The Ultimate East Memphis Mom: Suzanne Johnston
By M. Taylor Oaks
Miles Mason Family Law Group, PLC
Suzanne Johnston, founder of EastMemphisMoms.com, is a New England born-and-raised mom of two sons who has lived in Memphis since 2010. EastMemphisMoms.com offers parents in the area a guide to events, food, sales, schools, clubs, activities, sports, and more to keep kids busy and parents sane.
What led Suzanne to create this popular and resourceful site? “Today I’m like most moms – a bit of everything – wife, mom, handyman, accountant, nurse, teacher, personal shopper, and more,” Suzanne said. Suzanne lived in Charlotte, NC, before moving to Memphis. There, she turned to the Internet for help when she was overwhelmed. She found an events-focused group in Charlotte that she later ended up managing. Under her management, the group grew from 500 to over 2,000 members. She then began to help run the non-profit organization that founded that site in Charlotte, and she helped start approximately 100 local-mom support sites around the country.
“I’m a communicator and very information driven, and wasn’t finding the type of online resource I wanted in Memphis, so I figured I’d just start one on my own” Suzanne said.
Since April 26, 2011, over 87,000 people have visited the site. Over 28,000 of those visited in the last 30 days. The EastMemphisMoms.com Facebook site has received over 2,500 “likes,” and over 500 people follow EastMemphisMoms.com on Twitter.
Sharon Mason, a mother living in East Memphis and a member of the Miles Mason Family Law Group team, has lived in East Memphis for over 40 years. Sharon visits EastMemphisMoms.com, viewing comments and responding to questions, at least once a week. Even though Sharon has over 30 more years experience living in East Memphis than does Suzanne, she still finds things on EastMemphisMoms.com that she never knew existed.
Not being from Memphis originally, Suzanne started EastMemphisMoms.com for admittedly selfish reasons. “I was tired of not having a large group of moms I could ask about schools, places to shop, activities, etc. I also bring a different perspective to things since I’m looking at everything from the view of an outsider. It’s all new and exciting to me!”
Now, if Suzanne’s 3-year-old needs a pair of sunglasses but Suzanne doesn’t know where to go, all she has to do is post a question on Facebook, and one of the many East Memphis moms will tell her where to go. Check.
If Suzanne’s husband is out playing golf, what is she going to do with her boys to keep them entertained? Once again, all she has to do is check the calendar on EastMemphisMoms.com to see what activities are going on. Check.
“I love it when I get an e-mail and someone tells me how much the site helped her. Grandparents are e-mailing too, which is great, “Suzanne said. “And I love being in the position where I can help spread the word about things that might get missed – like that Lifeblood is in dire need of blood donations, that it’s time to check out the Optional Programs at Memphis City Schools, or that it’s time to vote and here are links to the candidates that will be on your ballot. Being informed is important, especially as a parent.”
Why make the site EastMemphisMoms.com and not MemphisMoms.com? “I had to draw a line, for myself really,” Suzanne said. With all of Memphis, Suzanne would have to compile much larger lists, which would include additional communities, like some in Mississippi and Arkansas. East Memphis is more specific and topical.
Suzanne views social media as the best way to gather and spread information. She finds her website much more organized than her old way of using discussion forums, in which she would see the same questions over and over again. “With my blog, I compile the answers from lots of smart local moms and update as necessary. So the questions asked on Facebook are always fresh, and with over a year’s worth of posts, my blog is now a really great resource for parents,” Suzanne said. “Facebook is a fantastic way to have a conversation with a bunch of customers in one place and to reach out to their connections as well, but it’s just one way to reach people.” Suzanne has also dipped into Pinterest, Instagram and Google+, but she has not seen an immediate benefit. As a result, she does not use them with her site.
Social-media marketing has not been a real difficult task for Suzanne, a woman who before motherhood worked in technology marketing, product management, and project management. “I work to reach my [users] where they are, not where I want them to be. You can’t just set up a website and then disconnect your phone, or create a Facebook page and then stop checking your e-mail. You have to do it all,” Suzanne said. Through Facebook, blogs, email, and Twitter, EastMemphisMoms.com, sees over 7,900 unique visitors a month. Undoubtedly, that will continue to grow rapidly over time.
What does the future look like for EastMemphisMoms.com? That’s not certain. Some of Suzanne’s goals go beyond her technical skills, and she would need to make some investments. EastMemphisMoms.com, however, is a quickly growing website with room to expand in the new era of social media. “I cannot predict the future, but I do know that moms will always be looking for things to do with their kids, recommendations on doctors and household services, advice on schools, and more, and I hope to be the one meeting those needs.”