So, you want to be an optometry influencer? You’re not alone. From bringing awareness to your chosen specialty to working with large eyecare brands, a strong Instagram presence can bring you a number of opportunities, both personal and professional.
This article will go over what it takes to make it in the world of optometry Instagram. We interviewed nine optometry influencers to learn more about their experiences and their advice. If you’re looking for insider knowledge on what it takes to make it big (if that’s what you aspire to), then you’ve come to the right place!
Know your “why”
Once you decide to become an optometry influencer, it’s important to define your core mission. For some doctors, an Instagram account is a way to educate the general public about the field of optometry. Dr. Jennifer Chinn, OD (@dr.chinnchinn) says that “For me, it wasn't important to become an ‘influencer,’ it was a calling to share information by explaining and providing education.” She didn’t start out with any goal in mind other than to use the platform “to push the profession forward and also to connect with ECPs in the industry."
Find what makes you special and stick with it. Whether you’re great at photography and aesthetics, or you’re more of an infographics and advice kind of person, find your niche. “My advice is to find an area that’s lacking," says Tyler Mathenia (@futureoptometrist). “When you find a niche and you have a craft, just go for it.”
On finding your niche, Nishan Pressley, OD says, "There’s a lot of people looking to be an eyecare influencer, but what sets you apart from the others? Pretty pictures of your equipment or working in clinic is nice, but you have to provide some value to your audience. I began to receive a lot of attention when I started my “Case Of The Day” series. In these videos, I would discuss interesting eye cases at my externship site and educate my followers about the specific eye disease, treatment and management. This provided fun education and increased my interaction with my followers . . . therefore leading to more followers!"
Maintain the enthusiasm and authenticity that you bring to your new account, and the followers will come!
Jasdeep Singh Soni, OD (@optoturban) states, “The more authentic you are, the more people will be interested in what you have to say. If you think there’s a need for content to be published, others probably do too, so create!"
Khanh Ton, third-year optometry student (@kt.opt.) advises, “I think the best thing about social media is that it’s YOUR creative outlet. Be authentic in your posts and present yourself in the best way that you can. When you start your Instagram, don’t focus so much on getting as many followers as you can, you should focus on posting things that make you happy. The followers will come when they do!”
An overview of Instagram
Once you know your "why," it's time to get technical. To make it big in the optometry influencer community, you'll need more than pretty pictures and clever captions—you’ll need to master the nitty-gritty details. Here’s a breakdown of different aspects of Instagram with optometry-specific tips included!
Your username is one of the first things people see when they interact with your account. Additionally, they’ll be writing it out when tagging and mentioning you. Therefore, it must be memorable, easy to spell, and make sense for your account. Many people find a way to integrate the word “optometry,” “doctor,” or “eye” into their usernames.
Here are just a few examples:
On choosing a username
“To build Optoturban I chose a name that represents me and symbolizes the content I’ll be focusing on. As a Sikh male who wears a turban and has worked in California, Arizona, Tennessee, and Florida...sharing my journey with this network has been invaluable,” shares Dr. Singh Soni.
Your bio is one of the first things people see when they visit your profile. Think of your bio as a way to tell people why they should follow you. Include relevant words and hashtags in your bio. Explain who you are and what you do.
Additionally, the line of text at the top of your bio is searchable. Use this space as an opportunity to state who you are (OD 3, Optometrist, etc.)! Since it's searchable, make sure it’s something that potential followers would be attracted by!
These are both great bios—plenty of info and easy to read!
Your profile picture should be clear and distinctive. Make sure that it’s eye-catching and represents you and your account. It can either be a picture of your face OR an interesting graphic that shows off your love for optometry or the eye.
If your IG profile was a website, your highlights would be the tabs. You should aim for two-to-seven highlights on your profile that each have a distinct purpose. Share relevant content in each.
Not only are these coordinated highlights appealing to the eye, but they're also clear and concise—you know what to expect when you click on each of them.
When it comes to the posts themselves, it’s important to remember all the places and contexts in which they appear. Not only is the post a part of your overall brand and visible on your profile, but users scrolling through their feeds may also see it, as will those navigating the explore page.
Not only do you need to think about how to create engaging standalone posts, but also how to get people to follow you. Each post you create is somebody’s first impression, so make it a good one!
