Photos: Babywearing in Africa

It’s no secret I love spending time with mothers and their babies while traveling. That, no doubt, is why I have a running theme of babywearing photos from Africa. I took these photos of moms and their little ones while I was in Tanzania and Zambia these past two years.

I always love seeing how snug the babies are to their mothers and how colorful and pretty the fabrics are.

I used to wear my girls when they were babies, but never this effortlessly!

Babywearing in Africa

Babywearing in Africa

Babywearing in Africa

Babywearing in Africa

Babywearing in Africa

Be Ye Not So Flattered: Always Protect Your Interests

As a blogger sometimes it is so flattering when a big media company comes knocking at your door that you simply want to work with them and work with them now! I’ve been there and done that and am here to tell you that you must always protect your interests no matter how attractive an opportunity looks.

Recently I was asked to write weekly for a large, well-known Web site. I was happy to be asked and was glad to have fallen on their radar. But when it came time to read and sign the contract I had to laugh and laugh I did!

The contract contained a lot of double speak as well as their right to own my content perpetually worldwide. How funny is that, friends? So, in other words, they could repackage my content and publish it in a book and I wouldn’t see a dime from sales. Or, they could take my content and re-run it on a Web site they might launch five years down the road. Needless to say I turned down that faux opportunity because I have to protect my interests first and foremost. No potential opportunity is worth the possibility that your content will be used over and over again without your consent or proper payment.

I want to tell you a quick story, one that I have told before. When I was a newbie blogger a big media company came to me and wanted me to join their ad network. I was so thrilled to be speaking with this company that I lost my marbles. I became a part of their ad network and signed an exclusivity contract, and signed away my traffic to them in the process. Sure, I was able to write for said media company and it was a great byline, but I was stuck in a contract for a year that limited my earning potential. We all know how ad networks can do that sometimes.

This is all to say that while I have learned a lot along the way and can share my advice with you I had to walk through the fire first before becoming wiser. Always remember, don’t be flattered just because a brand or media company comes your way. Carefully weigh the pros and cons then make a measured decision.

Why Mom Bloggers Shouldn’t Work for Tweets and Links

If you’ve been following this blog you know I have embarked upon a project wherein I started a new, anonymous blog and I am using what I know to grow it. That said, I am learning quite a lot walking in the shoes of a new blogger.

One thing I am learning quite quickly is PR firms treat bloggers differently. If you are a new blogger, there seems to be an assumption by PR firms that we will do anything for traffic or to work with the brand they represent. Anything! In the PR firms’ defense, this is probably their experience with many novice bloggers.

So, I want to say this as clearly as I can: Even though you may be a new blogger, that does not mean you have to work for free just to work with brands.

Remember this basic rule: If a brand or PR firm thinks you’re good enough to work with from penning posts for their site, writing sponsored posts, or working as a spokesblogger, then you are good enough to be paid for your work. Do not work for link backs from microsites, brand sites or blogs, Facebook pages, or tweets from brand Twitter accounts. I don’t care if you started blogging yesterday and I don’t care if you think the traffic will put your blog in front of more people. Why set that precedent for yourself; that you’re simply not worth paying.

So, here’s what you need to do: You build up a great blog by nurturing it and making it a must-read by your peers and visitors who happen to stop by. You don’t need to be Houdini to do it, but you do need to have mad scientist skills. That is, you need to always be in the proverbial laboratory, thinking up creative ways to share and write content for your readers.

Then, once you have built a community around you and your blog is full of stellar posts, then you can work with brands and expect to be paid for your work where it is a win-win for everyone, not just a win for the brand and no-win for you!

It really is that simple!

50 More Mom Bloggers With 40+ @Klout Score

Quick Links | 50 Mom Bloggers With 40+ Klout Score | Measuring Mom Bloggers One Score at a Time | 50 More Mom Bloggers With 40+ @Klout Score

As promised I created another list of mom bloggers whose Klout score is 40 or higher. As aforementioned, there were tons of mom bloggers I completely omitted last week which is wholly unfortunate. To remedy that, I put a call out and have now created a crowdsourced list of mom bloggers who master the social web.

