Ten months into the Covid-19 pandemic and it’s difficult for consumers to not feel virtual event fatigue. But Unbothered, Refinery29’s sub-brand for Black women, is still managing to grow its audience through virtual experiences that tie into the brand’s mission of creating a safe space for Black women to feel seen and heard.
The three-year-old media platform, whose Go Off, Sis podcast was named Adweek’s 2020 Podcast of the Year, has produced numerous livestreamed events since the pandemic began in 2020, including The Black Woman Is Essential series with Target and mental-health focused In The Living Room series. The brand reported these events have garnered upward of 1 million views total, and incorporating them into its website and social channels have helped Unbothered see a 40% increase in site traffic to stories and 89% increase in Instagram followers year over year.
Unbothered reported Wash Day, its latest Facebook Live event—a daylong virtual retreat on Jan. 17 offering tutorials and conversations around hair care and self-investment—performed three times above the average benchmark of similar events, drawing more than 1,000 comments live and steady attendance during a four-hour stream.
Olivia-Jené Fagon, creative director of experiential and events for Vice Media Group, said the secret to getting its audience to still tune in lies within programming an event that answers three questions: Does the event fill a void? How does it provide a service? Does it actually need to be live?
“With Wash Day, we asked ourselves what environments or routines our audience might be missing from pre-pandemic times that haven’t been ‘uploaded yet’ into the online world. For many Black women, that’s the hair salon and their wash days,” Fagon said. “We wanted to create an experience to mirror the sacred, joyful and communal experience of being at the salon, which takes on so many forms—from a watering hole for Black women to let their hair down with each other to a ‘therapy’ session with your hairstylist.”
Unbothered’s vp of brand innovation and strategic partnerships Chelsea Sanders said Wash Day began as an editorial series. After seeing positive reader response, her and Vice Media Group’s experiential team worked to create a space for readers to “to release, learn and celebrate that shared ritual of hair care, from sharing their deep conditioning hacks and learning new protective styles to developing positive self-talk and setting goals in 2021.”
The brand tapped hair care pros and influencers such as Nigella Miller, Scottie Beam and Chrissy Rutherford to lead the conversations.
“Talent also continues to be one of the biggest drivers of tune-in but casting talent for virtual events requires a bit of a different approach,” Fagon said. “For a conversation-based virtual event like Wash Day, our talent needed a relevant POV and existing audience, yes, but they also needed to be public figures that people actually wanted to hear from live.”
Sanders said pre- and post-event engagement, boosted by opportunities for content capture and physical extensions, is also key to creating a virtual event with long-lasting impact. For example, the brand incorporated natural hair care brand Emerge as a sponsor, offering online shoppable extensions and delivering curated product kits to select attendees who RSVP’d.
And prior to Wash Day, Unbothered created a custom Instagram Story filter for attendees to use for posting photos of their own wash day, and created a Spotify playlist to go along with each session. To increase the event’s reach, the brand uploaded the sessions to its Facebook page for fans who weren’t able to tune in live.