Tyler Mathenia notes that “it's important to set a goal for how you want your account to run.” Ask yourself, “Are you posting notes for students? Are you sharing new information about the field? Are you offering a behind the scenes view of your clinic? Having that mindset of who your target audience is will really help establish consistency with your followers because they know what they’re getting when they go to your page.”
Now let’s get into how that’s done.
Instagram is an inherently visual platform, so it’s important to consider the visual experience of each post. Is the image clear? Do the colors look appealing? If you have chosen to have a coordinated feed, does this image fit the theme?
And finally, would someone seeing your content for the first time be impressed by this image? Remember—no matter how clever your caption is—if the post itself isn’t up to par, it won’t get the attention it deserves.
Vady Khalil, (@thephotometrist) started by photographing his own glasses, and then began working with independent brands. Now he gets contacted by other companies to take pictures of lenses. “Another reason I started my account was because I love photography, and this was a perfect way for me to show my skills with beautiful frames and to take my brain off of studying when I take a break.“
Short, long, funny, serious, educational, fluffy . . . it’s hard to know what to do with all the options out there. First and foremost, ensure that the caption matches the post. Ask yourself how the caption will add to the image. Is the post more serious? Does the image effectively convey your point or will the caption need to do most of the explaining?
If you have a longer caption, it’s essential that the first two lines are interesting enough to read further. Short, quippy captions are fine as well, given that they match the post.
Ensure that the caption effectively gets the information you want it to across. Whether this is through bullet points, or a few paragraphs (overly lengthy captions should be few and far between, unless there’s a lot of points you want to make or it’s a more emotional post.) It’s a tiny screen and many people skim over long captions, so remember that and break up text using paragraphs or emojis!
Pro tip: find ways to elicit engagement with your captions. By either starting a conversation about important topics or even asking a question, you'll encourage others to share their thoughts and opinions, as well.
@drcindyshan splits up her thoughts with emojis to keep the content organized and easy to read.
@futureoptometrist shares his own insight, along with a caption to encourage followers to interact.
The algorithm, while mysterious, can be used in your favor. There’s no exact science, but there is an art to it. Following these tips will help your content to be shown to those who want to see it!
Make your content relevant to you and your followers
This seems obvious at first read, but can be unpacked: when you post, think about who you want it to go to. Which members of your audience are most likely to engage with that content? If you’re a student, think—will only people in the same year as me relate to this? Or is this post more targeted towards students at my school? Will practicing optometrists be interested in this as well? Determining who your target audience is will help you to phrase your caption and choose your hashtags in the most strategic way possible.
Your niche is not only about who you are, but also who your audience is. What type of content do they want to see? What demographic are you targeting? After all, in order to grow on Instagram, you’ll need to have followers who not only stick around but are engaging with your content.
Create opportunities for engagement
Audience engagement shows the algorithm that not only do your followers like your content initially, but that they continue to enjoy and interact with it. It’s always great to see a notification that you received a comment, but there are a few ways that you can encourage your audience to engage with your posts!
Asking questions in captions is a great way to promote interaction—this encourages people to leave a comment when they might not have otherwise done so. Additionally, there are a variety of story stickers that offer a fun and simple way for your audience to interact! These include questions, polls, emoji sliders, and more.
Engage with the community
To truly succeed, you’ll need to immerse yourself in the community. Not only do you want your followers to engage with you, but you should also put effort into interacting with others. This includes commenting on others’ posts, following related accounts, and eventually collaborating with other influencers to grow your brand.
Look at what they’re posting about, what hashtags they use, who they’re tagging, and anything else you notice. While you’re at it, like posts, leave thoughtful comments, and follow other eyecare influencers!
Have a consistent brand as well as an aesthetically pleasing feed
When you’re on Instagram, where do you spend the most time? Likely, you’re doing some combination of scrolling through your news feed and browsing the explore page.
The only time you’ll visit someone’s profile is when you deliberately search for it, or when you first encounter them and decide to follow them. So think of your overall profile/feed as a way to make a great first impression and encourage people to follow you! A cohesive and appealing aesthetic will entice users to follow your account.
The algorithm (and your audience) appreciate consistency and knowing what to expect will encourage them to press that “follow” button! Whether it’s twice a day or every two days, ensure that you’re putting out high-quality content at a consistent pace and the followers will come!
