By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Whether she was right to do what she did isn't why I brought this up: The point is that she tweeted and, though the Maytag rep said it wouldn't matter, it mattered so much that other brands were kissing her feet—Bosch had offered her a free washing machine, but instead of accepting it for herself, she donated it to charity. And Maytag was actually worried that one little mommy might become a huge problem. As Armstrong herself puts it, "Social media is a beast that's trying to be controlled by PR and can't be."
More validation of the marketing power of bloggers came in December when the Federal Trade Commission began requiring full disclosures in all blog posts. There's even a hash tag requirement of #spon (sponsored), #paid (paid) or #samp (sample) on sites like Twitter that have character restrictions. Failure to disclose your relationship with a brand in a blog post can now get you an $11,000 fine. Until now, the FTC had just kept the same old guidelines for disclosure that it had since 1980. But with Twitter and Facebook and blogs, consumers now have the power to create their own marketing channels. Social media has taken the power of marketing influence from the advertiser and given it to the user. The rules of the game have changed.
Armstrong does run ads on her site, and her online community is sponsored by Suave. I asked if getting brand sponsors has forced her to censor herself a bit, change the way she writes to please her sponsors. She said, "Getting paid to do this has made my writing and work ethic more serious, but it hasn't censored me at all." A favorite e-mail from a reader responding to the addition of ads to her site said, "Your website sux sweaty goat balls now." Her response: to change the masthead of the site to read, "This website sux sweaty goat balls." That's right. Mommy 2.0 comes with added "goat balls" vocabulary. She said a few advertisers dropped at that point, but that it was totally worth it.
Some of her readers say that by making money off her blog with these sponsorships, she's exploiting her family. I say that if you can make a legit salary so that you and your husband can both stay home and get free counseling from your readers by writing about your kids, ride that choo-choo as far as it'll take you.
When I asked Armstrong if she plans to use her powerful power mom powers for good or for evil, she just laughed. But it was a nice person laugh, not a "bwa-ha-ha-ha" Dr. Evil laugh, so I figure we're all safe. All kidding aside, marketers beware: These moms may seem super cute when they show up to your product samplings with their brag books, but they can knee your brand straight in the grundle with one tweet.
Yet I hope to a higher power that these women keep blogging. Because if there's one thing I know about having my own kid, it's that I'm a total child-rearing expert up until yesterday. As far as today goes, I'm totally screwed.