Parenting Web portal BabyCenter.com yesterday launched a beta version of a new online social community for expectant and current parents as part of its Web site, in a bid to engage parents and build its appeal for brand advertisers.
The new BabyCenter Community, available at community.babycenter.com, will offer many of the communication and content feature users have come to expect from social networks, such as the ability to create personal profiles, to share photos and video among online friends, and to extend “shout outs” to other member and pass simple icon-based “notes”.
Users will also be able to construct public or private discussions around a topic and to add tags to their personal journals and photos. If they wish, they can use the network tags to find other members with whom they may share interests or other factors, such as geo location or children of the same age.
“Moms come to BabyCenter seeking trusted, personalized information, but they stay for the connections they make with other parents,” BabyCenter chairman and global president Tina Sharkey said in a statement. “Social networking has changed the face of communication, and BabyCenter wants to bring together these parents in a place where they can easily share experiences.”
The BabyCenter Community is built upon the platform of social network Maya’s Mom, a parenting forum acquired in August 2007 by BabyCenter, which itself is owned by Johnson & Johnson. Maya’s Mom founder Ann Crady is now BabyCenter senior vice president for consumer experience. The Maya’s Mom site will continue to exist as a stand-alone Web site at www.MayasMom.com.
BabyCenter.com was itself purchased by baby product manufacturer Johnson & Johnson back in March 2001 from dot-com bust eToys. In the years since then, the site has built itself into a major destination for new or expectant parents looking for expert content on child-rearing. It has made a name for offering useful content such as newsletters built around the specific pregnancy stage or the age of a child. BabyCenter editors have also authored two branded parenting guides.
Crady says the addition of a social networking component to that content is BabyCenter’s attempt to extend that visitor engagement beyond infancy and deepen those user links.
“There really are three things we do: content, community and commerce,” she said. “And they have been three separate experiences. The developmental advice we’ve offered from preconception through young kids has been one-to-many. The new community offering extends the tools that we’ve had for ten years to let moms talk to one another, making them more robust.”
“This community has the ability to make a huge impact with marketers and advertisers,” said Mike Fogarty, BabyCenter.com group publisher. “The community that has spring up around BabyCenter.com is rooted in the core content experience. People come to fulfill their needs for expert advice. But you then want to validate with other moms. Those moms are open to messages from marketers too, as long as they touch them in the right time and place.”
Among other tools, BabyCenter Community will be able to serve up display ads based on permissioned use of some parts of members’ social profile information, such as their parenthood lifestage. The site will also be able to do some targeted marketing around interest areas such as photo-sharing or around the context of discussion groups.