One thing I have maintained for years is there are pockets of influence throughout the mom blogging community. Our community is vast, diverse, and ever-changing. For that reason, I wanted to recognize as many mom bloggers as possible for their efforts.

1. BookieBoo 74
2. QueenofSpain 65
3Geekbabe 65
4. CarlaYoung 64
5. MommyNiri 59
6. BarefootFoodie 59
7. Looneytunes 58
8. MamaSpohr 57
9. MariaMelee 56
10. KristineBrite 56
11. PhDinParenting 55
12. Crissy 55
13. Sthrnfairytale 55
14JustPrecious 55
15. DanielleSmithTV 54

16. MamasMoney 54
17. StacieinAtlanta 53
18LittleTechGirl 53
19. Sahans 53
20. RedneckMommy 52
21. Fakeginger 52
22. Mommywords 51
23. MyGoMom 51
24. UnxperiencedMom 51
25. Adventuroo 50
26. ComplicatedMama 49
27. Military_Mom 49
28. Kristysf 49
29Jennyitup 49
30. ErikaLehmann 48

31 Cuponeando 48
32. ShellThings 48
33FromTracie 48
34. TheMommyologist 47
35. LosAngelista 47
36. MollyinMinn 47
37. MooshInIndy 46
38. DigitalKadi 46
39. VDog 46
40. Jodifur 46
41. Thienkim 46
42. MomDot 45
43. MusingsFromMe 45
44MultitaskingMe 44
45. GaBabyMaker 44

46. OurOrdinaryLife 44
47. JoeyFortman 44
48Mami2Mommy 44
49. RockDrool 44
50. ManicMother 44

+ More Mom Bloggers

holleeinbalance 43
mindfulmomma 43
itsmoments 43
tothink 42
noflashcards 42
momagenda 42
Moomettes 41
misslori 41
gograhamgo 41
momfluential 41
gingeranderson 40
lifewithoutpink 40
twincident 40

Measuring Mom Bloggers, One Score at a Time

Quick Links | 50 Mom Bloggers With 40+ Klout Score | Measuring Mom Bloggers One Score at a Time | 50 More Mom Bloggers With 40+ @Klout Score

Last week as you may know I published a list of over 50 mom bloggers who have a Klout score of 40 or higher. 40 is significant because according to Klout, that is where the 80th percentile lies.

Much discussion ensued about the relevancy of lists and algorithms and perceived versus real influence. I love discussions like this because it makes our community think critically about this thing called influence and how it affects the way we engage with others online.

As I’ve mentioned before, I like Klout. While I know their scores are far from perfect, I believe Klout does have a robust algorithm and is onto something. It is important for us as mom influencers (no matter our score) to understand where the digital community is headed so as not to be left in the dark a year from now when Klout potentially becomes the standard by which we’re all measured.

That said, when companies start attaching scores to people, it gets tricky — fast! Oftentimes true influence cannot be summed up in a mere two-digit number, but sometimes it can help brands get pretty close to figuring out if someone can push the dial on brand conversations. And even though Klout has started measuring influence in a way no one has done before, we all understand that in the digital world we have to look at numbers to see how we fare online. Google gives us a pagerank. Compete and Quantcast try to give our traffic numbers (although they are generally very low). Yahoo! gives us backlink numbers and Twitter and Facebook keep track of those who follow and friend us and even how many people add us to their lists. It’s all about numbers! To be honest, Klout may even dictate that we change the way we use Twitter and Facebook just the way Google changed the way we write post titles and labor to up our traffic numbers.

Something is certain: I do not believe Klout will have the power to influence the people companies ultimately work with every time opportunities arise. In many instances, Klout may play a big part in how our influence is perceived. It will depend largely on the brand and their understanding of our community.

One of the things I really like about Klout is it creates parity in the mom blogging community. It gives one score to every mom no matter the type of blogger she is. I believe someone who primarily posts links and product reviews can be just as influential as someone who engages in heavy conversation on Twitter. There are different strokes for different folks and I can appreciate that.

