Influencers have a new way to up their earning power: getting pregnant.
As evidenced by a surplus of babies and toddlers populating the Instagram photos, videos and branded content of leading content creators, coupled with a number of them revealing pregnancies late last year, a new era in the ever-evolving social media landscape is taking shape. Influencers of all types are using their clout to redefine what it means to be a mother today. This group doesn’t fit into the traditional “mommy blogger” mold, nor do they want to. They are creating a new type of hybrid influencer who can forge a connection with their audience and create a dialogue about motherhood in a way that a celebrity never could — while at the same time collaborating with some of the largest global fashion and beauty brands.
Ferragni’s Instagram post from Oct. 28 in which she told followers she was having a baby with fiancé Fedez, an Italian rapper, has racked up 1.1 million likes and nearly 30,000 comments to date. In the post, she wrote “Hey guys…We’re gonna be parents soon. I’m 5 months pregnant now and we can’t wait to meet baby Ravioli. Life is beautiful.” For comparison, a post from a day prior had 322,000 likes and 1,300 comments.
Charnas turned to Instagram to surprise followers with news of her second pregnancy, followed by a much-anticipated “gender reveal” post weeks later. (It’s another girl.) And Medine, who has been very open about her trouble conceiving, penned a deeply personal essay, “A Different Kind of Pregnancy Announcement,” on her web site, Manrepeller.com, letting her loyal readers know that she is pregnant with twins. Combined, the three have a total of about 15 million Instagram followers.
“The end of 2017 and early 2018 is all about the Blogger Baby Boom. It’s no joke,” said Emilie Tabor, founder and chief marketing officer at IMA, an influencer marketing agency. “These influencers all of a sudden are announcing through their blogs [and social media] that they’re pregnant. There are girls who created live Instagram Stories during their baby sonograms.”
This is not to say that influencers are getting pregnant just to benefit their businesses. But if they are looking to increase engagement and boost their likability and “authenticity,” a welcome byproduct of pregnancy — and by extension, having a baby — is a flood of likes and comments, especially on Instagram. In fact, embracing motherhood has become a surefire way to drum up social dialogue anywhere content creators have a presence, whether it’s on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, a blog, etc.
This could be helpful to content creators who are perpetually working to maintain, and hopefully grow, their engagement — an unremitting task that often involves agents, consultants and publicists who advise on anything from reinvention of image — while still remaining consistent — and brand partnerships to posting cadence and what events should be attended. Because as anyone with even the scantiest knowledge about the blogosphere knows, a dip in engagement could be a precursor, or even tantamount to, irrelevance.
Ferragni’s pregnancy announcement saw markedly higher engagement than a typical post. And in the weeks and months following, the 30-year-old superinfluencer has documented much of her new journey, posting Instagram Stories that included the number of weeks she was pregnant and which produce — once he was an avocado — represented the size of their unborn son at the time. On Nov. 30, Ferragni posted a video showing an ultrasound from a recent doctor’s office visit that garnered more than three million views.
But why a boom now?
Tabor believes there’s a “very solid” reason: Influencer culture really kicked into high gear about seven years ago and most of the bloggers who were 22 to 24 years old then are around 30 years old — the age when many become mothers.
“The followers have been growing with these influencers, [and] these followers are now also ready to have babies. They have grown together with the influencers and so they like the fact they’re writing about having kids and the experience. We see quite a lot of influencers who used to be fashion or food [bloggers] who are now mommy influencers and their followings have naturally grown,” Tabor noted.
Concurrently, the “mommy influencer” market has grown tremendously and influencers once siloed into either the fashion or beauty categories — or a combination of both — are segueing into a white space, creating a new market altogether. Enter the aforementioned hybrid “fashion mommy” or “beauty mommy” (or “travel mommy,” “lifestyle mommy” and so on) influencers who are reinventing what motherhood looks like. The first iteration of mommy bloggers, for instance, weren’t flitting to designers’ destination resort shows all over the world or creating clothing lines for retailers like Nordstrom as the current ones are now.
