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Shhh! Our Instagram Secrets Revealed. Here’s how we got to 5,000+ followers on Instagram. So can you!

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One of the biggest challenges of running an optometry business would be the marketing component. In particular, social media. Here is an article I wrote for Eyecare Business that featured in their Sept 2016 issue. Enjoy!

Hello, I’m Tanya Gill, O.D. I am the proud owner of Oakland Vision Center Optometry in Oakland, CA and I am totally obsessed with Instagram. On July 1, 2016, we hit an Instagram milestone – 5,000 followers. We celebrated in the spirit of Instagram by blowing up gold balloons, snapped some photos and made a video. I’d love to share some of our secrets on our road to Instagram success – so keep reading!

You can check out the video here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BHaR7KXhhZI/?taken-by=oaklandvisioncenter

With 500 million active users, Instagram is the real deal. I love Instagram for my business because it’s easy to use, has helped grow our brand, garnered us many new customers and has been the most lucrative marketing tool to date.

Just to illustrate. On May 24, 2016 we posted this pic of an Orgreen frame. A few weeks later, we sold it to someone who saw the Instagram post and had to have it. The total sale after lenses was $1,250. Let me repeat. $1,250. She came in, put the frames on and threw down her credit card. Because, true luv.

Do I have your #attention now?

I certainly hope so, because I’m about to share our secret sauce to getting 5,000 Instagram followers and thus building a lucrative marketing machine. Just remember, it takes time. It took us 19 months, posting 2 times a day to get here – just add some dedication and determination.

Secret #1: Camera + apps


Instagram is perfect for optometry because it’s all about the visual. Taking and posting great photos is key for having a successful Instagram account. Posting a photo for the sake of just posting something, anything – will not cut it. The audience is smart and wants to be inspired.

With just these 3 items, I am able to create gorgeous, inspiring images:

1.     iPhone 6+

2.     Facetune app

3.     VSCO app

The iPhone 6+ not only takes ridiculously great photos, but it holds all the apps I need to edit and post on Instagram – everything is in one place. Think Photoshop in the palm of your hand. I do not use the factory installed camera. Instead I use an app called VSCO to take all my photos. Here is a before and after photo. The before photo was taken with VSCO. The after photo has been edited with tools and filters as follows:


Facetune app

  •  “Smooth” Tool on skin to brighten & remove blemishes
  •  “Patch” Tool to remove the electrical outlet and table edge

VSCO app

  • Exposure: 3
  • Contrast: 3
  • Crop: 1 to 1
  • Sharpen: 10
  • Filter 06/Legacy: 11



WOW! What a difference. Since I’ve discovered these apps, 100% of our photos are tooled, filtered and edited before they can be posted onto Instagram. I am very strict on that. We want to be noticed and to inspire our audience with bright, eye-catching photos. Not sure how to use the apps? I didn’t know either, but thank goodness for YouTube tutorials.

Secret #2: The Photo Layout

 Frame by Article One Eyewear
Frame by Article One Eyewear

The layout is the most popular style of photography on Instagram. We place our glasses and prop(s) on a flat (not shiny), white marble slab. The iPhone camera is held about 12 inches directly above the set up to capture the look.

Cards make the best props. They are fun, add visual interest, easy to photograph because they are flat, and after the photo session ­- we mail them out as thank you notes. Winning.

Secret #3: The Hold Photo.

If you’re holding something in your hand and take a photo of it, Instagram loves you. We hold glasses, lens spray, glasses cases, cards, succulents and the ever appreciated donut. To accomplish this look, a white background works best. The secret here is to take the photo while standing 3-4 feet from the wall. That way, the texture of the wall washes out and appears smooth in the photo. And it’s not a democracy in our office. Whoever has the best manicure often is the chosen hand model of the day.

Secret #4: Inspiring Quotes Rule The World.

One thing I love to do is write silly quotes about glasses. Like I said before, the Instagram audience wants to be inspired. What could be more inspiring than making someone laugh-out-loud or feel hella fine? I get my ideas from my morning commute: a billboard or a song I hear on the radio.  Here are a few of my favs:

. . .

. . .

Quotes are extremely valuable on Instagram. Not only are they highly shareable (which will help grow your followers) they also create a visual rhythm that is attractive on the eyes. We have 2 secrets here. First, post quotes every 5th photo. Second, create your quotes with “WordSwag” app. With WordSwag, you can choose from hundreds of backgrounds, fonts and endless text colors. You can even use your own photos as the background. It’s amazing!

Secret #5: When to post?

What are the best times to post on Instagram? For a local business, the best times to post are 9am, 12pm and 5pm to catch commuters and the lunch break. Since January 1, 2015, we have been posting 2 times a day, 7 days a week at 12pm and 5pm. Whew! That’s dedication. Now that we passed 5,000 followers, we are trimming our weekends to just 1 post a day. And come on now, do you really need to post 2 times a day? We tested it, and the answer is absolutely. Definitely. Yes.

Secret #6: Start Following + Liking.

Instagram is very much like high school. If you want to be noticed, you’ll have to start following other accounts. Since we’re a local business and wanted to start attracting local customers, we started following business accounts related to our city, Oakland. We also liked Instagram photos with relevant local hashtags such as #oakland, #oaklandish, #oaklandzoo, #oaklandart, etc.

One secret is to stalk your nearest business. Say, it’s a popular donut shop. Check out who’s following the shop and like + follow them. This is a great way to grab local customers. Because, shop local. Or should I say, #shoplocal?

.  .  .


There you have it! A few of our secrets to Instagram success. When we started back in January 2015, we had a total of 5 followers. We just stuck with it and never gave up. It’s been an amazing journey and we look forward to e-meeting you on Instagram! xo

Tanya N. Gill, O.D., is the owner of Oakland Vision Center Optometry in Oakland, CA. Dr. Gill is obsessed with ocular surface disease, kick-a$$ female entrepreneurship, never saying never, eating vegetables daily, and brightly colored sneaker pumps. She lives in Oakland with her husband and is the founder of We Love Eyes, a company that makes natural cleansing products for the eyes. 



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  • Written by Tanya Gill

    Dr. Gill is also a member of the Ocular Surface Society of Optometry. In addition to her Doctor of Optometry, Dr. Gill also has a BA in Integrative Biology and a BS in Vision Science, both from UC Berkeley. Go Bears!
    In 2015, Dr. Gill developed and founded We Love Eyes, which is a green cosmetics company that produces eyelid and eyelash cleansing products that are natural, non-toxic, and vegan.

    More Articles by Tanya Gill

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