As working from home has become the norm, plenty of employees are no longer required to live where their company is based. This is creating an opportunity for cities around the country to attract remote workers and they are turning to influencers to help woo that talent.
The pandemic has created a desire and need for employees to move to places where they can afford more space to fit their families that are working and going to school at home, or find a city with a lower cost of living.
“The job market is clearly shifting and more people can work remotely, which is also giving creators the opportunity to live and work anywhere,” Ali Fazal, CEO of Grin, an influencer marketing platform, wrote in an email. “Some cities have older demographics, but have a lot to offer younger professionals, so those cities are turning towards social media as a way to appeal to the younger populations.”
Many people have moved to have more space for their families or to find a city with a lower cost of living. Places like Jacksonville, Florida, Greensboro, North Carolina, and Virginia’s Fairfax County, are using new social media marketing skills to reach these young professionals.
“I am a classic Gen X, so while social media isn’t my go-to, we know it is for millennials and Gen Z, and that’s who we want to attract,” said Aundra Wallace, president of JAXUSA Partnership, Jacksonville’s economic development agency. “We need to reach those people where they are, and they look to influencers.”
JAXUSA enlisted the help of two influencers who each spent a week in separate areas of Jacksonville at different times of the year. The goal was to show that Jacksonville is great for digital nomads and remote workers by boasting its lower cost of living, more space, and pleasant year-round weather.
Natalie Barbu, a 24-year-old creator and podcast host who grew up in Miami, stayed in Jacksonville Beach with her best friend, going to coffee shops, the beach, taking yoga classes, listening to live music, and, of course, working remotely.
Amanda Watkins, an Atlanta-based blogger and creator, stayed with her fiancé in the historic downtown district. Watkins also focused on the city’s friendliness to virtual workers, highlighting several coffee shops that accommodate work, as well as museums, art walks, and candle-making classes when off the clock.
“We had a few activities pre-booked for them, but we wanted them to have an authentic experience,” said Lyndsay Rossman, VP of marketing for JAXUSA Partnership. “Most of it was up to them, because, of course, they needed time to work!”
The Jacksonville campaign ran from May to July of this year. Barbu and Watkins published a total of 68 posts across Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Watkin’s blog. Overall, the influencer partnership saw 4.9 million impressions across the four platforms, according to Rossman.
This summer, the Greensboro-High Point areas of North Carolina partnered with three mom influencers to promote the area’s lower cost of living, cultural attractions, kid activities, and shops for young professionals looking to start a family, or for families looking to relocate. Their economic development authority focused on home designers since High Point is known as the furniture capital of the world and is home to many antique shops and design boutiques.
Fairfax County, Virginia, had a similar idea as a way to attract tech talent away from cities like San Francisco and New York. After some research, county officials found that many Gen Z’ers simply did not know enough about northern Virginia to consider living and working there.
“We wanted to highlight the Fairfax lifestyle — our wineries, rivers, mountains — while also showing potential candidates all the job opportunities here,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.
The county’s economic development authority launched a campaign in August of last year and another in May of this year that highlighted virtual career fairs.
The campaigns used influencers both locally and in other cities like San Francisco and New York to remind followers that they didn’t need to work in these expensive cities to work in tech. Virginia has plenty of ties to the tech sector, including a Microsoft campus and Amazon’s second headquarters.
In total, 11 influencers, who created 78 posts, were used for both campaigns. The created Instagram posts that promoted the fairs garnered more than 1 million impressions, and they surpassed the page-view goal to the county’s jobs page with just under 50,000 views, according to Mike Batt, director of talent initiatives for the EDA.
“People love to watch ‘what if’ videos about where they could move, and the pandemic really opened peoples’ eyes to the options outside of major metropolitan areas and what the trade-offs are,” Mae Karwowski, CEO of Obviously, an influencer marketing company, wrote in an email.
For brands that aren’t sure if they want to use influencers, teaming up with local celebrities and businesses to talk about what they love about the city is another way to build brand awareness. The Calgary Economic Development Organization in Canada uses local artists, chefs, and nonprofits.
Another strategy is tapping into influencers who returned to their home states during the pandemic and bring a local’s eye to campaigns. “These influencers bring the authenticity and personal touch that’s likely to appeal to today’s job hunters,” said Danielle Wiley, CEO of Sway Group, an influencer marketing company. “They can share their genuine enthusiasm for their community and all it has to offer, and often for less than a traditional advertising campaign.”