Mom influencer Smriti Khanna thinks about her daughter’s safety and comfort before signing up for a campaign that involves her
Image: Courtesy Smriti Khanna
Soon after her marriage, Shilpa Kamdar had to prioritise her family because her mother-in-law, who was diagnosed with cancer, needed her attention. After her demise, exactly a year later, in 2014, when Kamdar gave birth to a girl, she was confined to her home and missed meeting her friends. It was then that she started posting images of her daily life, which included pictures of her daughter. It kept her occupied. People started appreciating her posts and leaving comments. At that point, it did not occur to her that she could make money from it. She thought she could promote some products and get a few things on barter. Gradually she started building a follower base. When her daughter was three, she arranged a professional photo shoot and received an overwhelming response. Her passion soon turned into profession, and as brands started approaching her, she started creating content with the help of a team of freelance scriptwriters, videographers and editors. After nine years, mom influencer Kamdar says content creation is her full-time occupation.
The concept of mom influencers began as an outcome of online mom communities, which were initially prominent on platforms like Facebook. These communities involved moms discussing parenting, exchanging advice and suggesting products. As Instagram became more popular, these mom communities evolved into mom influencers, who were initially opinion leaders or trendsetters in these communities.
“The trigger for the rise of mom influencers can be linked to the pandemic. With children at home due to lockdowns, moms consulted other mothers since they had to get creative with activities their kids engaged in. They also sought recommendations on recipes and practical tips on topics like meal ordering and managing activities during school hours,” says Aarushi Sethi, business head, Pollen (Zoo media).
Food is a top subject among moms, and brands seized this opportunity by partnering with mom influencers to promote their products.
“Initially, the focus was on advocating child-related products. However, this has evolved significantly and now encompasses a broader spectrum. Moms have emerged as a distinct target audience, and the content covers not only products for children but also beauty and skincare regimens for mothers themselves,” Sethi adds. Topics such as their skincare routines, hair care practices, jewellery preferences and clothing choices have taken centrestage, along with reviews of restaurants, hotels, and gaming arcades, to name a few.
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“As per data from affable.ai, over the past five years, there has been a surge of 101.6 percent in content production (across the globe) by mom influencers,” says Mehul Gupta, CEO and co-founder, SoCheers, a creative digital advertising agency. The platform analysed 84,975 influencer profiles on Instagram and determined that there are 4,371 Indian mom influencers active on the platform, generating in excess of 12,000 content pieces in 2022 alone.
“This indicates that the category has become one of the prominent ones and will be seen gaining prominence in India, with an increasing number of mothers sharing their experiences of motherhood on social media,” he adds.
Momfluencers started with a desire to connect, find support and exchange experiences in the complex world of motherhood. “It wasn’t about fancy products, but more from the point of view of bonding over shared struggles and triumphs. This authenticity is what draws people in making it a movement that keeps growing,” says Hitarth Dadia, CMO and partner, Nofiltr. “While most audiences referred to other categories of influencers for a source of entertainment, mothers turned to their content through the lens of utility.” Shilpa Kamdar says one of the biggest drawbacks of being a content creator is that they are taken for granted, as they stay at home and are often glued to their mobiles
Image: Courtesy @MOMANDTODDLERS
Hitesh Rajwani, CEO of Social Samosa, says, “The great thing about content creation as a career is that there are no entry barriers. All you need is passion, drive and consistency.” All you need is the willingness to share a significant part of your life with a purpose to inform, educate and empower.
However, Abhik Choudhury, chief strategist and founder of Salt and Paper Consulting, wants to err on the side of caution. He says, “The category of mom influencers is almost a decade old now. It’s not a new concept. Up until five or six years ago, a lot of brands actively looked for real ‘mom influencers’ who could offer parenting advice on kids’ nappies, cereals, their clothes and much more.” He feels the sheen is now wearing off, and, in the post-pandemic world, brands are looking at celebrity moms like Kareena Kapoor Khan and Neha Dhupia as influencers. “As much as ‘relatable credibility’ is important for the masses, eight out of 10 times the shine of ‘aspirational credibility’ eats it for breakfast when it comes to brand choice,” he says. Also read: From creator to entrepreneur: The evolution of social media influencers in India
A case in point is a digital-first campaign by the diaper company Huggies across platforms where mothers were spending most of their time for relevance and engagement. Between January and March, the digital campaign generated more than 560 million impressions, which led to millions of clicks.
Actor Sonam Kapoor’s post showed her taking the diaper challenge, demonstrating its soaking ability, which garnered more than 1.5 million views and 300-plus comments. Following which, 21 mom influencers took the challenge and posted the results encouraging moms to shift, and more than 100 micro influencers with a lakh of followers reposted the campaign to promote the challenge that Kapoor took.
