Pigeonhole Yourself And Reap The Consequences

I changed the tag line on the blog to “Paul O’Flaherty on Technology, Life and Passions” a few weeks ago.

As the long time readers of O’Flaherty know I’ve been concerned recently about being categorized as just a tech blogger and having to deal with the stereotype that comes with that.

I’m not just a tech blogger. I like to talk about other events and hobbies I have. I want to be able to talk about my passions and share any information whereby I feel I am genuinely adding something to a conversation that other people can benefit from.

Technology is still my main focus, but I wanted to show that I’m more than that. I’m not just a tech blogger.

Knowing how I feel about being stereotyped and how that stereotype changes how companies interact with you, it was with a hint of dismay that I read an otherwise excellent post by Erin Kotecki (The Queen of Spain).

In her post Erin bemoans the treatment of “Mommy Bloggers” as a group (sparked by the recent Johnson & Johnson Baby Camp display of corporate idiocy) and calls essentially for the companies targeting “mommy bloggers” to engage them and not talk “at” them.

It’s a damn shame these companies, marketers, PR flacks and social media opportunists don’t actually READ the blogs of the Moms they target. They would learn an awful lot in a very short period of time if they did.

I hate to say it but this kind of thing happens to every perceived “group” in the blogosphere.

Whether you are a tech blogger, mommy blogger, knitting blogger or sports blogger, there are and will always be corporations and groups who just don’t get that we as bloggers are more than what we just blog about.

Erin’s post really shook me this morning because what she keeps going on about is how corporations are treating mommy bloggers as a demographic and little else.

Yet Erin’s post does little to help “mommy bloggers” out of this sad perception.

Before I go any further, let me stress that I agree with Erin with respect to corporations treatment of bloggers. This is a universal problem and not one isolated to the mommy blogging community.

Yet as I said, Erin’s post does little to help the perception of “mommy bloggers” with respect to corporations or even with respect to other members of the blogosphere.

Bloggers are individuals right? Bloggers make up a community. That community is usually representative of a certain type of demographic.

In this case the community  is called “Mommy Bloggers” and it’s exactly that term that is causing the pigeon holed approach you are seeing from corporations with respect to the community.

Dell wants to talk to tech bloggers because of a perception that so-called tech bloggers know more about technology (it doesn’t matter that other bloggers are equally savvy).

The way we present ourselves and what we call ourselves, tech bloggers or mommy bloggers automatically influences how corporations react to us as the have an instant perception of our field of blogging and supposed field of influence.

If you want to break away from being perceived as being a certain demographic, then stop advertising yourself as being that demo graphic!

Not blogging under your real name is another problem that the “mommysphere” is suffering from badly.

Look at the most successful bloggers out there. They all (with very few exceptions) blog under their real name.

My general impression of “mommy bloggers” is that a large percentage tend to blog under names such as “Queen of Spain” (no offence Erin I like that name ) without giving their real name.

I’m sure their are some perceived reasons for this (don’t want hubby knowing they blog about his constant flatulence or something) but if you’re trying to win the respect of the people holding the corporations purse strings (no pun intended) then you need to step up to the plate and show that you are a real people.

A corporation cannot engage an anonymous entity because that entity could be anybody.

The bloggers who blog under their real names can afford more of the proper corporate attention because their is a perceived safe guard that the blogger in question has his or her face, name, and personal reputation out their for all to see.

Anonymous bloggers are a liability. They can say what they want, then piss off and start another blog tomorrow under another identity. They could even have two blogs, one where they are promoting your product for the potential rewards and one where they are promoting your competitors, both under different names.

That’s not so easy to do when you blog under your real name. You may try it. But if you are found out your personal reputation will be shot to hell.

Who cares about the reputation of an anonymous character?

Oh, don’t get me started about some of the names for the blogs in the “mommysphere”!

If I see another (fictitious blog names but you get the gist) Jens mom, mom of five, lonely mommy, happy mommy or Californian mommy,  blog name I will scream.

Talk about stuffing yourself into a box.

Don’t get me wrong, this happens in other sub divisions of the blogosphere as well, but with respect to the “mommysphere” this (at least to me) is very evident.

If you label yourself as one type of blogger, you’ll get treated as such. It’s a simple as that.

Be original. Show that you are more than a “mommy blogger”. Drop that title. Show that you are a blogger, with multiple interests, with a readership and a sphere of influence.