On a side note: After creating the first Klout list of mom bloggers I put a call out for more mom bloggers with 40+ Klout. I received a ton of names and will create that list this weekend. Be sure to keep an eye out for it.

Why Top Mom Bloggers Have Greater Earning Power

If you ever want to know how to make money as a mom blogger then you have to think like a businesswoman! Every blogger, no matter the niche, who continually works with brands is constantly sought out because they:

a) produce quality work
b) consistently deliver
c) are versatile
d) are always willing to learn
e) are careful about their online reputation and
f) know their worth

If you don’t have a business background it can be extremely intimidating to hear that you need to start thinking like a businessperson. The hard truth is that unless and until you start thinking like a businesswoman and become a “big picture” person you will continue to struggle to flip your blog into the business you envision. It’s that simple.

There is a reason a lot of the same mom bloggers work with brands. It’s because when they wake up in the morning and look at themselves in the mirror they see a savvy businesswoman, not just a mom blogger. They understand that perception is everything and they have made the conscious decision to perceive themselves as “more than” than “less than”. Some mom bloggers take several years to recognize the transformation from mere blogger to businesswoman. In fact, it took me several years to see it. I clearly followed the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hour rule except I sped up the process by working as a blogger more than 20 hours a week and I am still working to improve the work I do.

The great thing is brands are recognizing, too, that these moms are businesswomen and treat them as such. The brand-blogger relationships are symbiotic because brands call on these moms time and time again for campaigns and in return the moms do everything in their power to produce the results the brand is looking for. These moms are not selfish in their outlook. Rather, they think about the brand and what they can deliver first before thinking about the pay-off in the end.

These mom bloggers are versatile. They can tweet about a live event or put together a video series for a brand. They can pen creative content for a sponsor or drive their readers to get involved in a cause they believe in. They are never limited by always working to their strengths. Instead they figure out ways to bolster their weaknesses if that means a better outcome for a brand.

These mom bloggers are always learning and never get stuck in a rut. When they hear about the latest blogging trend or social networking site, they open an account right away or ride the trend wave for a while. They test everything because they are regarded as trendsetters and wouldn’t be caught not “in the know”. How do these bloggers know when new trends and sites come about? They are keen observers and don’t miss a beat.

Additionally, these mom bloggers guard their online reputation and keep it safe. They understand that people are always watching and that brands base who they work with by the reputation bloggers create. These moms understand the true power of their words and influence and don’t abuse it.

As I write this I am definitely thinking of several moms who embody these traits and I love them for it! I’m sure you know mom bloggers like this as well. They serve as great examples to us all.

What the Next Year Holds for Mom Bloggers + Brands That Court Them

Flying cross-country affords me the rare opportunity for uninterrupted thought. I started this post while flying home from LA on Monday and put the finishing touches on it today.

While it is always difficult to accurately predict what will happen in the next year for mom bloggers there are already actions in place that make me think the following trends will either emerge or pick up.

One thing I know for certain is the collective voice of blogging moms will remain one of the strongest in the country. No one can tell a brand’s story like bloggers. That’s what makes our community so unique and influential. Even though millions of moms currently read blogs, millions of moms don’t blog yet. We’re not even close to the saturation point of mom blogging because thousands of new mom bloggers come into the fold every month.

That said, the upcoming year will be even bigger than last and the year before that with opportunities for mom influencers.

The following are predictions for the next year as I see them. Make sure  to share what you think about the next year for moms who blog.

1) Select Mom Bloggers Will Really Make Money: There is already evidence that 2010 has been a big year for some mom bloggers. Moms are really starting to make money either with one big partnership or with several partnerships facilitated with various brands as either ambassadors or spokespeople. This trend will certainly continue as moms demand more and as other blogging industries, particularly beauty, fashion and food look to mom bloggers to continue to set the earning trends.

2) The Year of the Financial Services: I wrote in a recent post that the financial industry is lagging in their outreach to mom bloggers along with the pet and automobile industry. After talking with a few financial brands and seeing evidence already on blogs, look for the financial industry to kick into full gear especially as the holiday season gets underway.