So, do mom influencers with a smaller following stand a chance when pitted against celebrity mom influencers? Gupta of SoCheers believes that content is king, and smaller momfluencers have a chance to stand out with their unique strengths. “Smaller influencers often dive deep into specific topics, making their content super niche, thus appealing to a dedicated group of followers.” They’re seen as more real and relatable, and they’re great at building a tight-knit community through conversations. Plus, they’re usually more budget-friendly for brands, which is a win-win. “While celeb moms may have a broader reach, it depends on what a brand is looking for. Having said that, metrics and numbers play a vital role for brands to get the desired reach and engagement. And many brands like to mix it up, using both to get the best of both worlds,” Gupta adds. Satrupa Sharma believes in being vocal about her struggles and challenges, and not just sharing the ‘picture-perfect-make-motherhood-look-easy’ content
Image: Courtesy @DIAPERS AND LIPSTICKS
Sethi, who speaks from her own experience as a new mom, says, “I’m continually drawn to the idea of becoming a mom influencer. I’m eager to share the insights and advice I’ve gathered on parenting and the lessons I’ve learnt while raising my child.” Her support network consists of fellow moms and mom groups. “Whenever I have questions, need assistance or seek recommendations, I find myself turning to mom pages and influencers for guidance.”
So, how do brands that approach mom influencers to promote their products separate substance from chaff? “Bot-generated followers can be a concern, but engagement doesn’t lie”, says Dadia. “Smaller indicators like comments, shares and likes can help distinguish them from real users. With a strong sense of community, genuine mom influencers have been vocal about calling out fake influencers and filtering them.”
Being a mom influencer comes with its share of challenges and can be overwhelming at times. Managing a cranky child who won’t smile for a social media post, worrying about other household tasks, being present for parent-teacher meetings (PTM) or attending other commitments like birthday parties and other family get-togethers are just a few examples.
Mumbai-based mom influencer and content creator Smriti Khanna thinks balance is key. She says: “I can be preachy, but sometimes it’s tough to manage, and you just have to prioritise and choose one. You cannot manage everything at once.” Also read: Vani Murthy: Building a sustainable, low-waste army
Delhi-based mom influencer Satrupa Sharma says, “Dividing time between my responsibilities at home and my role as an influencer, as a mom juggling with various roles and responsibilities, I plan my day—in fact, the whole week—well in advance. I keep a planner and calendar handy where I make sure I don’t miss out on important events, like my son’s PTM and birthday parties.”
A bigger challenge that cannot be ignored is that in the ever-changing digital world, it is important to be aware of the risks that come with sharing on social media. This information is available to anyone to use without limits, particularly when a child’s image can be manipulated using AI and a deepfake can be used to exploit people’s vulnerabilities.
“I think the bigger issue is with kids. Your family is no longer a private concept because you chose to make it public. As adults, you accept that you are walking into a problem. With kids, they have not given you access. They don’t know what you’re making them walk into for brand-building exercises,” says Choudhury. While her role as an influencer demands an active social media presence, Sneha Paliwal has set a limit, as she feels it is bound to affect her children
Image: Shreyash Salavkar @HIGHSTREETMOMMY
Celebrity mom influencer and actor Smriti Khanna was embroiled in a scam on Facebook. Going by the name Laila Rao, the scammer promoted herself on Facebook and used Khanna’s day-to-day activities, with captions that read, “I am an investor, great mom and happy wife. I can help Indian ladies”, eventually duping several families into investing thousands in hopes of “doubling their money”. After this incident, Khanna has decided to reveal a little less of her personal life.
A mother of two, mom influencer Sneha Paliwal has been fortunate so far. “Till now, I have not encountered anything unpleasant. But I try to refrain from sharing a lot of personal content on Instagram.”
Kamdar gets around the problem by not posting her outdoor content in real time. “I try to post a day later because I believe that it’s personal information and I don’t want people to know my whereabouts.” Also, she does not post her daughter’s image on social media in her school uniform. “You don’t want anyone to know which school she is going to.”
Satrupa Sharma was trolled when she posted a reel which showed her breastfeeding. “When I had just started, trolling used to impact me a lot, but now I live by the good old saying, ‘Haters are going to hate’. However, I don’t shy away from getting back at the trolls if needed, which I did with my breastfeeding reel.”
So, are mom influencers here to stay? Sethi believes so. “It’s a dynamic field. The content is ever-evolving, with new lessons, schools, toys and activities for children emerging regularly. It’s a category with a long-lasting presence.”
“Till the time mom influencers are individually just looking for a better deal in the market, there will come a time when their followers will not trust them anymore,” says Choudhury. Consistency is key. “On Monday you can’t talk about a healthy lifestyle, and then, on Wednesday, promote a chocolate which has 50 percent sugar in it.”
Talking of ethics Choudhury, wants mom influencers to stand for what is right, which, he believes, is missing in the industry. “Of course, there is a rise of mom influencers, the same way there was a rise of cryptocurrencies. But just like crypto, only the legitimate 20 will remain in the market,” he says.
Mom influencers are, however, excited about the future. Sharma wants to build a mom community and turn it into a support system for mothers and women across the country. “I am planning with other mom influencers to do an India tour and make a difference for mothers from smaller communities too.”
(This story appears in the 03 November, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)