Tabor speculated that previously, when fashion and beauty influencers’ content was only relegated to these areas, they couldn’t speak to a broader audience. But now this group appeals to a wider swath of the population because, yes, they are still fashionable, but that’s not all — they are also mothers.
A recent example Tabor cited was a partnership with high-end stroller line Stokke, one of a handful of “mom brands” her firm has worked with. The brand teamed with fashion-forward influencers to create content illustrating their daily lives in various urban hot spots — a partnership that never would have taken place several years ago.
The single biggest difference for the hyphenate “fashion mommy” set, though — versus Mommy Bloggers 1.0 — is that even though raising her child or children is her first priority, it’s not her only one.
Take Chriselle Lim, who’s creative director of Cinc Studios, a creative agency and studio she cofounded with longtime business partner Lauren Fong. Cinc Studios specializes in visual, digital and social communication for brands in the fashion, beauty and lifestyle space. In its first few months the studio has already linked with brands such as Valentino and Viktor & Rolf.
“Motherhood is really the topic where people seek a lot of advice. There’s peer-to-peer recommendations and advice [available online], and it’s something Millennials really seek. That’s why a lot influencers who have become mothers have grown their followings and are becoming more popular,” Tabor said.
Besides becoming “more popular,” there are myriad ways becoming a mother can impact an influencer’s business including diversification of audience, the types of branded partnerships that become available and work travel schedules. (Many maintain they travel less since having babies and some opt to bring their kids if they travel for fashion week.) Motherhood can also serve as a stepping stone to building a “lifestyle brand” that encompasses more than just representation of a single category.
Nothing is fake anymore. When you become a mom, you are who you are. I don’t have time to post bulls–t posts. It’s all about being who I am, what I’m actually wearing and the difficulties of being a mother.
On the whole, everyone interviewed — experts, influencers and the agencies that work with them — agreed that the positives, which include higher engagement and a stronger connection to followers, far outweigh any of the negative effects having a child could have on one’s business. The main concern is a change in audience.
For some very fashion-centric content creators, it could be jarring for photos to vacillate from head-to-toe runway looks to newborns in bassinets, and to others, the change could be a welcome one that humanizes the particular influencer. It all depends on how one looks at it.
Charnas admitted having Ruby “definitely got me a different audience.”
“A lot of people who just followed me for pretty pictures and outfits — they weren’t vested in other aspects of my life. They were following me to get outfit inspiration. It was easier to lose those kinds of girls when it became more about a lifestyle than just fashion,” Charnas said.
She hasn’t rebuilt the portion of her audience who deserted once motherhood became front and center but something else happened: Charnas’ engagement soared, and to her, that trumped any lost followers.
“Nothing is fake anymore. When you become a mom, you are who you are. I don’t have time to post bulls–t posts. It’s all about being who I am, what I’m actually wearing and the difficulties of being a mother…and being able to have other women relate to me on such a new level. It made them feel closer to me and my engagement got much stronger,” Charnas added.
She clarified that fashion and beauty are still integral to her life – and content – but she is mindful of not turning her feed into strictly mommy content. She makes sure to balance fashion posts with Ruby posts.
Lim maintained that motherhood definitely “humanized” her online persona, which prior to Chloe was strictly fashion and beauty content with an emphasis on luxury. (Her current non-Chloe related content remains luxury focused.)
When asked if she lost any followers when Chloe became an integral part of her content, Lim replied: “I don’t think so. I’m sure that there are people out there that are completely not interested in it, which is fine. [But] for the most part I don’t feel like I lost. If anything, I feel like I gained a lot more.…It was less personable [before], and I think after becoming a mother, I’m open about my experience and hardships and what I’ve learned and am relatable now to a lot of other mothers, especially new moms. It’s helped me and got me a whole new audience, it definitely gives a new audience to my content.”
Interestingly, she’s experienced a series of engagement shifts with followers, starting with heightened excitement and social actions surrounding any posts featuring Chloe that trumped fashion content. But now that the initial pregnancy and baby stages have concluded, Lim sees “pretty balanced” engagement between fashion/beauty and family photos and videos. When she wears a particularly standout outfit, such as the David Koma dress she recently donned to the British Fashion Awards, it will get more likes than a “typical Chloe post.”
