It’s Women’s History Month, an annual recognition of the many women who have made contributions to history, culture and society, and I find myself thinking about the impact women have had in the marketing space, particularly in recent years with the rise of influencer marketing.
This vibrant, growing industry was essentially built by women out of a desire for community.
When blogs began gaining popularity, an explosion of blogging-specific resources and platforms soon followed. In retrospect, we see this as the dawn of “Mommy blogging,” now considered an archaic, borderline-offensive, catch-all term for any woman who has written about parenthood (or even those who have never written about parenting, but just happen to be a mother).
Many of these women spent years gaining access to corporate boardrooms or securing law degrees before becoming parents. Suddenly, they were home with young children and feeling isolated, often without the kind of family support on which our mothers and grandmothers relied to teach parenting skills. Aided by advancements in technology, these women began creating online spaces where they could express their joys and frustrations, get help and forge connections in new digital villages.
Before I founded Sway Group, I, too, was a “mommy blogger,” as were the women who were to become my business partners. We shared our daily struggles and triumphs while seeking advice to get us through the more difficult stages of parenthood.
Along the way, we also started making money.
This organically-grown movement became a thousands-, then millions-strong, network of women listening to other women. Not surprisingly, brands took notice. Bloggers began getting paid for affiliate advertising and banner ads, product reviews and giveaways.
Women created conferences to help each other be more successful in the new world we had created, and as our numbers grew, so did the opportunities. These bloggers didn’t intend to spawn an industry—some of us just wanted advice on making potty training slightly less awful—but many women were able to transform their blogging hobby into a full-time job. We became entrepreneurs and founders of startups with a built-in brand: our authentic selves.
Since those early days, what we used to think of as mommy blogging has gone through a lot of changes. Gritty personal essays morphed into attractively staged, aspirational content; the digital environment as a whole changed from long-form web pages to shorter posts, mobile-friendly content and social platforms. Influencers now often operate in a niche, like food, fitness, crafting, fashion or interior design, and demographics have largely changed from Gen X to millennials.
Ever since the beginning of blog monetization, women have been the content creators, creative directors and media vehicles. We realized we could pick and choose what brand messaging we wanted to share and how to share it. Over time, our own preferences and voices helped transform ineffective advertising (or problematically sexist, objectifying or stereotypical portrayals) into powerful personal stories that other women could connect with.
The seemingly-humble mommy blog became a force when brands and advertisers recognized the value of these women who had built such strong, loyal audiences. Banner ad-driven blogs written by women paved the way for today’s thriving influencer marketing industry, which has grown to encompass a seemingly infinite number of verticals. Instead of showcasing static ads, influencers now execute complex content marketing campaigns, seamlessly weaving brand messaging into their own relatable voices.
These days, we are seeing trends starting to shift back toward the authenticity that drew us 2002 moms together in the first place. Whether it’s via Instagram post, blog update or YouTube vlog, women continue to keep the conversation going. While plenty of men have joined the influencer marketing space, women still dominate the numbers, and women are more influential when it comes to key levels of engagement: On Instagram alone, women get five time more likes than male posters.
There’s no doubt moms continue to be a hot marketing target: After all, modern mothers control 85 percent of the household purchases and have a U.S. spending power of $2.4 trillion. They spend over eight hours a day online and trust the recommendations of like-minded women above all else.
Thankfully, parenthood is no longer the one defining factor of today’s female influencers. Growing platforms and audiences help women continue to broaden and diversify representations of who we are and what we care about while building and participating in like-minded communities. Brands don’t have to sit on the sidelines hoping to throw an ad into the mix; by partnering with the right influencer, they can become part of a valuable, ongoing conversation.
As platforms evolve, so do influencer trends. Some, for example, are adding to the carefully-curated images they create by leveraging mediums like Instagram Stories to foster even more intimate, authentic connections. At the same time, seasoned influencers remain focused on higher production value with set designs and professional recording equipment.
We’ve seen many changes to the landscape over the years, but the one constant is growth: Influencer marketing is showing no signs of slowing down.
We at Sway Group know we have women to thank for driving the evolution of the entire social influencer marketing industry, which has become a vital part of today’s marketing mix. During Women’s History Month—and every month—we recognize the many accomplishments of women across every industry, and we celebrate the many women who participate as business owners and content creators in this fast-changing influencer marketing industry.