Lisa and Alana MacFarlane, better known as The Gut Stuff twins, noticed a sudden surge in engagement with their gut health education website and social media posts exactly one week after lock down began in the UK.
Speaking to NutraIngredients, Lisa says she assumes it took that one week for people to realise they needed to look on line for some inspiration on how to take charge of their health.
Within weeks of the lock down coming into force, the business partners' found they couldn't keep up with demand for the gut health diaries they sell on their e-commerce page - a sign that people were keen to discover how their diets affect their microbiomes.
“Suddenly people had time to concentrate on their health and they wanted to learn how to improve it and we can help them on that journey.”
Noticing a clear desire for structure, the twins created monthly ‘gutta get thru this’ schedules – inspired by noughties pop singer Daniel Bedingfield – filled with health promoting activities that they carry out online alongside their audience using Instagram. One particularly popular event on the agenda is ‘Fermentation Fridays’.
“Not only do people have more time to devote to researching and educating themselves but they are also looking for things to do that are more involved and take a bit longer - things they would never have had time for before.
“We were getting so many people asking us about fermentation so we thought we would create a regular slot where everyone can try it together. It’s the perfect time to get into fermentation, especially with the kids, it’s great fun for them because they’re working with a living things plus the scoby is a bit like a jelly fish!
“We started out easy with kombucha and then we’ve moved onto sourdough bread. People have been really engaged with these, some have been sending in their pictures of their failed attempts to ask where they went wrong.”
Lisa explains they didn’t develop a ‘new strategy’ in response to the increased interest, as such, but simply responded to the fact this is a time for more open and interactive engagement with their community as everyone is suddenly in the same boat.
“Before the lock down, our videos were usually quite factual and practical but when we were in lock down we just naturally started to talk more about what we were doing from one day to the next and started hosting lots more live videos.
“It's been surprising to see people have become way more open and engaged – they’re more likely to ask questions in our Instagram live Q&A’s than before. It’s like because we’re all just living virtually now we’re allowing people to see more of our real selves through these platforms. Whereas before they were just a highlights reel, now they’re where we're doing all our socialising.
“People definitely like to follow things live at the moment because it’s an opportunity to interact with others – like we’ve been doing workouts live on Instagram, it gives people that virtual hand on the shoulder to encourage them to keep going.”
The twins also continue to use their platform to sift through the ‘sea of quackery’ that circulates online, with regular Q&A’s with experts and GP’s, with several of their guests coming straight to the chat from shifts at Nightingale Hospital.
Their most popular Instagram post to date was their ‘poositions’ post advising the best position in which to defecate, which racked up more than one million impressions.
“We had so many people tagging their friends saying ‘I told you we needed a foot stool’ and all sorts, it’s hilarious to see the interaction with that one. The comments alone show how much more open and comfortable people are becoming.”
Giving her advice to other companies wanting to use this opportunity to engage with their audience, Lisa says her main tip is to remain totally transparent and simply bring what you’re doing behind the scenes, to the main stage.
“Be transparent, whether that be about how your business is right now or how you're feeling, people are very accepting at the moment and people are trying to support each other however they can. We’ve been doing local business shout-outs just to try and use our platform to do some good for others. That’s what we all are trying to do at the moment in our own ways."
Speaking about the long term effects that this pandemic could have for the probiotics and fermented foods industry, Lisa says the benefits will be long-lasting and far-reaching.
“This situation is going to have long term benefits for the whole wellbeing sector because people are having to take it upon themselves to find out how they can control their own health. This lockdown is also causing people to fuse health and wellbeing together as two elements that go hand in hand.
“We’ve all been running so fast for so long and not had the time to concentrate on our own bodies and now that's become one of the most important things we're devoting our time to.”