Everybody’s an expert. Or are they?
When Oscar Wilde described an expert as an ordinary man — or woman — away from home giving advice, he couldn’t have imagined how that notion would resonate across the Internet, and that the ranks of authoritative lay people would have grown exponentially into an army of online educators.
The number of Instagram courses in the U.S. has mushroomed since the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent quarantine orders in many parts of the country. A spokeswoman said views of Instagram Live, where much of the content involves instruction, increased more than 70 percent in the last month. The prospect of connecting with captive audiences has spawned a cottage industry with masters, furloughed instructors and coaches hawking classes about how to land a six-figure book deal or steer a fashion business through COVID-19-fraught waters.
“We’re seeing a significant increase in both IG Live and Facebook Live usage,” said an Instagram spokeswoman. “Home workout posts on Instagram feed and Stories in the U.S. increased many times over on March 18 compared to just a few days prior. Create and Cultivate, a platform for women about creating and cultivating their careers, has been hosting an ‘Ask an expert’ series on IG Live, on topics such as public relations, executive leadership, marketing and fashion design.”
The Instagram spokeswoman cited Follain’s virtual hangouts with small and medium-size businesses on Live “to talk all things clean beauty and beauty in quarantine.” Last Thursday’s guest was eponymous brand founder Josh Rosebrook. Today, at 4 pm EST, Rosemary Swift, founder of RMS Beauty, will teach a makeup mini-master class.
Scotch & Soda chief marketing officer Stephane Jaspar said the brand has seen its engagement on Instagram Live soar to three times what it was before the coronavirus crisis. “During the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve begun a weekly series, ‘At Home With Scotch,’ which we’re co-creating with friends of the brand,” said Jaspar, citing an upcoming episode on breathwork and restorative release. “Each week, we feature artists, entrepreneurs and creatives who’ve agreed to share their world with us. We hope the series educates and provide tips, but if all it does is crack a small smile in someone, then we’ve done our job.”
Statistica, in a March 12 survey of social media users in the U.S., found that 43.1 percent of respondents said they’d use Instagram more if confined to their homes due to the coronavirus. Market research firm Obviously, which in March surveyed 1,000-plus influencers and analyzed more than 7.5 million Instagram posts, 260 campaigns and 2,152 TikTok influencers, recorded a 76 percent increase in daily accumulated likes on Instagram #ad posts in March; 22 percent increase in Instagram campaign impressions in the first quarter of 2020 from last year’s fourth quarter, and 27 percent higher engagement on TikTok from February to March.
“Suddenly there’s so much content, and everybody’s an expert. It 100 percent has to do with the coronavirus,” said Sarah Easley, founder and ceo of MaisonMarché, who last week joined the crowd with her own tutorial. “My approach to Instagram Live and sharing content is to stay in my lane of fashion. Instagram and social media is a great way to engage with clients right now.”
Easley said she started writing a newsletter to her customers. “It didn’t feel right. I’m not an essential business, and I’m not working in health care,” she said. “However, posting beautiful pictures — I did this campaign called, Fashion Daydreams, with items you can buy right now. For example, there’s a gorgeous cape for $495.”
Referring to special offers on Instagram that begin with the inducement of a free lesson or workout session, Easley said, “I’ve seen it in fitness where you do the first 10 minutes of the workout with a master trainer and then it kicks you out. I understand it they’re paying the trainer, but it’s bait and switch. There’s so much content and so much noise and no barrier to entry. Therein lies the problem: quality control.”
“It’s crazy how much the online industry is growing,” said Jeanine Blackwell, host of the “#ExpertCalledYou,” without a trace of irony. “More experts are creating online courses, and more people are learning through online courses than ever before.”
Blackwell, who’s trained 40,000 people, said she’s helping other experts scale their businesses by teaching them how to create their own online courses. During her Virtual Inner Circle Incubator Retreat in February, 100 people created online courses in the Course Create-a-thon. “I love creating in a small group,” she said. “There’s just something about going from having an idea to getting it done that just feels good.”
“Oh my god, you’re in,” Danielle Leslie, a former marketer for Silicon Valley start-ups, said recently on Instagram, raising a mocktail — “Kombucha,” she told viewers — as virtual confetti shot up from under a table. “Welcome to CourseFromScratch. I’m wearing my party jacket, and my earrings. I’ve been waiting for this moment. So, let’s do, ‘Cheers to you.'”
Leslie created and marketed #CourseFromScratch, an eight-week online intensive series that teaches participants how to turn their passion, expertise, skills and story into a profitable online course that gives them the freedom to WFH. Leslie’s Instagram read, “FREE special training TODAY [yes, it’s in all caps because I don’t want you to miss it!]. Quick tidbit: More than 1 in 6 of my students who launch a course, end up quitting their full-time jobs.”
One Instagram user commented, “I guess anyone can teach courses, one doesn’t need certification in order to give financial advice to others.” Another wrote, “I listened to this today! Learned a lot, thanks!” while a third wrote, “If everyone is giving these online classes, isn’t it just a pyramid scheme?”
With courses begetting many more courses, it may soon be hard to distinguish the teachers from students. As Pat Morita’s character Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid” told Daniel (Ralph Macchio), “The student has become the master.” Which begs the question, if everyone’s a teacher, where will the students come from?
The idea of something for everyone can’t be disputed. Lululemon ambassador Lillian Gray Charles’ New Age bent includes leading fans and clients through illumination sessions and closet purges. “Discovering, Dreaming, Designing and Embracing Your Destiny” claims to help remove the physical, mental and emotional barriers that stop people from living fully expressed lives. The “work” takes four to six weeks, and participants leave with a vision board, purged closet, look book of outfits, “and much more.”
Gray Charles recently on Instagram Live spoke to her followers, waxing self-reflective. “I’ve found myself since this quarantine started, having my profound thoughts either in my dreams or when I’m working out,” she told her audience. “I’m ready to give up things like comparisons and self-judgment and being hard on myself. Actually, that’s the work for myself, and the work I’m offering right now,” she said about letting go of old beliefs.
“How can we possibly navigate these crazy uncertain times,” Christine Daal, aka Fashion Angel Warrior, told her fans last week. “These aren’t the times to panic, these are the times to prosper.” Recalling 2008 and 2009, when the stock market was crashing and the housing market crashed, she said, “I ended up actually financially flourishing, and part of it, I swear, was due to my mind-set.”