3) The Year of PR Selectivity: Parts of the PR industry are starting to realize there are definitive nuances and hierarchies in the mom blogging community and a blanket approach to outreach is not as effective as being selective about the bloggers they work with. Some have even figured out that when newer, smaller bloggers are pitched a product and run with it, influencers won’t touch it. Look for PR firms to tighten up their outreach efforts in the coming year.

4) The Cream of the Crop: As much as this pains me to write, there will be a gradual separation of the influential bloggers and those who are trying to make their way up the mom blogging ladder. At the end of the day, brands need to deliver value to their clients and most brands equate value with hard numbers. Bigger, more influential bloggers have larger numbers. It’s hard to measure influence with relatively small numbers.

That said, however, there is still ample room for movement for new mom bloggers who have a stellar work ethic and professionalism to boot. Many small bloggers will be relegated to working with small companies while influencers will continue working with large brands.

5) The Rise of the Mom Blogger Spokesperson: More moms will be offered spokesperson duties (not ambassador roles) with brands either on a campaign by campaign basis or for an extended time. Brands are realizing mom bloggers are less expensive than celebrities, but possess more authenticity and are definitely more Net and social media savvy. This circumstance can result in a win-win situation for bloggers and brands.

6) Non-Mom Industries: Industries that traditionally do not market to moms will begin inching their way into the community as they seek to discover new ways into the family bank account. Most of these industries have only heard of the infamous “mommy bloggers” and will want to figure out how to tap the market to drum up buzz.

7) Product Reviews Will Still Rule the Space: I know this will make many of you unhappy, but product reviews aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They are too valuable to both bloggers and brands. There are still large companies we all know that are scared of working with bloggers. I’ve talked with a few, in fact. There are also small regional PR firms with large national accounts that are just getting wind of the mom blogging community and want to tap into blogging promotions. Product reviews are here to stay, at least for another year.

8) The Year of Tricky Gimmicks: Some companies and marketers will seek to take advantage of novice mom bloggers by promising a lot, but in actuality the return is not much at all. Yes, this has been going on for years, but the approach is definitely getting more sophisticated. False opportunities promise mom bloggers a lot, but  really turn them into free endorsers for huge brands.

9) SEO Wars: As more brands fight to snag the most influential bloggers, moms will look to stretch their influence by using SEO tactics to up their blog rankings and get on the radar of brands making keyword searches for bloggers in various niches.

Using SEO to get better search rankings is one thing, but the war over keyword bidding is an interesting phenomenon to watch. Look for mom bloggers to increasingly stake their claim to blog searches on Google.

10) Brand vs Brand: The mom blogging community is much smaller than most of us realize. That means brands need to outdo their competitors in the space to really establish relationships with key bloggers before their competitors.

11) Best Behavior: As the stakes rise and there is more to gain and to lose, there will be less mommy spats on Twitter, Facebook and on blogs and a more professional tone will arise from those whose brand is intimately tied to their earning potential.

12) Blog Skins: I have no idea why mom bloggers have perpetually stayed away from skins as a source of income. I foresee daring mom bloggers getting paid to run skins as a revenue source.

Amended to Add (9/2/2010):

A word about skins: Yes, they are essentially sponsored backgrounds. Check out Perez Hilton’s advertising page and see examples of skins he has run. I think this would be a very smart way for mom bloggers to also earn money.

13) Agents: I mentioned this in my last prediction post and I still believe this to be true: As mom bloggers are presented with more spokesperson jobs, they will need skillful agents to negotiate their contract.

14) Sponsored Bloggers: I still envision forward-thinking brands sponsoring a group of bloggers, paying them really well, and signing them to an exclusive contract to work with them only for at least a year. This is a perfect fit for those bloggers who want to work with brands, but don’t want to write tons of reviews and who don’t want to be a part of a lot of mini campaigns, but have a throng of loyal readers. I think it could really work and push forth a new revenue model for bloggers and an innovative way for brands to work with influential moms.

What trends do you think will emerge over the next year?