So here are my tips to the members of the “Mommysphere” and to any bloggers who feel they are cornered into one demographic.

  1. If you don’t want to be categorized as part of a demographic quit advertising yourself a such.
  2. Blog under your real name. Your reputation is what gives your blog value.
  3. Choose a blog name that does not drop you into a demographic.
  4. Show that you have interests in topics outside of the box your trying not to be stuffed into.

Remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re a mommy, tech or sheep shearing blogger,  you can’t complain about being demographically stereotyped if you propagate the stereotype.

14 thoughts on “Pigeonhole Yourself And Reap The Consequences

  1. You make several good points. I do think that pigeonholing people into groups is human nature and not confined to marketing shortcuts. We just have to keep reminding people that we are more than that, which Erin does very well in her post.

    I do take exception to your complaint about women who blog under cute pseudonyms. I don’t think this has anything to do with fear of our husbands or significant others, but is more a function of protecting our kids. A lot of people worry about putting too much personal information out on the Internet (I don’t – but I get hell about it from my own husband).


  2. Donna, thanks for responding.

    You’re right that Erin does an excellent job. I mentioned that in a post and I also mentioned it on the Mr.Business Golf show today.

    However, it was not just “mommy bloggers” I was complaining about with regards to anonymous blogging. It’s everybody. If you truly want to be taken seriously you’ve got to stop that.

    Also with regards to doing it to protect the kids. Well lets be honest, there is no such thing as anonymity on the internet and if somebody wants to find out who you are, they will.

    Unless you blog via an anonymous proxy and never comment on another blog, never post pictures or mention what town you live in, or where you go or have been it is really easy to track down a blog to an account.

    If people were truly worried about their kids they wouldn’t put pictures of them on the web.

    If someone wants to figure out who you are, when you blog about your domestic life it is easy to piece together because you simply cannot blog without giving away personally identifiable information like who you’re friends with etc..

    All your doing by using an anonymous name is preventing idle Googlers from finding out to much information.

    If you’re thinking about protecting your kids from the semi-determined, or worse yet, the true sickos, then you really have to rethink this. It’s simply far to easy for someone who does a little research to figure out who owns a blog.


  3. Don’t choose a blog name that lumps you into one category? Try telling that to Dooce. She is often associated with mom bloggers because she has a child. Her blog name isn’t even a real word and people can’t look past the child and see that she is a multi-dimensional person.

    Your point #4 is PARTICULARY offensive. That’s right all we mom bloggers talk about the same thing. Way to be presumptuous. You said above that you changed your tag to show that you are more about tech. Doesn’t feel good to be thought of as a one-dimensional person who only blogs about one thing, does it?

    You are preaching to the choir when it comes to security issues. Mom bloggers are some of the most tech-savvy PEOPLE on the internet. We share what we are comfortable sharing and that depends on the person. Some of us are more limited, some of us share everything: photos, real names, where we live etc. WHy are you presuming that we are all dolts whose only skill is diapering bums or playing CandyLand and that because we are MOTHERS we have no idea how the internet works?

    Your post shows me that you really don’t understand our issues, but that’s okay. We are used to being lumped together, categorized and pre-judged by people who don’t know any better.

    Have you ever been to a BlogHer conference?


  4. I have so many things to say here I’m not sure where to start. Part of the problem, which I talked about in my post, is the fact that the corp’s fit us into their box, not realizing that box doesn’t exist.

    They see a big target on the demographic and pitch without rhyme or reason.

    As for dropping the Mommyblogger title, I flat out refuse. Women talking about and discussing their children online got labeled Mommybloggers long ago and it was not a term of endearment. They assumed we were pithy and uneducated and that discussing potty training was not nearly as important as discussing politics or tech. We were ignored.

    You can call me a Mommyblogger or a blogger who happens to be a Mom, I don’t really care but identifying with our community via that name is really not the issue. Nevermind most of us are discussing our kids only 1/2 the time.

    And finally, because I could go on forever here-most of us did not blog as a means to get famous or make money. It was and still is about community and a hobby. So it only makes sense that when dipping our toes in the web waters we didn’t know if we should be throwing our full name on a site or if we needed to do more to NOT put all that info out there. It also gave us a tone and identity for what we thought we’d be discussing. This space has changed dramatically since I started blogging and now most of us are ‘queen of spain, erin kotecki vest’ or what not.

