’re practically shouting it on Facebook, Twitter and on their own blogs to thousands of other moms. It’s “word of mom,” says mommy blogger Lena Almeida. Almeida gets 10,000 to 15,000 unique visitors per month on her blog, Listen to Lena, and the women following Almeida trust her opinion on products and services.

It’s not just other moms reading Almeida. Increasingly, large consumer packaged goods companies are talking with bloggers and individual consumers online. For instance, Maple Leaf Foods now has a department dedicated to social media, says Brendan Kenalty, Maple Leaf’s director of digital and social marketing.

Joining the conversation is paying off for Maple Leaf in interesting ways. It’s able to talk to moms directly about products and also get their opinions. Recently, mom bloggers gathered at a conference in Toronto called, ShesConnected. The event drew a who’s who of Canadian mommy bloggers. Also there: Maple Leaf’s digital marketing manager, James Clarke. I was impressed to find that all the bloggers knew who he was. And he knew them.

Maple Leaf
Kraft and Maple Leaf engage with mommies through YouTube and Twitter, which is paying off for them in brand awareness and loyalty

In fact, Clarke makes it his business to know what is on the minds of mom bloggers. “These social influencers really do have the pulse on the heartbeat of Canada,” he told me. “They are on a day-to-day basis interacting with thousands of people across the country,  elding questions from real people who are also buying our products. So they’re the perfect people for us to be speaking with for developing content that is relevant and engaging.”

Kraft is another CPG active in social media. Gillian Fripp, director of consumer relationship marketing for Kraft’s What’s Cooking brand, says that as consumers have become more active in social media over the last two years, it’s become an absolute must to use this medium. “It’s about trying to reach our consumers with relevant content where and when they’re at,” says Fripp. To meet their customers’ needs, Kraft recently launched the What’s Cooking YouTube channel, and an online video recipe library.

But while CPGs are embracing social media, retailers appear to be behind the 8 ball. Too bad. Much like community service initiatives, social media is good for your business in a way that can’t be quantified on a balance sheet. “The time you take to engage with an audience doesn’t show immediate ROI, but longer term it does. It’s not about one-night stands between brands and influencers, but a long-term commitment,” says Donna Marie Antoniadis, co-founder of ShesConnected.

To be fair, a few retailers have drank the social media Kool-Aid. Walmart recently partnered with two influential mommy blogger sites: Erica Ehm’s Yummy Mummy Club, and Sweet Potato Chronicles. “If we can get the influencers and bloggers with a lot of followers, who are able to change consumer habits, to start talking about us and to engage with them, it’s worth its weight,” says Rosalyn Carneiro, Walmart’s public relations manager.

Meanwhile, Toronto-based Longo’s is looking to further expand its social media presence with the help of iDig, a social media marketing agency. Longo’s spokesperson, Rosanne Longo, already writes a blog, and Longo’s is on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. “It all leads to increased brand awareness and trust and over time, loyalty. It gives us a chance to keep the pulse on what the customer is really looking for,” says Longo.

And this is where independents aren’t using this platform to their fullest advantage. They, more than their corporate counterparts, thrive in an environment where customer-centered service is what it’s all about. What better way to do that than a daily dialogue with customers, even if it is online? Social media isn’t going away. It’s up to retailers to jump on the social media bandwagon. Or get left behind in its dust.

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