Lim has also witnessed a 180-degree flip in the perception of motherhood online since being “one of the first wave of influencers getting pregnant” four years ago, when she felt like she was on a “lonely island.”
“When they looked at me, they [brands] said, ‘She’s a fashion and beauty girl.’ When I got pregnant people were a bit more sensitive to partnering with me when I was expecting, which is fine because it was just something new for everyone. Business naturally slowed down a bit, but you have to remember this was four years ago and four years in the digital space is like 40 years,” Lim said.
Fast forward to today: Brands have come around and Lim remains one of the most in-demand influencers to work with, for both fashion and beauty firms, including some children’s brands. Lim, who’s candid about trying to leave Chloe out of branded partnerships as much as possible, pointed to Bonpoint as an exception.
“There are…a few others where we obviously did bring in Chloe, but I’m very sensitive about putting Chloe in front of the camera just for different partnerships and opportunities. If it comes organically and if people see her on my Stories it’s me wanting to share with my followers what I’ve been up to, whereas if it’s a partnership, it’s great but I don’t want it to seem like I’m consistently using her as a tool,” Lim expressed.
Medine, due in seven weeks, saw the audience of Man Repeller expand when she started writing more candidly about her fertility issues, but since getting pregnant, she doesn’t feel a substantial shift — or really any shift at all — in the quality or profile of follower across social or on her site.
“It’s hard to say what actual motherhood will bring for my trajectory as an influencer so to speak,” Medine said. “And I don’t know how I will or won’t change following birth, but I can’t see myself abandoning a lot of my core interests because I’m a mother.”
James Nord, founder of Fohr Card, an agency that works with 34,000 influencers and hundreds of brands to use data to maximize influencer marketing strategies, said it’s rare for a brand to not want to work with an influencer just because she’s a mom. The few times brands have wanted to “go after a downtown club girl” or “party girl” are perhaps the only times where partnering with a content creator who was a new mother didn’t apply.
Overall, Nord has witnessed motherhood opening influencers up to other types of campaigns or working with brands in a different way than they could have before. Brands are increasingly seeking more depth or to collaborate with “someone who is more than just an influencer,” and this could mean they are also an editor with a sizable following or a mother who was an influencer first.
“For us, what’s interesting [is] we’re running 60 campaigns right now for brands and you always need new angles and new stories and new ways to talk about similar products and it does add another layer of storytelling,” Nord said.
He quickly added: “That comes off sounding crass or ‘Oh, babies are a nice new story,’ but if we’re speaking purely from a business perspective and how brands are thinking about it, it is true that adds another layer of storytelling that you can speak authentically on — and that’s what brands are looking for. If you’re a skin-care brand and you [an influencer] say, ‘Hey I had a baby six months ago so it’s been amazing but hard — and this product has been so helpful to me,’ that’s an authentic, real story that people can connect to.”
What it comes down to, Nord said bluntly, is figuring out the function of a product and then finding a content creator who can tell that story authentically.
And it’s that word that continues to come up: authentic. It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about influencers today without mention of the “A” word, which upon its utterance will most likely elicit an eye roll from whomever it’s directed to.
So without using the “A” word, Eva Chen, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram, is often lauded for the “real” approach she takes to sharing motherhood on the social platform, where she posts the ins and outs of raising three-year-old Ren and Tao, who is almost one. Chen’s content spans a competition with a friend to determine who had a chubbier baby; the frustrations of trying to get Ren, a picky eater, to eat the lunches she prepares, and most recently, photos of herself watching the Golden Globes in a puke-covered sweater. Followers were disappointed when Chen’s daily series of unswaddling son Tao came to an end because he grew out of his swaddle.
My very strong feeling about it is that motherhood can be very unified and uniting, and so maybe you couldn’t relate to someone in any way or any part of their life before because you just couldn’t relate. But everyone can relate to the 2 a.m. feed or being dressed to go out and getting a jam hand on your white trousers.
