Getting Through This Together
How TikTok, ChefsFeed, and MySwimPro responded to the pandemic.
In the past few months, the app community has found its own ways to help the world adjust to COVID-19. Throughout the week, we’ll shine a light on developers big and small who are doing their part to help keep everyone safe and engaged.
TikTok may be all about dance memes and 15-second comedy bits, but there was nothing frivolous about its COVID-19 response. “The irony of the past few months is that we’ve all had to be social-distancing when we need each other more than ever,” says Greg Justice, TikTok’s head of U.S. content programming.
Justice and his team’s first move was to help organize a live Q&A with the World Health Organization in March. Demand was so overwhelming, a second session was soon added. For students who were missing out on their traditional prom and graduation experiences, TikTok hosted virtual versions, open to all. A full week of live nature cams from around the world brought a sense of calm.
And to provide some comfort and levity in a difficult time, TikTok launched #HappyAtHome: LIVE!, a celeb-splashed week of nightly programs, featuring Tyra Banks, Alicia Keys, Dr. Phil, Bill Nye, and others. The series got north of 12 billion views.
TikTok rallied its entire community to help too. A monthlong campaign let people adorn their videos with stickers to encourage donations to Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, MusiCares, and other charities.
“We had everyday users posting videos that literally raised tens of thousands of dollars,” says Justice. “It was an outpouring of generosity from the community.”
Videos, Music & Live Streams
When quarantines shuttered dining rooms around the country, ChefsFeed CEO Rich Maggiotto and his team saw exactly how they wanted to shift focus. The ChefsFeed app was created to help foodies discover restaurants and culinary experiences with the guidance of chefs, bartenders, and other experts; now it was time to give back.
“We knew as a digital company we had the tools to survive,” says Maggiotto. “But millions of people had been laid off. Our immediate question was: What can we do to help our friends?”
In a matter of days, the app’s main screen was filled with live interactive classes and virtual food experiences—with 100 percent of sales going to the instructors. In late May, the company hosted Chefstival—a weekend-long virtual event with Bay Area culinary stars—to benefit local chefs and the non-profit SF New Deal, which provides meals and financial assistance to workers in need.
Maggiotto says the approach will continue as states begin to reopen. “Our goal has never been to profit off chefs, but to put money back in their pockets,” he says. “Now the only difference is that what we were doing in the physical realm, we’re doing in the virtual realm.”
What’s a swim-training app to do when the pools start closing down? Pivot to dryland workouts—fast.
“We created 200 new videos and eight training programs,” says MySwimPro cofounder and CEO Fares Ksebati—and he didn’t just oversee the new videos: He’s in most of them. ”I’m the main male model,” he laughs. “We went to my brother’s house and rearranged his living room into an at-home fitness facility.”
He wasn’t the only team member to step in: The female model in the videos is a member of the MySwimPro app’s marketing team who’s also a certified personal trainer.
The app’s production team grinded out all the videos in two epic sessions, while engineers got to work adding the dryland features.
“People had asked us for this type of content before, but we never focused on it,” says Ksebati. “All of a sudden this kicked us in the rear.”
MySwimPro’s users remain largely landlocked—in a May survey, 70 percent of them said they still had no access to a swimming facility. But the situation has also brought that community closer, says Ksebati. “To know we’re all in this together has strengthened the community feel,” he says. “I don’t want to say we’re changing the world. But we’re having a strong impact, and that’s gratifying to see.”
MySwimPro: #1 Swim Workout App
Swimming & Dryland Workouts
Want to learn more about developing apps and games? Check out the Apple Developer app to read profiles of inspiring developers and designers and stream sessions from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).