by Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter
With the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic constantly looming, finding silver linings throughout this situation isn’t always easy. But with millions stuck at home with their phones acting as their main source of entertainment and social interaction, influencers and content creators in the trades have been able to use this time as an opportunity to expand their audiences, connect and engage with their online communities and use their platforms to spread messages of positivity and encouragement. One of the leaders in this online community of DIYers and woodworkers is Rob Rein of Ginger Woodworks. Based in Grand Island, New York, located north of Buffalo and south of Niagara Falls, Rob is a full-time social worker during the day and a practicing woodworker and DIYer to his nearly 80,000 Instagram followers during all the hours in between. Sonnhalter spoke with Rob to learn more about how the pandemic has affected and influenced him, his content and his online community at large.
Sonnhalter: When the pandemic crisis began in the U.S., how did you initially respond?
Rob Rein, Ginger Woodworks: Initially, I saw it as, “How are we going to balance this new routine, but also be productive?” So, I went out and bought all the supplies I needed to finish all the projects in the house. All of us have projects we get into and they get left behind because the next project happens and it all just snowballs. We grabbed everything for some projects we needed to finish and had a staged setup ready to go. I wasn’t going to let the time be wasted.
Have there been any unexpected benefits or positive experiences with your time at home?
With my kids, they are always busy, but with all that stuff no longer happening, I’ve been able to include my kids into my work. My oldest, he’s learned electrical in one month. He’s been wiring the outlets at my in-law’s house. We showed him over the last couple weeks how to do the outlets, and now he’s replacing all the outlets in the house. Those are the wins. It’s good to remind folks that you have an opportunity to pass skills onto your kids who otherwise would be too busy. My wife and I are taking the opportunity to help our kids come out of this with actual life skills.
With everyone being stuck at home, did you see an increase in your social media engagement?
I have noticed that [likes and views] are probably up 20-30% from before. You have outliers, like a video or post that speaks to the community. You really have to make content that is a three-headed monster. It has to be a quality post, have quality writing and it has to engage people. Sometimes, you post something and don’t realize that people give a crap about it. For instance, I got these nail pullers. I could post a video of these and show people how to use them and it could flop. But I would take a chance on that, because it’s possible that a lot of people right now are doing home renovations or some kind of demo. All of a sudden, I get 74 comments that say, “Man I wish I would’ve had these last week,” or “Man, I’m gonna need that.”
How has this current situation shaped the content you make?
I’m trying to make sure that, whether it be in my stories or posts, I’m sharing stuff that I think people care about in the moment. It’s hard, because some of the projects are things that people aren’t going to take on. For example, I just did the kitchen at my in-law’s house and it involved thousands of dollars’ worth of cabinets. I have to temper that with things like cornhole sets, since 75% of my followers could probably do that. So, I’ve been trying to balance projects that I’m doing with some simple DIY things, like faucets and stuff.
As a content creator, some of my content comes down to, “that would be a good picture,” but I’m sharing the whole gambit of what someone needs, what they need to do and the skill itself. I also want to share the tools and the products in the process. People want to know what I’m using. That has to be about 25-30% of my feed. I think that’s important right now because people can’t go to the stores and touch things. Brands and marketing companies have to recognize that people can’t touch things right now. They’re probably saying, “If I’m ordering a new saw and I have to get this over the internet, I need to know how it works or if it’s what I’m looking for.”
What are some of the ways influencers and content creators have helped their online communities during the pandemic?
I think ultimately, we do have a responsibility to keep people occupied and busy at home. That’s something I’ve really tried to do on my feed and in my stories. Just to really showcase all the things that I’m doing. It’s just super important for us influencers and content creators to churn stuff out. It’s an encouragement to everybody who maybe needs to be reminded that, at the end of the day, the difference between succeeding in this time and not comes down to this: Do you want to look back at this time and feel like you wasted it, or that you made this time a positive experience in some capacity? There are many terrible things about this, but the truth is that between the time frame and the experience, we should be striving to make this a positive.