Mothers gossiping down the produce aisle, or trusting advice from veteran mothers at playgrounds or daycare centers, have taken a backseat to social media sources. Australian researchers from the University of Canberra revealed their surprising findings about mothers in the International Journal of Web Based Communities.

“Our study found that mothers trust mothers, and that mothers tend to trust the opinions of other mothers when they recommend a product,” said the study’s co-author Rebecca English, a marketing researcher from the University of Canberra, in a press release. “It is not surprising that social media makes a contribution towards the buying behavior of its users, but what is surprising is the strength of these non-face-to-face opinions in online mothers’ groups and communities.”

The study found mothers are now instilling more trust into word-of-mouth advice from social media sources and web communities, rather than in-person advice. Online groups have quickly become a major influence on mothers' buying habits, which is important news for companies considering that mothers represent a large portion of where companies spend their marketing dollars — moms tend to be the shoppers and suppliers of their household.

“Repeated interactions with the community and the accumulation of trust make the effect stronger still, as the community matures. The study found the effect is strongest among mothers with the same number of children who are [of] similar ages,” English said. She said marketers should focus on mother-to-mother word-of-mouth through the internet as opposed to print advertisements because of the trust mothers have for blogs and social media sources.

The trust between mothers is unlike any other network and they generally tend to regard one another highly with respect between one another’s ability to raise children. There’s a lot of commonalities between mothers who share similar wants and needs in their households and when one recommends a product they take their advice seriously. The only difference is, that advice is coming from mothers sharing advice online instead of in person.

Last year, a study found mothers with children under the age of 5 are two times more likely to visit and participate on social media, respond well to online advertising, and engage with mobile and tablet devices more often. It shows that those who are part of this group grew up in a more technologically savvy era, and that they're growing up to be mothers armed with tools to tackle their child-rearing needs.

“Recommendations from other mothers are more powerful than any other structured promotion,” English said. “Organic promotion, for example using free product trials by well-connected or influential mums, is one way to tap into this market.”

Source: John J, English R. Mothers influencing mothers: the use of virtual discussion boards and their influence on consumption. International Journal of Web Based Communities. 2014.