Send your news, photos and videos by texting bucksfreepress to 80360 or email
Netmums editor-in-chief talks about the site's success
This morning, cup of coffee in hand, Cathy Ranson sits at her laptop and logs onto Skype to chat to Emma, just as she does every morning. Today they are talking about the heart-warming photo Robbie Williams has just tweeted of himself relaxing at home with his adorable two-day-old baby daughter curled up on his chest. They think the photo is so adorable, they decide to post it on Facebook.
This is a fairly familiar scenario for many of us: chatting with chums on the Internet and posting the topic of the day on your social media page to share with your network of online friends. Only this time, when Cathy checks back on Facebook four hours later, the photo of Robbie and baby Teddy has been seen by 58,544 people, had 626 shares and 208 comments.
How did the picture get such a substantial response? Cathy and Emma are part of one of the UK’s most popular social networking, advice and support website, Netmums. Cathy is the Editor-in-Chief of Netmums, and talks to her editorial team every day to ensure the site runs efficiently as possible. This is when Skype comes in handy, as Emma lives on the Orkney Islands, over 700 miles away from Cathy’s Chesham home. The Internet is great for bringing people closer together, and provides the perfect platform for Netmums to be able to spread what Cathy calls, ‘Word of Mum’: the vital information that you wouldn’t know unless you spoke to other mothers. "The best thing about Netmums is being able to connect with other local Mums and find information really quickly. You can get news as it happens, answers to questions when you need them: the little things that can take up a lot of your time are made easy."
Clearly, plenty of mothers are taking advantage of hearing this ‘Word of Mum’. The network has 1.3 million members, and is always on the rise.
But Netmums came from humble beginnings. It was set up 12 years ago, when three Mums from Harrow were lonely being stuck at home with babies and found it difficult to discover things to do in the local area. So they set up a review site where mothers could share tips and ideas of things to do in their home towns, which evolved into Netmums as it exists today.
Cathy joined Netmums as a volunteer Editor in 2000 while she was on maternity leave. "It was the perfect job to do whilst my son was still young. I could work on the site when he was napping. It was a real art form juggling feeding, napping and work, but it worked for me." She left after two years to set up her own parenting magazine in Hillingdon, but she always advertised Netmums and drove as many people to the site as possible. She then returned to Netmums as Editor-in-Chief in 2010 and she says: "It was like I’d never left. All the volunteer editors were still there as paid staff as the site now funded by advertisers and government funding."
Netmums is run with heart. Cathy says that everyone who works there is passionate and always wants to be there. "Netmums is not about the bottom line, it’s about helping people. We want people to enjoy their life with children and not be alone. 12 years on, nothing has changed about the Netmums philosophy. I’m really proud of my job."
Netmums is different to other online parenting communities because it is focussed on a local level. They currently operate 151 different local sites which are supportive, welcoming and offer help to their most vulnerable members in every way possible through their Parent Support Group.
The Parent Supporter’s Campaign trains parents to offer support and advice to other parents through the Netmums site, so there is always someone to turn to for help, no matter how sensitive the issue. There are charity representatives who sit on the board as well, such as Women’s Aid, which allows the support to be taken to a higher level. Their virtual drop-in clinic has experts ready online to answer your questions seven days a week. It’s the perfect solution for Mums who are too busy to leave the house, have a small query they don’t want to bother their doctor with, or even something they are too embarrassed to ask their doctor. The scheme is government supported to guarantee that the most knowledgeable people are always available to offer the best advice. The Coffee House forum is a great place to chat, but the Notice Board is the heart of NetMums, an area where people can post questions and find out what’s going on in their area. Topics posted on here range from adverts for children’s events to babysitting and enquiries of where to find a chimneysweep and where does the best takeaway food. "Takeaways are always a popular topic of conversation on Friday nights," says Cathy.
Their Meet-A-Mum section is popular too, which acts as a ‘Dating for Mums’ service where you can talk virtually or arrange to meet face-to-face with Mums in your area. "It’s great to be able to meet someone in pram-pushing distance so you can go meet them for a coffee, get out of the house and socialise." Social Networking plays a big role at Netmums. Their Facebook page currently has 49,919 members. "We’re constantly watching the numbers go up and up. We’re going to have a big party when we hit 50,000." Their Twitter page is also popular with 41,316 followers, the most of any parenting network. "We find it very exciting when we get a celebrity who tweets or retweets us. The team all jump on Skype and erupt in excitement!"
Let’s just hope that when Netmums get any celebrity retweets, Cathy puts her coffee down before she celebrates with Emma, or she may have to buy a new laptop.
From next week in the Bucks Free Press Cathy will be writing a monthly column in the Freetime pages.
For more leisure stories go to www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/leisure from food reviews to I Love My Local.