    As for the ‘protection’ of our kids, you really don’t want to get me going on that. There are sickos who look at my children at the park and at the store-but we still go out in public.


  5. @CityMama – with regards to Dooce, there are exceptions that prove every rule.

    Also, before berating me on what you thing I said, I suggest you revisit an re-read my post – I said that I have been deliberately working to break my blog out of of the one dimensional “tech blogger” stereotype which I have been stuck in for almost 4 years…

    So please re-visit and re-evaluate with that in mind 🙂

    BTW.. thanks for dropping by 🙂


  6. @Erin .. well what are you going to do to prove them wrong…

    That is the question.

    Like you, I don’t blog for fame or fortune. That’s why I’m breaking out of the stereotype that is “tech blogging” for me…

    So again.. I ask you.. what are you going to do to prove them wrong?.. Or are you going to continue to propagate a stereotype and hope that the corporations ever grow some sort of a reasonably collective intelligence (which I doubt they will.

    Or are you guys going to stand up and redefine your own reality…

    As for the protection of the kids issue.. I agree with you.. weirdos are everywhere.. but that doesn’t mean that so-called “anonymous blogging” makes them any safer…

    I have no problem with people take on the burden and responsibilities that comes with blogging where their children are involved.. but as a tech consultant and an internet veteran I know from experience how easy things are to track…

    At the end of this I support what you are saying.. but if you want to break the demographic view that you are being boxed into, I ask you.. what are you going to do about it?

    As you said.. “they assumed you are pithy and uneducated”.. so how are you going to prove them wrong?

    You don’t need to convert me… I already know enough mommy bloggers that I respect and consider to be far more intelligent than I… But the question remains.. how are you going to prove to the corporations that the demographic stereotype is wrong?


  7. @citymama – with respect to your statement about me seeing mommy bloggers as being “presuming that we are all dolts whose only skill is diapering bums or playing CandyLand”

    I assume you meant my reference to this:

    Dell wants to talk to tech bloggers because of a perception that so-called tech bloggers know more about technology (it doesn’t matter that other bloggers are equally savvy).

    Again.. I ask you to revisit the last part of that statement : (it doesn’t matter that other bloggers are equally savvy)


  8. I understand that, but why would you just presume all mom bloggers only talk about mothering? You changed your tag to reflect that you blog more than just tech so even when blogging under your real name you get pigeonholed? I fail to see how changing a blog name helps matters.

    If you ever want to read some great blogs by people that *happen to be* mothers, let me know.


  9. @Stefania / Citymama : I have never nor will ever presume that mom bloggers talk solely about mothering. That’s half the point of my post, and something I talked about on the Mr.Business Golf Show today.

    If I had a problem with mommy bloggers or thought they were “one dimensional” I wouldn’t have written this post.

    The issues that mom bloggers face are ones that many (all?) subdivisions of the blogosphere face.

    My post tonight was meant to provoke taught. It obviously did, because mommy bloggers (like me trying to break out of the tech realm) need to rethink their approach if they want to get what they want from the blogosphere, from your community and form the corporations who are waving the greenback in your direction.

    I am a big supporter of mommy bloggers. Not just because you’re mommy bloggers, but simply because I’m a big supporter of bloggers in general, and many of the issues being broached in Erin’s post do not just affect mommy bloggers.. but affect so many other areas of the blogsphere.

    So, my question is as always.. what will you guys do to break the sterotype.. and prove to the corporations that you are more than a demographic or statistic.

    I have given some tips / suggestions… It’s up to you guys to come up with a game plan. Simply giving out about it will not work with regards to the corporate marketing bottom line.

    What is you’re game plan? And how can I and bloggers like me help?


  10. Hi, Paul — Sorry to comment and run the way I did this morning.

    At the risk of people “tsk tsk”ing about mommys who blog, something came up
    with my daughter and a day I’d planned just stay on the computer and work
    changed radically and I had to dash out the door right after I left my

    I did not take offense at what you posted. You had a point to make and you
    made it, even if I do think it’s a little off in asserting that women like
    Erin box themselves in when they write about their kids. You tell her to
    break the stereotype… but I think that’s what she’s doing with every post
    she writes.