Beyond the entertainment factor, many of her Stories are service oriented and contain advice, tips or new products she’s come across. Chen is flooded with inbound messages about anything baby related — food, toys, clothing, decor, etc. — and she sometimes dedicates posts solely for replies to parenting questions. This was the impetus for a newsletter she recently launched, which was promoted via Instagram, that often covers parenting related topics.
Why she resonates with followers is because, in addition to owning two pairs of glitter Chanel boots and attending the brand’s fashion show during Paris Fashion Week, she posts about the tantrum Ren had when she met Santa Claus or the moldy apple she found under Ren’s bed. To the Instagram user base at large, Chen’s life is like their own — the mold and tantrums — but better — the Chanel.
The complete opposite resonates, too. No matter how much people complain about the lack of “reality” on social media, users are still drawn to the perfectly packaged family moments: images rife with dreamy pastel color schemes, hair and makeup done at all times, smiling moms and babies and matching outfits. In other words, what’s referred to as “goals” in social media speak.
Amber Fillerup Clark of Barefoot Blonde is the embodiment of this flip side. Clark, a native of Salt Lake City who now resides in Arizona, has amassed 1.3 million engaged Instagram followers who can’t get enough of her picturesque life. This is not to say that Fillerup Clark’s content lacks authenticity; it’s just a different approach to documenting motherhood online.
A scroll through her feed will reveal Fillerup Clark’s signature cascading blonde braids, which led to creating hair extension line Barefoot Blonde Hair, and her family, which consist of a handsome husband and adorable children, Rosie and Atticus. Both children are featured frequently in her content, often in corresponding outfits that look more editorial from a magazine than a mother’s day-to-day life.
“Being a mom has never been sexier. It’s never been more ‘goals.’ And I don’t think motherhood was always ‘goals’ for everyone, certainly not if you had to fit into specific molds of either the power woman or the stay-at-home mom,” said Erika Bearman, an independent branding expert who is an adviser to Peanut, an app that connects moms who live in the same neighborhoods based on common interests.
Bearman has been entrenched in the social media space since creating online personality Oscar PR Girl on Twitter and Tumblr nearly a decade ago when she joined Oscar de la Renta to head up the brand’s communications. Oscar PR Girl became the “youthful embodiment” of the American fashion house, which was one of the first luxury brands to really embrace social media.
But for her, one of the most powerful things social media has managed to do isn’t fashion related. It’s shown her that motherhood isn’t so black and white. There’s gray, and a lot of it.
“It used to be that before social media we couldn’t see all different types of mothers — you only had two examples. But now, what’s amazing is you see all different types of women doing motherhood in all types of ways everywhere on the spectrum. You don’t just see these polar stereotypes of motherhood anymore. I used to think that you either stay at home with your child or you have a high-powered career and that’s what you’re focused on,” Bearman said.
She couldn’t see herself in either of those roles and until now felt like there was a lack of modern mom icons online. Fortunately, the digital space has allowed for the representation of every version of motherhood, from women who incorporate their kids into their work to women who have created a business out of this role.
There’s obviously a line. When I’m out [in public] I don’t let people take pictures of [my child]. It’s the only question I get now.…I have to say no.
A few that fall into the latter category are Rachel Blumenthal, a mother of two who started Rockets of Awesome, a kid-centric apparel start-up that sends members boxes of personalized clothing for their children four times a year; Sylvana Ward Durrett and Luisana Mendoza, former Vogue editors and mothers who started children’s e-tailer Maisonette; Nasiba Adilova and Miroslava Duma started children’s e-tailer The Tot to give mom’s a destination where they could buy safe baby products, and Michelle Kennedy, founder of year-old app Peanut.
Kennedy applied learnings from her time working at dating app Bumble to create a similar experience for moms where they could swipe up to “wave” at someone they want to match with and, hopefully, befriend. Another user only knows if you “waved” at them if they also “waved” at you. From there, the pair can start messaging in the app to schedule a time to meet up. Peanut uses the short questionnaire users fill out upon signing up to help suggest potential matches.
