Mothers turn to Web for product, medical advice

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Companies trying to market products to mothers need to head onto the Internet with a survey showing the 21st century mother is online daily, using Facebook to connect to friends and Google to diagnose illnesses.

A poll by parenting website found 63 percent of online mothers now use social media networks such as Facebook regularly, compared to only 11 percent three years ago.

It found 44 percent use social media for recommendations on which brands and products to buy with little difference between mothers of different ages.

“They don’t watch TV as much, they are not reading magazines as much, but instead they check Facebook, Twitter ... where people are really drawn together over parenting issues,” BabyCenter’s Editor-in-Chief Linda Murray told Reuters.

“One of the major activities is looking for recommendations on products. They are information seeking, particularly when it comes to babies, and companies need to realize this.”

But companies also need to know their market well as mothers are sharing information -- and complaints -- online regularly.

In 2006, only 11 percent of mothers read blogs regularly and only 6 percent wrote them. This year the survey found 29 percent of moms read blogs regularly and 14 percent write them.

Drug company McNeil Consumer Healthcare, which makes the ibuprofen painkiller Motrin, learned the hard way last November when online mothers found an advert campaign targeting moms to be offensive, sparking a tirade on the micro-blogging site Twitter.

The company responded by taking a video ad down from its website, pulling the related print ads from magazines, and apologized for any offense caused.

The online survey of 25,000 U.S. mothers also found that mothers aren’t going to the doctor as often.

Instead they are using the Internet to find out what is wrong with their children and, when they do go to the doctor, asking which drug they should use rather than for a diagnosis.

The survey found 82 percent of mothers are actively seeking second medical opinions online.

In online communities children’s health issues are the leading topic of interest rating as high as 91 percent followed by childhood development tips at 79 percent and product reviews at 72 percent.

“I was surprised by how many moms are living their lives online today ... and it surprised us to see how much real doctoring they are doing themselves,” said Murray.

Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Patricia Reaney