Baby-led weaning. Montissori. Gentle parenting. Container time. Ms. Rachel. Sleep training. Sleep regression. Fourth trimester. Sleep sack. Scrunchy mom. Default parent. #ProofOfMom.
If you’re not a parent, these words and phrases mean nothing to you. As a career social media marketer, I had a finely-tuned algorithm that served me a feed of meme content, trends, social commentary and pop culture. My curated feed kept me among the first to know about rising trends. My algorithm became my superpower. I even created a whole newsletter based around surfacing the best stuff on the internet for folks who don’t have the time to spend all day searching for the latest news, trends and jokes. (Subscribe to Internet Brunch if you don’t already!)
When TikTok arrived, it was over. That algorithm was — and still is — everything. It got to know me better than I knew myself. And when I became a parent, like everything in my life, it transformed irrevocably.
Becoming a parent completely changed my real life: less going out, less socializing, less sleep (so much less sleep). To the extent that I could research it, I knew what I signed up for and expected many of these changes.
But I didn’t think of how becoming a parent would impact my digital life. My algorithm completely rewired around parenting content, predicting my next question before I could ask it. Digitally, I became a parent before I figured out the mom thing IRL. Steeped in internet culture, I uncovered a corner of the web far more nuanced and dynamic than I could have imagined pre-parenthood.
Content creation has become increasingly democratized and accessible over the past decade, with the early days of the pandemic accelerating the mass gravitation toward TikTok. At every turn, TikTok anticipated my next step. It served me newborn content during my third trimester, the download on starting solids and baby-led weaning just before my daughter’s sixth month, and first birthday party themes around her ninth month.
The universe of parenting content has forayed into video and exploded over the past three years, peeling back the layers of the filtered how-tos that filled mommy blogs in the early 2010s. Folks paralyzed by the unknown bore an entire genre of content designed to combat constant decision-making fatigue, but with a shiny silver polish.
Today, you can walk through everything on a TikToker’s baby registry, watch a GRWM as a mom starts her day with her three-month old, see each meal a creator’s nine-month old eats in a day and spend a day in the life of a mom and her toddler. In less than a year, my feed became a deluge of hyper-transparent content dedicated to advice, pseudoscience and products — so many products.
As a marketer, I can’t help but observe the potential for brands to tap into this community. Capital C creators exist, but micro influencers carry the majority of the weight in this corner of the internet. Small but mighty communities hang on every video, eager to learn what will come around the next turn.
TikTok “collapses” the purchase funnel with its pithy #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt tagline. This rings especially true with new parents, a demographic uniquely primed to consider any product that could make their lives easier. Brands have an opportunity to not only sell, but serve as the answers to key questions parents ask, especially as TikTok creeps toward the search engine category.
Most social media starts as a platform for youth culture. Think of Facebook in its era of digital camera album drops, Animal Farm and poke wars. Now, it has become democratized, a place where folks of all ages can go to air their grievances — or sell furniture.
TikTok has begun to follow a similar path. So many marketers hold out on TikTok, thinking of it as a Gen Z-only platform. But this perception may stem from lack of exposure. According to Sprout Social, only 18% of marketers use TikTok, and their decisions in most instances, are rooted in hearsay as opposed to first-hand experience. In reality, 60% of millennials on the app are parents. While brand accounts may not be taking off, with only 24% of millennials following them, partnerships with micro influencers have the potential to drive awareness and, ultimately, sales.
So, brands: take note. TikTok users look to the examples of micro influencers with kids a few months older than their own, planning for their child’s next stage.
Lauren Nicholas is director and discipline lead, content and community at Big Spaceship.