Tanya Gill, OD, owner and founder of Oakland Vision Center and We Love Eyes, leverages the 1 billion people who use Instagram to create and promote her brand identity. In one year, Oakland Vision Center increased revenue by $250,000, with more than 80 percent of all new referrals coming from the internet and 20 percent of them directly from Instagram. Dr. Gill answers some key questions here.

Why do you feel Instagram is better than Facebook or Twitter?

We are in the business of selling clarity, and Instagram is the perfect social media platform to do that. Instagram is viewed in gallery style — meaning that when you look at an account, you immediately see 12+ images that tell a story. I love the visual aspect of Instagram. You definitely do not get this with the Facebook or Tweet styles of posting. After all, who doesn’t love a great story?

What made your Instagram account @oaklandvisioncenter and @weloveeyesxo become so successful?

Two magic yet simple words: storytelling and failure. Let me explain. If you tell a story, you are selling more than just eyeglasses or eye exams. Perhaps you are selling happiness, love, travel or adventure. I love creating my story of ‘rad glasses’ on Instagram. It’s catchy and inspiring rather than salesy. If I had a dollar for every mistake I made on the internet or social media — well, I’d be doing this interview from the Maldives. Make mistakes. You need to make mistakes. If you don’t push a boundary and make a mistake, how can you learn and improve? Read: stagnant.

How can you measure the success of a social media campaign or posting (and, do you need to)?

Social media can be so high school. Don’t get caught up on followers, likes and comments. The one metric is the one that pays my employees and keeps the lights on. It’s dollars. At Oakland Vision Center, when a new patient is referred from Instagram, the average sale is $750 after insurance benefits. Yep, 7-5-0. So ask your patients how they found you. I have colleagues tell me they get no referrals from Instagram. We take a look at their Instagram, and I give a very honest, Simon Cowell-inspired critique. If your Instagram is uninspiring (think: bad), you’re not going to get any referrals. Time to work it.

So what is storytelling?

Storytelling is the art of giving shape and meaning to a piece of information that is otherwise dull. And boring. Find an Instagram page that inspires you. Ask and answer these four very key questions: What do you see? What do you feel? What are they selling? Would you buy it? Now review your own Instagram page and ask yourself the very same questions. Your honest answers will help you discover what you need to improve. Congratulations on failing!

How do you create your own brand story?

Keep those questions in mind as you’re creating your brand story. Post clear, meaningful images. Help visitors ‘feel’ and let your audience learn your brand values by using quotes. Include product posts (i.e., eyeglasses) that show what you’re selling. Product posts are ranked the most successful on Instagram. Lastly, ask if you would buy it. If you answered yes or maybe, you are on the right track.

Do I really need a brand hashtag?

First, a brand hashtag is an extension of your storytelling. It creates brand awareness by being short and memorable; it includes the brand name in some form. Oakland Vision Center’s brand hashtag is #radglasses, and the We Love Eyes brand hashtag is simply #weloveeyes. Create one and stick to it. Make sure to add it to every post.

What apps do you use to create your beautiful content? It looks so professional!

Several apps can make your Instagram images clear.

  • VSCO camera app brightens photos, sharpens images and allows you to crop images.
  • Word Swag quote app lets you create attractive quotes in seconds.
  • FaceTune is a Photoshoptype app.

What else do you gain from Instagram?

The positive and negative feedback is valuable. The positive always feels great. The negative, not so much — but it’s an opportunity to learn, grow and twerk. I mean, tweak.