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New UK Mothers Seek Support from Social Networks, Parenting Forums

Country is going through a baby boom

October 8, 2013

During the transition to motherhood, females in the UK up their digital engagement markedly. More than for anything else, these women are looking to social media to act as a surrogate support network, according to a new eMarketer report, “UK New Mothers: Social Media as the New Support Network.”

The UK is in the grip of its biggest baby boom since the early 1970s, and there are currently around 4.5 million new mothers in the UK. New mothers are looking for parenting and work-life information, and advice and opinions in the digital realm. They can engage so heavily with digital because they are well equipped to do so. According to a May 2013 study from BabyCentre, over 80% of UK mother internet users (expectant females or mothers ages 18 to 44 with children under the age of 8) owned a laptop, and the same percentage had a smartphone; 51% possessed a tablet.

Device Ownership Among UK Mother* Internet Users, May 2013 (% of respondents)

With so many UK mothers overindexing on mobile device ownership and social networking, the two were bound to converge. BabyCentre found that among new mothers in the UK who used a smartphone or tablet, 89% checked Facebook at least weekly on their mobile device, a response rate higher than for any other mobile activity done at that frequency.

And according to a September 2012 Bounty study, social networking and blogging sites were the digital media UK new mothers accessed most, cited by 79% of respondents. By comparison, eMarketer put social network user penetration among the general UK population in 2012 at just 47.7%.

Aside from the obvious networks of personal connections on Twitter and particularly Facebook, these women regularly frequent communities on parenting sites. And the UK market is awash with such groups.

Profile of Select Parenting/Community Sites Aimed at UK Mothers, 2013

These sites, referred to as “community sites,” are clearly very popular, but UK mothers tend to use them to fulfill different needs than more general social networks.

In a November 2012 study conducted by YouGov for Diffusion, higher percentages of 18-to-44-year-old internet-using mothers in Great Britain contributed to online forums and accessed parenting sites weekly than visited children’s or parenting brands on Facebook with the same frequency.

Online Activities of Mother Internet Users in Great Britain, Nov 2012 (% of respondents)

This information gathering and opinion sharing also informs buying decisions. When BabyCentre asked UK mothers who went online their reasons for making a purchase, the most popular response—cited by 64%—was that another mother had recommended that purchase on a parenting site.

Clearly then, community sites carry a great deal of clout. Indeed, according to Diffusion, 40% of mother internet users in Great Britain bought a product after reading a post, comment or review on an online parenting site.

Community sites, then, represent a clear opportunity for marketers, but they should be approached with a degree of caution. New mothers see these as places of unbiased, collective wisdom. Product advice needs to be spread word-of-mouth—the trusted source is the community’s opinion (that is, those of the mothers themselves). On general social networks, however, new mothers are often happy to engage directly with brands if it means there’s something in it for them.

The full report, “UK New Mothers: Social Media as the New Support Network,” also answers these key questions:

  • Who are the UK’s new mothers, and how big is the market?
  • How are new mothers in the UK using digital? Which channels are most popular?
  • What challenges and opportunities do UK new mothers’ digital behaviors present to marketers?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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