Think of the algorithm as an omniscient figure that’s always listening to you and your audience. Instagram’s goal is to have people use the app, so they want to recommend content that people will enjoy. That’s why it’s important to appeal to users. However, you’ll also need to be consistent. That way, the algorithm can more easily “decide” which followers and users will see your content, and therefore how much engagement you’ll get.
After all, as Dr. Adam Ramsey (@dradamramsey) says, “The engagement you get on Instagram is not about the number of followers you have but how connected you are to them.”
Pro tip: ask questions in your captions like @futureoptometrist does below! This is a great way to elicit engagement from your followers.
Time to let YOU shine through! Stories are temporary videos or images that provide an opportunity to post more informal day-to-day content. This is where you can post gripes, anecdotes, and daily activities that don’t “make it” to the feed.
Because stories don’t get “likes,” they can feel like much less pressure than a feed post. Don’t discount them, though! Instagram recently unveiled new opportunities to get engagement through stories. These include polls, questions, sliders, and more! People can also react to stories, so these are a great way to show off your sense of humor.
Before posting a story, think about how it relates to the grand scheme of your account. While they don’t need to be as cohesive as feed posts, remember that your followers will still be consuming them. Balance out the day-to-day content with some fun eyecare facts or boomerangs of your study setup!
Ask questions, share updates, and have fun! Be sure to include sliders and other features to increase engagement opportunities!
Hashtags help your content to be seen. The hashtags you use help Instagram decide which accounts to show your content to.
Here are some common hashtags in the optometry community:
Hashtags will also help the algorithm determine which accounts might enjoy your content and can help you to land a place in the community.
What opportunities exist for successful eyecare influencers?
So you have a following—what now? You’ve built a brand for yourself, and it’s time to decide where you want to go next. Is this a passion project, a fun hobby, a side hustle, or even something you’d like to grow into a non-clinical career? Once you’ve managed to grow your account, you may have the opportunity to work with brands!
As an influencer, you have the opportunity to make money. By working with some of the top eyecare companies and brands, you’ll be able to make a name for yourself and earn some cash on the side. However, it can be difficult to know who to contact or how to go about this. CovalentCreators gives you the opportunity to do just that!
CovalentCreators is eyecare’s top influencer platform and features exclusive opportunities to work with the largest brands in eyecare. It has opportunities for speaking gigs, social posts, and other projects! By creating an account, you’ll be matched with projects that interest you and your audience.
Once you’ve built a brand, you can launch your own products. Whether you’re selling stickers, decals, and notes like @futureoptometrist or you open up a blue light optical line like @askdrnish or @drjenandjuice, branching out into a business is a great way to grow your brand further.
Promote a cause
Promote a cause that you care about! Not only will this help to set you apart and reach a more engaged audience, but it will also be extremely gratifying. You can spread a message and find like-minded people, all while inspiring others. You may choose to focus on topics like inclusivity, the importance of optometry, or even a specialty like sports vision.
For instance, on Juneteenth, Dr. Ramsey and Black Eyecare Perspective kicked off The 13% Promise, challenging the eyecare community to commit to equity in black representation in eyecare.
Launch a non-clinical career
Ultimately, a social media following can help to serve as the starting point for a non-clinical career. Whether you start to work with large brands consistently, do talks and webinars, or sell your own products, it’s always possible to transition to non-clinical work.
Having a strong personal brand is important. As Dr. Jennifer Tsai, OD (@drjenandjuice) states, “I recognized the importance of having a strong online presence early on. I believe that a patient can learn about your credentials, see your reviews, and make a decision on whether or not they want to see you based on a 30-second Google search. It is essentially a modern resume in our digital world.”
Anyone with a smartphone can make an Instagram, but once you find your place in the community, the opportunities will come.
Cindy Shan (@drcindyshan), student at the University of Waterloo, states, “There are optometry students from various schools, all eager to share their story. I love seeing what interesting projects other students are working on. The current generation of optometry students complete their schooling in different social climates so it’s interesting sharing our perspective.”
Be passionate and be authentic! Remember, your followers followed you for you. They want to hear your opinions and be able to trust you once you start working with brands.
Finally, be sure to follow and tag @covalentcareers.optometry in posts. We reshare lots of our followers’ content in stories (shoutout, anyone?😉 ), and we love interacting with our audience!