Becoming a parent is a life changing experience, and these days, social media is playing an increasingly significant role in that transition. How significant? Now that's an interesting question, and one which Facebook has sought to address. Partnering with Ipsos Media CT and Sound Research, Facebook's conducted an analysis of Facebook and Instagram data from eight markets (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Spain, UK and US) to better understand how parents of children of all ages - from infants to teens - use The Social Network. To further qualify this data, Facebook also gathered feedback from 8,300 parents and 5 parenting experts, helping them clarify and confirm their findings.
And those findings have revealed some very powerful insights - here are some of the key points.
Having a child changes everything, leaving parents with less time to go out, to catch up on the daily news, to watch TV, etc. As such, it's little surprise to see Facebook's research show that mobile devices have become increasingly important to parents.
"By observing behavior on Facebook, we see that parents overindex on mobile usage. In fact, parents globally spend 1.3X more time on Facebook mobile than non-parents."
Parents use their mobile devices to stay in touch and get advice on parenting queries, but also, importantly, parents are using their mobiles to make more informed purchasing decisions. This is valuable insight for marketers - some of the key data points from Facebook's findings focus not only on how parents are using their mobiles for research purposes, but when.
For example, Facebook's research found that new parents in the U.S. are active on Facebook in increasingly the early hours, starting their first mobile sessions as early as 4am and peaking at 7am.
"In fact, by 7am, 56% of new parents have visited Facebook on their mobile device."
While that finding, in itself, is not hugely surprising, it is definitely important, and key to recognizing how to reach these new parents with your content. Facebook also found that Millennial parents (ages 18-34) are 30% more likely than Boomer parents (ages 50-65) to use their mobile devices to make more purchasing decisions.
To help connect with these parents, Facebook recommends brands create "bite-sized content and catchy videos on mobile that will appeal to parents" - particularly those adjusting to a new schedule.
Along with the transition to parenthood comes the shift away from your previous life. Okay, maybe that's a dramatic way of putting it, but essentially, your priorities shift, and this, too, is a crucial point for those looking to connect with this audience. As Facebook puts it: "less "gym Tuesdays" or "happy hour Fridays" and more afternoon power napping after late-night feedings".
But what Facebook's research did show was that modern parents, while highly focused on the needs of their children, are also learning to prioritize their own needs and maintain awareness of their own health and wellbeing in order to ensure they're providing all they can for their kids.
Facebook's research found that while hashtags like #tired and #familytime are predictably prominent in the posts of parents, there's also a rising trend of wellness tags that are becoming more popular amongst these user groups.
This is an especially valuable insight, and goes some way towards showing the breadth of relevance of this research, that connecting with this audience goes beyond those selling baby products and pitching parenting advice. As Facebook notes, brands should recognize that parents are people too, and they have lives and interests outside their children. And, increasingly, parents are looking to explore those passions in order to be the best parents they can be.
You know how it is with new parents. As soon as the baby arrives, suddenly you're getting picture after picture of the new baby. Crawling. Walking. Taking their first selfie. As such, it'll come as no surprise to hear that parents post more photos, videos, links and status updates than non-parents.
Surprise, surprise, right? In addition, Facebook found that new parents' posts about their babies receive 37% more interactions from relatives and 47% more interactions from friends than their general posts.
While none of that's ground-breaking, in itself, it does go someway towards highlighting just how much people's Facebook activity jumps after the birth of a child. If people are sharing more, they're also, by necessity, increasingly active and reliant on Facebook as a connective platform. As noted by parenting expert Christine Gross as part of Facebook's report:
"Facebook is just kind of like a lifesaver... because our lives are so busy ... this is a quick way to connect with other parents and not feel so alone at all sorts of moments in the day ... it really amplifies that feeling of connection."
That reliability, the utility of the platform in this sense should not be under-estimated. Parents use Facebook, in particular, to build community in order to help them get through the challenges of parenting and taking care of their kids. And once established as such a source, those activities become more embedded, a bigger part of people's day-to-day lives. From that point, Facebook becomes a key platform for connection for those users moving forward.
Information and Influence
And one final point of interest from Facebook's data - through their new, connected networks, today's parents now have access to more information, more of the time, than any generation before. According to Facebook's research, 83% of the parents surveyed said they have access to more information than their parents did, while 70% said they feel that they're more informed than their parents were.
And while that data goes someway towards underlining the utility of the internet, of particular relevance was the secondary impact of that access to information:
"As moms and dads are getting more informed, so are their children. A child exercises a significant amount of influence over household purchasing decisions. And as the child grows, so too does their knowledge, with kids becoming de facto experts in certain categories. Over 50% of parents globally say their child has more impact on purchasing decisions than they did in their family growing up. And 50% believe they listen to their child more than their parents listened to them."
That's a crucial point of emphasis - children are now more informed and have more access to information, just as the parents do. As such, kids these days are also able to exert more influence on purchasing decisions. In this context, next time you're observing your child's web behavior, think about how they're using such devices, how they locate and access information, what processes and activities they undertake. These learnings could deliver significant benefits for your marketing planning - in many cases, if you're able to understand the kids, you'll also, by extension, be able to reach the parents and those making the final purchase decision. It's important to consider the widening influence of connectivity in this way.
Facebook's 'Meet the Parents' study contains a range of helpful insights that can help all marketers better understand how to reach their target audiences - and given the breadth of this group (parents aged between 25 and 65), there's a big spread of different audiences contained within that bracket. In addition, the data also highlights the varying ways all people use the platform at different life stages, and how people are connecting based on different events, behaviors and shifts. It's important to consider that you now have the capacity to connect with audiences on a much wider scale, using a much wider range of variables including time of day, behavioral patterns, evolving interests etc. It's an interesting study, and definitely worth a closer look for anyone trying to tap into this market.