Moms have had something of a lock on social media and blogs regarding parenting over the past few years, but a recent survey
from Edelman PR and The Parenting Group shows that dads are quite active online, too.
"They're not just a growing group, they're a vocal group," says Missy Maher, director of modern family foresight at Edelman. "The number staying at home is growing."
About 600 dads responded to a questionnaire, and the results show that 42 percent of dads with kids age 2 or younger regularly post updates about their families on social media sites. Even more—56 percent—post photos, and 21 percent post videos. Millennial dads—those born in 1980 or later—actually have more online friends than moms do, with an average of 96, compared with an average of 70 friends for moms.
"As both parents equally share in the parenting duties, dads become more involved with social media," says Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers, a personal finance blog that is doing more to reach out to fathers. "As more dads realize that other fathers are taking part in social media, they're also more likely to get involved."
Indeed, a huge outcry from fathers about a Huggies ad last month that depicts dads as less-than-proficient at parenting proves they're becoming increasingly vocal on the Web.
Schrage and others offered up some ideas of what the data about dads might mean for companies looking for ways to reach out to them.
Keith Trivitt, associate director at the Public Relations Society of America, says these findings mean companies certainly have an opportunity to reach both decision makers in families.
"That's really the holy grail of parent marketing, whether you're Procter & Gamble or Coca-Cola."
Schrage agrees. "To an extent, the dad niche is still largely untapped, and just as brands flocked to moms and mom bloggers a few years back, I think you'll see the same trend regarding dads," he says.
Brands should be careful about taking their approach of appealing to moms and applying it to dads, Trivitt says.
"Clearly, the two consumer groups are completely different, and they should be segmented and targeted differently with compelling content, values, and insight offered to each through various social channels."
Just how would that work? Schrage says Money Crashers' approach has been to keep things down to earth, with tips on how to manage time, and so forth.
"When providing material to dads who are consumers, we try to focus on the items that fathers, and males in general, are more interested in when compared to women," he says. "For example, we'll do more for consumers buying electronics like flat-screen TVs rather than beauty tips on a budget."
Contests can also work, Schrage says. Money Crashers is considering a giveaway in which dads share their funniest child-rearing stories, he says.
What isn't clear
Schrage says a "dad blog" boom is coming, if it isn't already here, but Trivitt says there's no evidence in this research to prove it. It just shows that fathers are evolving in terms of how they interact with brands that can help them and their children out.
Maher says dads are definitely connecting, though. Last year, Babble.com had its first-ever list of the top 50 dad blogs, she notes.
A key piece of information that communicators and marketers need but that isn't in these data, Trivitt adds, is just which networks dads flock to as opposed to those that moms prefer.
"I would suspect that dads might not be so inclined to blog openly about their families but they would likely engage with brands via Twitter and Facebook, if there was a compelling reason to do so, say with the offer of a discount or exclusive content," he says.
'Divide and conquer'
Maher says she doesn't think brands will or should make their approaches to dads and moms too gender specific, because that's not how families divide up work nowadays.
"It's not about gender anymore," she says. "It's divide and conquer."
Where brands previously may have called dads out to do more around the house or presented moms as perfect engines of the household, Maher says she expects brands to "be more inclusive with parenting," noting that about a third of dads now stay at home.
"I think what you're going to see more of in the future is reality, and that's going to include both mom and dad."
Christine Perkett of Perkett PR had a similar view.
"Brands that really want to push the envelope now will start engaging with parents together," she says. "Think family contests that involve both mom and dad consumer influencers with products like 'everything a family needs to welcome their first baby' or a 'one month to a healthy family' grocery contest."
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.