How Pregnancy Made Me Rethink User Behavior on Social Media

Kate Meyers Emery
5 min readSep 7, 2018

When you do social media for a living, your own social media presence becomes a place for experimentation; your own behaviors become a surrogate for understanding the behaviors of others; your own audience becomes a testing ground for new approaches and tools.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the journey I take as a consumer. I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, and Instagram has become an increasingly important tool for me in this realm. I’m using it to find ways to creatively make my sparse maternity wardrobe function at work, get reviews on products that I’m considering for my registry, and find people who are experiencing pregnancy in similar ways to me.

In my new role as a pregnant woman, I’ve entered a different marketplace. I’ve become a new consumer that brands are trying to attract. It’s been fascinating to watch the change in advertising and followers that I’m experiencing. I went from mainly ads about alcohol, food and travel, to nearly all baby and maternity ads. Sometimes I like the ad, sometimes I participate in the giveaway, sometimes I get angry and report it.

During this process, I’ve learned some interesting things about my own behavior as a customer that has made me think a little more critically about how I’m using social media for my institution.

Insight #1: I love a good giveaway, but if you ask me to follow more than two people or go through multiple profiles to enter… I’m out.

Don’t you hate those moments? You see the magic word GIVEAWAY and all you need to do is follow one person but then you get to that one person and it turns out you need to follow one more person which leads to another person and now you’re in an angry rabbit hole trying to back track out and unfollow all those people. I’ve been doing a lot of following and unfollowing of baby brands in an attempt to score some free baby swag, and it’s made me realize two big things…

Takeaway: Giveaways work, but only if they are easy.

What I’ve learned from this is that while giveaways and discounts are effective, you need to make them easy to enter. If there are too many steps, if people have to give too much information, they aren’t going to participate.

Takeaway: If the giveaway isn’t in line with your brand, they won’t stick around.

I end up unfollowing 99% of the accounts I follow for a freebie, but I’ll stick around if the rest of the account is worthwhile. Freebies may get me in the door, but great content will make me stay.

Insight #2: I’m happy to click a link and leave the app, but if the information I’m seeking isn’t immediately apparent… I’m out.

I’ve been seeing lots of ads that include something like “Buy this amazing nursing hoodie” or “Learn more about how to help you baby sleep better in the first month”, but then I click the link and it takes me to their homepage and I can’t find the relevant article anywhere.

Takeaway: Give people access to the content that you’re promoting.

You need to make it simple for them. If you do, then there’s a higher chance that they will stick around. I’ve heard the argument before that making people find the information will lead them to discover new things… well, not me. It will tick me off and I’ll leave your site.

Insight #3: If the image doesn’t tell a story… I’m out.

If I look at the image and it doesn’t draw me in, I’m not going to engage with it, I’m not going to read the text, I’m just going to keep swiping through. However, if there is an image that makes me curious, or shows me something intriguing, or feels relevant to my own life, or hits on an emotion, I’ll read the text, I’ll click the link, I may even follow for a while.

Takeaway: Empathy, emotion, and relevance are key.

Images work best when people feel something, even if it isn’t always positive. If I can imagine myself in the image or relate to it personally, they’ve won my attention… for a little while anyway.

I think this is something that has become increasingly important (and increasingly discussed across the social media world). People want a genuine connection, they want to feel something, they are increasingly aware that they are being promoted to. So we, as creators, need to build accounts that fill that and create a connection. That may mean dropping the sales pitches and focusing more on sharing amazing things. And that’s ok.

Some Final Thoughts

In general, what I’ve learned about my own behavior has mainly helped to solidify what I already knew from research and other blogs- people are looking for easy and authentic interactions on social media. For my institution, this means I’m trying to focus more on relationship building, on answering questions quickly, on sharing content that feels relevant to our audience. It also means I’m changing up what I share on different channels- if I can’t make the leap from one platform to another easy for the user, I’m not going to try to force it. Instead, I need to creatively find ways to bring the information to them in a manner that they are going to be able to digest.

It’s been fascinating to be part of a completely new social media realm, especially one that is so vibrant and intense. While I’m happy for the lessons I’ve learned, I’m also looking forward to my feed returning to normal once this whole pregnancy thing is done. It’s a little exhausting to be bombarding from all sides (that includes physically since the little one is a kicker) by one topic, and I’m excited to get back to the days when the ads I got were mainly wine and travel.

So maybe that’s a final takeaway- be on brand, but give your audience breaks. If you’re a serious account, add a little humor to break things up; if you’re always selling, take a moment to relax and just share something personal. One of my new favorite things to do with the institutional account I run is to share a message from me, personally, about how I really enjoy a particular photograph or how I’m taking a day off and sharing this photo as a fun reminder of that. It breaks up the more academic/promotional feed we normally run.

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Kate Meyers Emery

PhD, Roc native, Digital evangelist. Manager of Digital Engagement at @eastmanmuseum. @SUNYgeneseo @EdinburghUni + @michiganstateu alum. Opinions my own