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.
Sarah Listi, who runs Tool Girl’s Garage, is one of Instagram’s leading voices in the woodworking, home improvement and DIY communities. Based out of Texas, Sarah is a full-time tool reviewer, builder and all-around storyteller who has partnered with some of the industry’s biggest brands and built a loyal following of more than 51,000 Instagram followers.
Sonnhalter spoke with Sarah to learn more about how the pandemic has affected her personal and professional life, the content she creates and how the situation has affected her brand partners and the online community at large.
Sonnhalter: How has it been trying to create content in the midst of the pandemic?
Sarah Listi: There is a lot of fear and concern out there, so I try to generate content that is useful and positive. There is that feeling of, and I don’t want to say “obligation,” but you want to put out positive content when things are going on that are difficult to escape. This is a hard time. It’s weighing on everybody. So, I’m trying to stay positive and focus on what the content is meant to do, whether it’s meant to inspire, bring positivity or just be funny or irreverent.
What have been some of the challenges for you and how have you overcome them?
Trying to balance being a parent and being a content creator when there is no division. There is no school to divide up the day. My biggest thing is trying to stay as consistent as I was before, stay positive and focus on the good. There are many amazing things happening in the community, not necessarily just on social media, but so many people are showing up for others.
I try to be honest about how I feel. I’m very lucky to have followers who are very loyal and respectful and engage with what’s going on in my day-to-day life. I try to be transparent and honest because it’s just easier to be honest and be yourself than to pretend something else. I needed to own up to and address that it’s crazy being a mom, a teacher, a housewife and a full-time content creator right now. That’s a lot for anybody.
Have there been any unexpected benefits or positive experiences with your time at home?
While I am in the shop, my kids have been able to come in and help with sanding or to just ask a lot of questions. It’s nice, because before when they were home, I tried to just focus on them 100 percent so now that there’s a mix, I think they appreciate it and I think it’s good for the family dynamic in a way. It’s nice to have that connection. Like, my daughter was following me around with a sketchbook full of designs of things she wanted me to build her, which struck me. It was a cool moment for me because she’s learning that building and creating is so much more than the execution. There’s a planning stage and there’s an artistic aspect to it.
We had a scrap plywood family project I did with them over the weekend with Lowe’s “#BUILDTHANKS” project and they got a kick out of it. That was really fun and it reminded me of when I was younger and got to create something for the first time. There was a little bit of magic in there.
With everyone being stuck at home, did you see an increase in your social media engagement?
A lot of people are seeing engagement in higher numbers, but I’ve seen more increases in profile visits and followers. I was averaging about 850-900 new followers a week for a while, and now it is closer to 1,100. It’s significant, but not, say, a 300% increase or anything.
What has this situation meant for brand partnerships?
A lot of us have heard more from brands trying to get content together, because they can’t utilize those traditional marketing methods right now, like photo shoots, filming, etc. It’s been kind of interesting. I would imagine that [these opportunities] are probably going to keep growing, even after we get back to the norm.
What are some of the trends you’ve seen with fellow content creators and your followers during the pandemic?
One cool thing about social media is that we’re never alone. If I talk about having a rough time or a great day, they want to hear that and give you that feedback and they’re always celebrating those victories with you. For content, I think a lot of people are focusing on getting organized. We all wish we were more organized, especially in our shops, so we are all thinking about how we can make it better for when we are back to the norm. There are a lot of “build at home” initiatives and projects encouraging others to use scrap materials.
Any other ways you’re staying positive during this time?
I am trying to capitalize on family time. We are all home together, so let’s make the home that much better to be in. At the end of the day, when have we had this much time at home with our families? It’s a weird and huge shift. You have to find the good in whatever you can. Hopefully, we never have a situation like this again. It has been devastating to see this much fear, but all you can do is make the best of a bad situation.
To read part one of our blog post series, click here: Even During a Pandemic, Influencers in the Trades Build On: Part One