How Apartment Therapy Used Instagram Metrics to Program Its Virtual Event

The Small/Cool Experience At Home featured 20 shoppable spaces online and lots of social media segments.

This storage-savvy “cloffice” (a closet-office) designed by Jamie and Fillip Hord with Danielle Blundell was one of 20 spaces showcased during Apartment Therapy's Small/Cool Experience At Home.
This storage-savvy “cloffice” (a closet-office) designed by Jamie and Fillip Hord with Danielle Blundell was one of 20 spaces showcased during Apartment Therapy's Small/Cool Experience At Home.
Photo: Courtesy of Apartment Therapy

It seems like a natural fit: Host a home design event in, well, homes. This past weekend, Apartment Therapy did just that. Its Small/Cool Experience At Home was made accessible to attendees from the comfort of their couches with a robust slate of programming and virtual rooms that were explorable online.

The shoppable event was originally slated to be held in Brooklyn's Industry City in April, but the home design and decor site decided to pivot to a virtual experience. It showcased 20 spaces that were created by interior designers and stylists, including Gunnar Larson, Angela Belt, Nate Berkus, and Jeremiah Brent, as playful graphic illustrations on the Apartment Therapy website.

“We instead took their plans, mood boards, paint treatments, and more, and created animated videos for our audience to explore online,” explained Laura Schocker, editor-in-chief of Apartment Therapy. “The designers created truly magnificent, creative, and accessible spaces, full of ideas readers can start applying right away. Sharing those ideas feels more important than ever as we're all spending so much time at home.”

Each designer brought a specific trend, such as “eclectic English” or “contemporary classics,” to life in a virtual space that was less than 120 square feet. Visitors could explore the rooms and also shop featured items from the spaces.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the original in-person event was letting our audience really see, feel, and experience these rooms. So the first challenge for our team was to figure out how to re-create that experience through a screen,” Schocker said. “You really do feel like you're a part of each room through our animated experience. The second challenge was to maintain the excitement and energy of a live event. That was the genesis of the corresponding live Instagram event—allowing our audience to interact directly with us, our designers, and our partner brands through conversation, service, games, and giveaways.”

Small/Cool Experience At Home’s Instagram programming, which was broadcast on @apartmenttherapy May 15-17, included a mix of educational seminars, designer demos, interactive games, and social activations, and utilized all of Instagram's features like Live, IGTV, and Stories. Sessions lasted from five to 30 minutes and aired during the evening throughout the weekend. (Friday’s lineup started at 7 p.m. EDT, while Saturday and Sunday's segments started at 4 p.m. EDT.)

Schocker said that the session lengths and timing was determined by social media metrics such as peak video engagement times on Instagram. Adding that, “We know our audience visits from around the world, with the most coming from NYC, California, and Texas, so we tried to pick a time that could maximize views on different time zones.”

As for those exacting time slots (the welcome message lasted eight minutes, for example), Schocker explained that “we looked at how our audience typically interacts with us. Our IG Lives, for instance, see the most engagement in the first 20 minutes, so we planned our live segments for the event to cap out around 20 to 30 minutes.”

The strategy seemed to pay off. In 48 hours, the social programming generated more than 12 million impressions and 1.7 million video views, in addition to 36,000 Live views. The site also reported 50 percent more follower questions than usual during the Instagram Live segments.

Apartment Therapy also integrated sponsors throughout the programming lineup. For example, muralist Liz Karamul designed a wall in her home using colors from paint partner Behr. First, visitors voted on the design and color scheme via Instagram Stories, then the mural was revealed on Sunday night.

“It was important to us that our partners be integrated into the programming in a way that felt authentic and native, just like they would have been at the live event, and we wanted our readers to feel like they were truly experiencing their products,” said Lauren Murphy, vice president of brand innovation and strategy for Apartment Therapy.

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