Here at IF Towers there are some older dads in the mix. Yep, there’s traditional dad stuff like photos on desks, and dad jokes flying around, but as is our business, we’re living and breathing social. It’s not the sole preserve of the young. We invented it doncha know! So, we asked the question ‘what does social mean to modern dads?’. Who better to ask, than Al Ferguson of the Dad Network.
Al, the brains behind The Dad Network, is on a mission to get Dad’s voices heard. He may be vying for more male friendly changing facilities with the #dadsforchange campaign, or sharing valuable advice with his 9,000 followers. He’s building a community that just keeps on growing and recently reached a momentous milestone when a deal with Warner Bros. was inked.
We’ve seen mobilised mothers storming the gates of social media and casting a mum’s net over parenting, but what about the dads? We are obviously just as involved in the process, and must also make those every day decisions that affect our children’s lives whether we are working full-time, or are stay at home dads, from all over the world.
We asked Al to tell us about the incredible journey he’s on with The Dad Network.
Hello Al. Thanks for taking the time out to answer some questions for us. How and why did you start the Dad’s Network?
The Dad Network began as a personal blog following a devastating miscarriage over our wedding day. I looked online, not knowing where else to turn and found next to no resources aimed at dads. So, I decided to blog about life as a dad myself. Soon, dads were emailing thanking me for opening up about miscarriage and other topics which demonstrated the need for an online resource for dads.
Were you a big social media or technology user before DN? In personal or professional life? (Al is an ex-teacher)
No. I wasn’t even on Facebook when I started TDN.
Did you initially have a strategy to grow DN or was it more organic? Were there any tools you’d recommend to other micro-influencers starting out?
It’s always been completely organic having never spent a penny on promotion or advertising. You can’t beat social media for getting the word out there. But, we decided to pick 3 platforms only, as you can get bogged down in doing a little on a lot of platforms rather than a lot on a few platforms. The latter was better for us.
Is there a typical Dad in your audience, as it has an international make-up? What are the common concerns?
Not really – we have a huge variety of dads in our network; anything from gay dads, transgender dads, single dads, teenage dads, professional dads to SAHDs.
Common concerns are usually around the common parenting issues; sleep, feeding, behaviour issues & teething.
There are some hot topic potatoes in the group. How do you moderate it?
The larger the group, the more moderation is needed. Then throw in the differences in cultures and you can get some really heated debates. We keep it simple with a few rules and have a handful of moderators to uphold them – generally, it’s a great group with very few issues but you always get someone looking to troll!
Do you think DN makes it easier for them to talk online in a community, rather than in a society where men don’t ‘talk’ to each other?
Absolutely. And what we’re trying to do is bring what happens online, offline via our local groups. We hear about new friendships sprouting up all over the place which ultimately lead to dads talking to other dads in real life.
Personally, thank you for giving us a platform. Can you share yours and other dads’ social media concerns for their children, growing up?
The issues that concern dads are online safety regarding bullying. The world is a lot nastier when people can throw stones from behind a keyboard. Children in today’s society are doing this more and more and that’s what concerns dads the most.
How has DN empowered dads? Are they using it differently to say, mums? Are they ‘loyal and engaging’?
I think (& hope) it’s empowering dads by giving them value. Not so long ago dads were considered the plus 1 where raising a family was concerned. Now, dads are valued in their rightful position as parent. Feeling valued leads to dads being loyal, so yes – we’re seeing many dads coming back and becoming fiercely protective of the community we’ve created.
DN is putting out authentic content through influence and trust. How do your nurture and empower your audience?
By building relationships with people. We aim to reply to every personal message we get; whether it’s via DM or a mere comment.
What do brand partners look for from The Dad’s Network?
A dad’s opinion and take on parenting. For years brands have only regarded mums’ opinion as valuable yet now we’re seeing a shift in decision making within the household. Which detergent we use, what colour to paint the nursery, what brand of nappies to use, are all decisions that dads are now involved with.
What’s the biggest boost you’ve given a product or service?
No idea! Ha!
What advice would you give a dad who’s considering starting a blog, or something bigger?
That it isn’t a quick fix for making money. That you need to set your clear goals as to why you’re starting a blog and that you must be prepared to put in hours of work.
How did Warner Bros. come knocking at your door?
No idea, again. I just had a phone call one day and it was Warner Brothers. It’s a really long (and slow) journey. Collaborative projects can move slower than glaciers!
What have been your highs and lows along the way?
The high point has definitely been being able to become a ‘Stay at home dad’ whilst running the network. Being able to spend time with my children, whilst earning a living is a real privilege and I will always be thankful for this opportunity.
The low points are those occasions where you can’t help but listen to the minority who slate you for something. Something they almost certainly know nothing about, but none the less, it’s hard not to let it affect you.
Lastly, what’s in store for DN? Are you constantly looking at new ways to engage, through different platforms? or focusing on certain areas?
Again, good question. We’ve just launched our family vlog, which is going really well and we’re really enjoying it. We’re looking at new ways to connect dads and new ways to do what we’re already doing, but on a larger scale.
The moral of this fairytale is that yes, you can micro-manage your rise to blogger and social media stardom, be on top of all the latest platform developments, curate targeted content with the intention of chasing the big buck, but it boils down to the simplest of elements: speak from the heart and tap into an audience that will fill a void. You might just wind up changing a few lives along the way.
Happy #FathersDay to social dads, young dads, old dads and dads everywhere.