Mom Bloggers Make It ‘Real’ — Offline

For yesterday’s issue of Engage:Moms, I wrote an article about the growing trend of moms online to meet “live-and-in- person” offline. I thought I would share it with you, below.

Much has been said about the growing community of moms online. Far less has been noted about the fact that for many of these blogging, tweeting, Facebooking moms, their favorite activity of all is connecting offline – not virtually, but in person, or as they often call it, “IRL” (In Real Life). 

While the momosphere began as a way to communicate with other mothers across the country without ever leaving one’s home, more and more moms are indeed leaving their homes and often traveling long distances for the sole purpose of connecting in person with other moms they have “met” only online.

The overwhelming success of BlogHer — the largest conference for women bloggers in the U.S. – best illustrates this growing movement. Fifteen hundred moms from across the country car pooled, plane hopped, ticket begged — and tracked down sponsors to cover their expenses — to connect, in person, with women whom they knew only through reading their blogs, exchanging comments on posts, or communicating in 140-character bursts.

Why? I decided to ask some members of our Team Mom review network for their stories. My favorite response was from Candice Bloom of Mom Most Traveled. Candice traveled to the BlogHer conference in Chicago not from its suburbs or even, like some others, from as far away as the East or West Coast. Candice took a 30-hour flight from Vietnam, where she has been working since 2002 for a non-profit organization. She made the journey not to get a taste of home or to visit family, but specifically for the conference itself.

“We had decided not to visit home last summer because of financial issues. (But) For the conference, I packed up my two children and flew from Southeast Asia to Chicago. I left my husband behind in Asia and we were apart for 2 months.”

To make this BlogHer trip possible, “I worked hard and made a lot of sacrifices. We also reordered our lives so that we could have more freedom to spend money on things like blogging conferences. We moved into a smaller house so that the monthly rent would be cheaper, and we also went from two cars to one.”

The reasons: “I decided that blogging is really what I want to do. I want to ‘make it’ as a blogger!” As part of that, “I wanted to meet every one face to face. I wanted to meet my online friends and make new friends. I wanted to connect with PR professionals and other bloggers whom I admire. I think it gives you more credibility as an online presence. Also the shared memories of the experiences you had at the conference can bond you together. Kind of like being in a sorority (not that I was ever in one).”

“The internet is such a big place,” she continued, “it takes effort to make real connections.”

In response to this mom-blogger passion for connecting offline, mini versions of BlogHer are popping up all over – the Type A Mom Conference in Asheville in September, the Blogalicious event in Atlanta this month, and more. On Nov. 11 in New York City, Child’s Play Communications is hosting its second annual Bloggers Brunch, an opportunity for bloggers and sponsors to connect one: one in an intimate atmosphere. At last year’s event, dozens of mom bloggers met live and in person for the first time, talked about their lives and why they blog, drank a considerable number of mimosas, and had a terrific time.

Individual companies also understand the value these moms place on live meetings. Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee, among a growing list of others, have invited groups of bloggers to their headquarters or to special events. While the companies’ goal in those cases is to launch products or promote the brand, the appeal for the guests — along with recognition and an expense-paid trip — is largely having the chance to spend time with each other.

In recent years, the term “social” has undergone some redefinition. Once a description for a live event or an outgoing person, it became the nomenclature for what appeared to be the opposite — a virtual experience, where traditional “sociability” was tossed out the window. Now, it’s beginning to shift back — all of which suggests that one way or the other, moms will find a means to connect with each other.

Moms, how important do you think it is to meet other mom bloggers in person? Why? What have you done to make it happen?

Marketers, what programs have you created to bring moms together while promoting your brand?