“My very strong feeling about it is that motherhood can be very unified and uniting, and so maybe you couldn’t relate to someone in any way or any part of their life before because you just couldn’t relate. But everyone can relate to the 2 a.m. feed or being dressed to go out and getting a jam hand on your white trousers,” Kennedy said of her impetus for creating the platform. “Everyone can relate to those types of occurrence. I think that part becomes unifying — and there is human interest there. We want to know how women that either we relate to or that we aspire to be like are dealing with those everyday issues.”
While on maternity leave, she began to seek out other women who were doing the same thing she was — being a mom — but ones who also shared similar lifestyles, interests, hobbies and professions. Kennedy didn’t want to just hang out with other moms because they were moms, too.
The app’s services are available in London, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C.
“Social media, I think, gets a [bad rap] because everyone says, ‘People are living their best life,’ on social…but it also opens your world to finding support from other people and if used in the right context can be a good support tool and what Peanut does is amplify that support. We’re giving you a network to support you,” Kennedy said.
But even as influencers post more content about being moms along with all their other activities, doing so raises a major issue: privacy — and not theirs (since most of their lives stopped being private long ago thanks to their blogging) but of their children.
Being a mom has never been sexier. It’s never been more ‘goals.’ And I don’t think motherhood was always ‘goals’ for everyone, certainly not if you had to fit into specific molds of either the power woman or the stay-at-home mom.
Influencers have to decide how often they want their kids to appear in content, and some have even created accounts for their children. A few years ago, for example, @queenofjetlags’ Noor de Groot created the account @princessofjetlags for her daughter and was reportedly met with backlash from her community. (Nothing has been posted from the @princessofjetlags page since 2016.) De Groot’s situation is in the minority for sure, as it’s become the norm for influencers to create private Instagram pages for their children — for friends and family only — that they could use when they come of age.
But how much is too much exposure for the children?
There is a wide spectrum of opinion, from those who show the daily minutiae of child-rearing to those who refuse to even put their kids’ faces on social media. On one end there is Ferragni, sharing portions of her doctor’s appointments, while at the other there is Adilova, who shields her nine-month-old and three-year-old childrens’ faces from the camera or sometimes places emojis over their faces.
“Motherhood is such an important part of my life, and also what I do for work, so it’s very natural for me to constantly be posting my kids in my Stories or pictures. I don’t put their faces on there because I feel like it’s their decision. I don’t want to make that decision for them.…It’s their initial choice to be present or show their face or take photos. I don’t know if my kids are going to grow up and be shy; I don’t want to decide for them,” Adilova explained.
So why post pictures of your children at all if you’re going to cover their faces?
Adilova maintained that content she posts on Instagram is more about motherhood and her family, life as a mother and her childrens’ presence in her life — not a photo of them wearing an outfit.
“It’s more like, ‘This is my daily life’ and they’re a part of it all time,” she said, very clear that she refuses to put their faces on social media because she doesn’t want their photos “plastered all over the place.” “If I had a private account for just friends I’d post them. I feel like I’m tapping into their privacy and it’s not fair.”
Charnas’ take is entirely different.
She’s spent the past almost decade documenting every facet of her life — from engagement, to wedding, to pregnancy — and built a cult following in the process. Charnas believes that if she stopped sharing once she gave birth, it would be going against the very reason more than one million people follow her in the first place.
“There’s obviously a line. When I’m out [in public] I don’t let people take pictures of Ruby. It’s the only question I get now. No one asks for a picture of me. I have to say no,” Charnas said.
Her guidelines: She doesn’t indicate where she lives, include geotags in her posts of where she is at that moment or show where Ruby attends classes or school.
“It’s inevitable that if I post in the park [Madison Square Park] that people will come over. They feel like they know Ruby and that’s the reason they want to come and take a picture. They feel like they know her,” she continued.
She started her career when she was in college and her followers have also seen her through all the stages of her adult life — engagement to wedding to delivery room. But even she sees limits.
“We’ve accepted that this is part of our life. We’re cautious what we post, and when we post and we still want our followers to get a glimpse of my family life, but you also have to set some ground rules when you’re putting your personal life and family out there,” Lim stated.