By Ida Vallo Morris
Social Media & Content Manager
Just because we have to be distant doesn’t mean we can’t still be social. Our new normal has taken some getting used to, and some aspects have certainly been easier than others. It’s a good time for brands and businesses to re-evaluate their own new normal and find new ways to connect with their communities. Doing what they can to stay connected is not only exactly what their audiences and communities need right now, it’s smart business.
From musicians to museums to fitness centers—and so many more—there have been countless examples of businesses connecting with their audiences in innovative and engaging ways, including virtual experiences. It’s a great way to stay top-of-mind and, whether it’s a national brand or the gym around the corner, it’s a great way to preserve those hard-earned connections with consumers and communities.
One important caveat: there’s a fine line between welcomed content that helps keep spirits high and insensitivity that seems opportunistic. Here are a few examples of who is getting it just right.
Musicians Use Livestreaming to Stay Connected
Anyone who knows me knows that my most favorite thing to do is see live music. In fact, pre-social distancing, I was very much looking forward to a packed spring tour schedule of some of my favorite bands. Then, from Brooklyn Comes Alive to Boston Calling, from my husband’s band at the local bar to Rage Against the Machine at MSG, all my shows were cancelled. Understandable and necessary, but sad.
However, within days, I started getting emails and Facebook messages that put a smile on my face. Not only were my favorite bands working hard on ways to live stream shows (aka ‘Couch Tour’) they were using those shows to collect donations to various charities and organizations. One example is the Baltimore-based band Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. The band has an extremely loyal following and going to shows is a chance to share some time with like-minded people who are linked through music.
We were looking forward to seeing the band, reconnecting, and re-energizing, and the cancellations were hard. The band missed us, too, and on Tuesday, March 24th, they posted a YouTube video of a live stream of them performing a previously unreleased song called Water—recorded “live from our secret hideout,” that fans couldn’t get enough of. It was the perfect tease to the band’s Couch Tour they’ll be live streaming from March 28th through April 26th, proceeds of which will be donated to Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, an organization that provides assistance to musicians and music-industry workers.
While it’s not quite the same as being together at a show, enjoying not only the music but the amazing community the band and the fans have built, it’s kind of perfect. The live stream will allow us to interact and engage with each other—people will post pics of how they decorated their Couch Tour set up, what they’re eating and drinking, and even get a virtual band together to play some songs before the actual band comes on. And contributing to such a relevant and worthwhile cause that’s close to all of our hearts is the icing on the cake.
People on the band’s Facebook fan page are already talking about the livestream, predicting what songs they’ll play and hoping for some special guests. The band is doing a fantastic job helping their fans stay connected to them, and to each other, providing a much-needed outlet for any stress the COVID-19 outbreak has caused.
Of course, obscure bird bands are not the only musicians who are livestreaming for their fans or for a cause. Here are a few more musicians who are using livestreaming to stay connected:
- DJ D-Nice
- John Legend
- Miley Cyrus
- Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood
- The Metropolitan Opera
- Mike Doughty
Ever dreamed of wandering the galleries in the Louvre in Paris, or looking up at dinosaurs at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in D.C.? Well, now’s your chance. While nothing can compare to seeing Van Gogh’s brushstrokes in person, museums around the world are reminding us that their immersive virtual tours are the next best thing.
- Start at the Musée d’Orsay, where you can explore 278 legendary masterpieces, including Henri Matisse’s Luxe, Calme et Volupté, Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian Women on the Beach, and Van Gogh’s Self Portrait.
All the pieces include detailed descriptions, information, and notations, more than enough to please even the most enthusiastic art lover. People appreciate the virtual tour—a welcomed, calming respite when they might be feeling stressed or anxious and want to turn off the TV. While most won’t be able to jet off to Paris to visit even when the travel bans end, some will, and many more will be inspired to visit their local galleries. It’s a win-win for art and artists.
- Next, pop over to New York to experience The Met 360° Project. The award-winning series of six short videos gives viewers an immersive tour around the museum’s most popular exhibits, including The Temple of Dendur and Arms and Armor. Both galleries are perennial favorites with kids, who might need a break from their home-schooling routine—and no permission slips or bagged lunched needed. Parents will be thankful for a few minutes to check their emails or put away the dishes, knowing their kids are immersed in something cultural and educational.
- No virtual museum tour would be complete without a trip to London’s British Museum. Their timeline, The Museum of the World, is visually stunning, even before you click on one of the hundreds of annotated objects of art from the course of human history, from 5,000BC to the present day. Visitors can learn about primitive art, like this 11,700-year-old African crocodile and modern art, like this computer-patterned string bag from Papua, New Guinea, and even the Rosetta Stone. The UX is highly engaging, and, again, includes tons of information and additional links to learn more.
Not to be outdone, Zoos, Aquariums, and Theme Parks have been taking the virtual experience very seriously.
- Atlanta Zoo’s Panda Cam. “We know pandas bring you joy, and in these extraordinary times, we’re glad.”
- The San Diego Zoo has multiple live cams running 24/7. Visit giraffes, koalas, polar bears, and hippos without leaving your kitchen.
- The National Aquarium in Baltimore’s virtual tour features four floors of interactivity, from the tropics to the tundra.
- There’s always plenty to see at Disney World, and their virtual tours of the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot will keep young ones oohing and ahhing while mom and dad make dinner.
Many states have closed all non-essential businesses, which includes gyms, studios, and fitness centers, making it challenging for millions of health-conscious people to keep busy and fit indoors.
As you might expect, lots of businesses jumped headfirst into the virtual fitness world, while others have supplemented their already robust virtual classes to appeal to a larger audience that’s stuck in their homes.
Some gyms and fitness centers that have been early adopters of the virtual fitness trend have been augmenting their class list to deliver the workouts that their communities need. One great example is Upper Deck Fitness in Stamford, CT. The gym’s founder and CEO, Suzanne Vita Palazzo, has been offering virtual classes for a while. Thanks to the livestreaming technology, people can take a virtual class in the comfort of their own homes, with an instructor who can see and coach them.
But in the past few weeks, even though she’s been forced to close her gym locations, Suzanne has done what she’s always done: kept her clients, her employees, and her community in mind. She’s expanded the virtual class schedule, and added kids’ classes to help homebound parents looking for ways to keep their family active. And she’s even offering free classes to healthcare workers.
“The stress and anxiety of this crisis is toxic to our bodies and should not be ignored,” Suzanne said. “In order to keep our immunity strong, we must continue to move and release all that’s pent up.”
Thankfully, she’s got just the solution: “We, as gym, have incredible resources with our technology and our staff to keep people safe and strong right now.” Suzanne continued. “But this is not just about a workout. It's about the ripple effect that workout creates, especially when we're experiencing it within an interactive, supportive community.”
The Advantage of The Virtual Business
Suzanne really speaks to what’s important here. All these virtual experiences help us in various ways, whether it’s to teach us, entertain us, or keep us fit. But the one thing they have in common is the connection to a community of people who are like you, people who like music and art and staying healthy.
It’s more important than ever that we keep connected to our families, friends, and communities at this time. It’s what’s going to see us through to the other side of this social distancing that we’ve all become pros at. It’s what’s keeping us sane and happy until we can get together again, for real and in person.