Trial and Error with Mom Blogging
When I had the idea to create Tinley Park Mom it was to serve what seemed like an underserved and under stimulated community, Tinley Park moms.
Why make this a mom blog? Why not make a site where Tinley Park Moms can write for each other? I’ll set up the website and we’ll be like a newsroom, writing by Tinley Park Moms for Tinley Park Moms.
Rather than having me chronicle my first pregnancy and rambling about my very specific life, I wanted to create a platform for Tinley Park moms to connect, share, inspire, and provide support to one another. Being new to Tinley Park I don’t know where to go and meet other moms-to-be like myself. I can’t tell you where the best place to get pizza is, I haven’t tried them all. I’m new here. But there in lied my fist mistake, thinking that my being new and unfamiliar would mean I can’t provide any value to Tinley Park Moms. Me being new to Tinley Park makes me the best person to write about life in Tinley Park. Discovering Tinley Park through fresh eyes can still do exactly what I set out for the site to do: inform, inspire, and facilitate connection and support.
The Original Idea of Tinley Park Mom
I ventured to create a site (rather than a blog) that functioned as a discussion and writing forum for soon-to-be moms and established moms, who live in Tinley Park. A cross between a Huffington Post and Reddit, only more feminine and profound. Through sharing opinions, experiences, and stories I hoped to create a supportive community of moms who could lean on each other and hangout in real life ultimately. I was such a dreamer. In the first 4 and a half months I only heard from three moms who were interested in writing perspective articles. Only one of those three moms wrote an article, but it had to be attributed as anonymous.
Growing Pains in Growing An Online Community
I purposefully kept my face and personality out of the Tinley Park Mom brand strategy because I was trying to create something bigger than myself, something that allowed for diverse voices.
Tinley Park Mom‘s social presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (which I find kind of boring actually) resulted in 203 followers althogether. Average engagement low.
I noticed all these great discussions on the large southwest suburban Chicago Facebook groups, so I thought why not also create a Facebook group for the Tinley Park Mom page too? A Facebook group by definition is meant to facilitate discussion, and since I was trying to start a conversation between Tinley Park Moms, it was a no brainer to create a Facebook group.
To grow the Facebook group I tried to get the word out by posting on the three most popular local Facebook groups: Moms of Southwest Burbs (Tinley, Orland, New Lenox etc), Tinley Park Moms-Support & Bonding and Citizens for a Better Tinley Park. I didn’t post frequently about Tinley Park Mom or the articles I was writing (only once a month), but I think there was a collective feeling in those groups of “why do we need that?” and “who is this chick, who does she think she is?” Everyone was comfortably settled in those groups, asking them to come to my group I’d need something new and really unique to entice them. Embarrassed that those posts got no engagement, I deleted all them from those Facebook groups yesterday.
I was encouraging unfiltered, free mom speech, but I don’t think I understood moms enough to know whether they would be comfortable speaking freely in a new social media group. When my husband, dog, and I were hit by a car this summer and our dog jumped out of the window from fear, I got huge engagement from those groups when I asked for help to find our dog (she came back home the next day thankfully). A lost dog post obviously is the type of content that grabs people whether they can relate to losing a pet or not. It’s clear what you’re intentions are in posting about your lost pet, but Tinley Park Mom I fear came off as “selling” something or trying to compete with what those groups had already successfuly achieved.
I thought there was a need for a place where Tinley Park Moms could find each other and have the kind of conversations that only women can have with each other. Was I just going about creating this community thing the wrong way? Or have we become a culture overstaurated with mom blogs?
What I Missed and What I Learned
If there’s one thing I learned in all this, it is that moms are cautious. My impression is that if a mom is going to share anything online that’s raw, it’s going to be anonymously somewhere no one local could identify them. Moms don’t want their neighbors and locals they might run into thinking negatively of them. Moms do seek realness, but the courage required to be real themselves is scary, hell I’m scared to write about myself on here but I’m doing it because I want to be understood and I want to see if by example I can inspire women to get the same courage. Moms are information seekers and want to help other moms, but moms have a lot at stake and there needs to be a clear incentive for them to give of their time and self.
Now I see that I misunderstood the first rule of mommy blogging: trust. What I came to learn in these past 4 and a half months of building this “brand” is that in order to create this platform for Tinley Park Moms I need to earn their trust. In order for a complete unknown to gain trust I need to share pieces of myself first before anyone else.
So this October I decided to change course and make Tinley Park Mom about me; a chronicling of my unique mom experience. If I should attract a larger audience through this approach and inspire the kind of active discussion and connection between moms I was hoping for, maybe then I can revisit the idea of asking moms to write for the blog again.
What I think would make a mom comfortable to write honestly about anything personal would be knowing they will reach a large established audience that has proven to be supportive, and that in writing honestly they will not be compromising their reputation or employment. Asking moms to take time out to write something for free, out of a desire for connection and community went nowhere fast. People do things for free that they believe in and I didn’t convince moms that this was something worth believing in or writing for. Maybe moms thought this was just some get rich quick scheme where they write all the articles and I monetize off them, which was not my intention. I actually planned on giving each mom who wrote an article a special present to show my appreciation. The only mom I got to give a present to was the mom who wrote that one article anonymously in the beginning. She got what Tinley Park Mom was trying to be, but like me (and all of us really) she has a limited amount of influence over whether other moms would take the leap of faith and participate in a very new and pure hearted idea.
Tinley Park Mom has a small readership audience, about a dozen people pop in to see what’s new when a new article get’s published. I’m not Oprah, I’m no influencer, but every influencer started this way. I’m just a pregnant, twenty-something who moved away from her family to her husband’s hometown and is trying to make a difference in her new community in a big way. In trying to be different and not do what other mom blogs do, I missed what makes a mom blog popular and valuable: personal. I might not be the best person to ask about all things Tinley Park, but I’m going to get there, and in the process moms who are new to Tinley or whom haven’t fully explored our southwest Chicago suburb fully will discover Tinley Park with me.