    As for myself, I just wanted to clarify a few things:

    * I understand how easy it is to find people on the web, if someone were
    determined to do so. But that’s not true of everyone and I think that is a
    very big motive for moms who use pseudonyms, just as hoping not to be
    discovered at work and “dooced” might be a motive for professionals who keep
    a blog on the side. The part of your post that bothered me was that you
    theorized that women hid behind pseudonyms because they were afraid of their
    *husbands* discovering their blogs.

    .* I was an aspiring writer — and even earned money from it, at times —
    long before I had a child at the age of 40. I have always used my full name
    on my blog, just in case anyone from the old days wanted to find me. I
    titled the blog SoCal Mom because it described me and the life I live in Los
    Angeles, where I was born and raised.

    * I embrace the “mommy blogger” label. It took me a long time and a lot of
    money to be able to become a “mommy.” Being called a “mommy blogger” doesn’t
    bother me at all. What does bother me is when I am out in the “real world”
    and someone asks what I do for a living, and they lose all interest when I
    tell them I’m a mom. I know the question is just an ice breaker, but telling
    people you take care of kids tends to end the conversation. Unless the
    questioner has kids of his or her own, they never know what to say after

    * The same thing happens, by the way, when I say I’m a blogger. Outside of
    our community, people think what we do is just weird. I’ve learned to
    describe myself simply as a “writer.”

    *I did not start my blog thinking of fame and fortune. It came as a complete
    surprise to me when people other than immediate family and friends started
    commenting on my posts. The friends I have made through my blog were a
    lovely bonus.

    * The good pitches from PR people who bother to read my blog and offer me
    things that are interesting are another bonus. Because of them, I’ve had an
    amazing year — I got to test drive some hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and
    dine with a superstar corporate chairman and now my kid thinks I’m cool
    because I’ve got a pipeline to her favorite video games.

    The bad pitches go in the trash, the same as with you. I think the marketers
    of the world are still figuring out how to use us (and I don’t mind being
    used; I am using them right back). We’re all making this up as we go along.
    And for me, I think it’s part of the fun.

    And I think that’s what the Johnson & Johnson thing (as well as the Disney
    thing) represents. J&J were smart to reach out to us. They were not smart to
    understand how the community works. And I have no idea what they were
    thinking when they made it impossible for nursing mothers to attend! The
    irony of that alone will make this a great case study in business school
    some day. Inviting bloggers and then uninviting some of them and then
    re-inviting some of them also proves that they might be a little more
    clueless than most.

    In the meantime, I look forward to reading more of your non-tech related
    posts 🙂

    .. Donna


  11. @Donna – Thank you so much for revisiting!

    One thing – me talking about bloggers not wanting “hubby knowing they blog about his constant flatulence or something” was a vague attempt at humor, but you must also admit that the supposed freedom to speak is half of what a lot of people perceive as anonymity.,

    It may not be perfect, but it saves them form their spouses idle Googling.

    It is not a truly accurate description, but I am fortunate enough to know some very excellent bloggers who’s talents are curtailed because of their spouses objections to what they write. I’ll refrain from mentioning who they are here.. but they know who they are.. (I may disclose it in private..)

    As to you leaving this morning.. don’t worry about it 🙂 We’re all bound by obligation 🙂

    As for Erin. I loved Erin’s post. I went on Scot Dukes Mr. Business Golf Show today and recommended that folk subscribe to her.

    I don’t always agree with folk I subscribe to. To my mind, Erin’s post was a marketing question rather than anything else.

    I’m somebody trying to break out of a mold. I want to share my experiences.. and if I can help along the way I will..

    My comments tonight are not adversarial (although I’m sure there are many that will see them other than that way)… They are meant to provoke thought and discussion. And I*m here to discuss any and all options that may arise (if people feel so inclined)

    Again thanks for re-visiting.

    Take care Donna.


  12. I hope I don’t get pigeonholed as a kidney problem blogger. It’s going to be very awkward if a dialysis machine company wants to talk to me.


  13. I really would love to sit down and have someone explain to me why this is an issue that I should be worried about. There is a well-organized group of mothers who are one of the few bloggers who can make some money online because they have created this “mother” brand. There are tons of successful sites catering to mothers. Companies are sending them freebies and inviting them to all-expense paid conferences. They are courted to write books and to appear on television because of their “motherhood.” What’s the problem here? Most bloggers have no voice at all.


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