Issue #16: Art classes on IG Live, board games with creators, and beauty tutorials that double as lectures

In a recent newsletter, sociology professor and strategist Ana Andjelic writes that, while much of the innovation we’ve grown accustomed to is driven by tech, currently, innovations across industries are being driven by necessity. “Innovation-by-necessity has little to do with any new technology,” she writes. “With tech innovation, bad things are a negative externality of good things. In contrast, innovation by necessity – social, economic, environmental – doesn’t create side effects.”

I’m interested in how the unique needs that have arisen during lockdown are changing what we see in our feeds, and what those changes look like when they’re not in any way driven by the platforms themselves. This interest dovetails pretty perfectly with a piece of research I’ve been doing for We Are Social, in which I’ve been interviewing creators about how the pandemic is impacting the way people are engaging with their content. FYI, if that sounds like something you’d be into, you can find the full deck here.

So this issue features three examples of how creators are catering to shifts in what we need – complete with quotes from our interviews. Hope you angels are staying safe!!

1. These beauty tutorials double as lectures on important cultural narratives 

“People aren’t concerned with my regular content right now,” says beauty and fashion creator Mikai McDermott. “They don’t want to see me only talking about make-up or fashion.” And perhaps it’s not so surprising that, at a time when we’re facing daily updates on death tolls, underfunded health services and dissatisfaction with government responses, knowing which highlighter a beautiful internet figurehead is using may seem a little vacuous.

But there’s also comfort to be taken in formats that feel ‘normal’ – like beauty tutorials. So she’s finding ways to merge new desires with her regular formats. Some of the most interesting posts to come out of this are her IGTV videos, in which she applies her make-up in a way that aesthetically feels like a beauty tutorial, while discussing bigger cultural narratives. They look like this:

In this one, she discusses the role of race in the narratives around pandemics and coronavirus, ultimately educating her followers and facilitating an important conversation among them. The content itself is juxtaposed with a format which, while less ‘serious’, provides comfort through familiarity. And imo it’s a format that we could see stick around long after the pandemic has passed.

TL;DR: After lockdown, beauty bloggers could be expected to show more of their internal worlds and workings.

2. This guy has been playing Monopoly with his followers on IG Live

Rambo FYI is a football and gaming creator, who also presents for the Premier League, and I discovered him when I saw a mate playing a game of Monopoly with him on IG Live. It looked like this:

He had the board, dice, cards, etc., and he’d pull someone into the live with him, who would instruct him on how they wanted to play their turn. Every 10 minutes or so, he’d switch them out for another person on the live, essentially giving a few different viewers a turn over the course of the game. “It was mental because there were people in there from the very beginning of the game all the way through,” he said.

People’s desire for connection at this time is piquing. Whether people are living alone, or cooped up with their families, many are looking to the internet for a sense of togetherness and intimacy. And while some of this comes through chats with friends and family, others are looking to creators for this, too. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot,” says Rambo. “After this is all done, are people going to be frustrated that the direct interactions with people they follow are over?”

For him, games of Monopoly are a way to connect with his following, without overstepping his usual boundaries in terms of how he connects with his audience. “I just thought if we play a board game, then they can still ask me questions, but we can also have a laugh together,” he says. “It felt really natural, and kind of like how it is in your house – where you all have a laugh and chat while you play – until the game gets deep.” At a time when a lot of online connection is achieved through overt displays of emotion, this achieves the same effect while keeping the content light.

TL;DR: After lockdown, playing games and activities with creators could become a new norm. 

3. This creator has been hosting daily art classes for kids on Instagram

“Sometimes, as a creator, you spend a lot of time thinking ‘what is this for?’,” says author, designer and parenting influencer Emma Scott-Child. “When something like this comes along, you can really add value.” For Emma, whose audience includes a lot of parents, the need is pretty glaring: they’re seeking ways to educate and entertain the kids they’re now home with 24/7. In response, she’s launched a daily art class on Instagram. They look like this:

Each day, she posts a task, drawing on her Art History degree to provide the context that an irl art class would, and demonstrating with her own children. Other parents do it with their own kids from their homes, and she posts the best responses to her feed. “With the following that I have and the needs that parents will have over this time, I felt like my expertise put me in a good position to really help,” she says.

At a time when there are so many problems to solve, content that serves a genuine utility is, of course, going to do well. “A lot of people are putting out this sort of content right now, and if it’s not something you need immediately, people are skipping over it,” says Emma. But what’s interesting is the increased volume of people who are using Instagram as a tool, rather than a source of entertainment. When all this is over, we could see it maintain its usefulness, and see more people spend time there to learn – a need state previously reserved for platforms like YouTube.

TL;DR: After lockdown, Instagram could become normalised as an open source education platform.

Other important internet finds: