Hi everyone! Welcome back.
This week I’m so excited to interview acupuncturist Isang Smith, the creator of AcuTalks.
AcuTalks is a video platform to spread understanding and knowledge of acupuncture, and it’s recently exploded in popularity online. I love that Isang is making acupuncture approachable and relatable to a huge audience using video as her medium.
Isang’s videos are regularly going viral because of her unique ability to connect with a huge range of people and help them understand that acupuncture is an effective and widely useful method of healing. I also really appreciate how she positions acupuncture as an essential and upstanding part of any community: a necessary method for healing working alongside other healthcare practitioners!
There are two big reasons I’m excited to interview Isang today:
- I love to support projects that help the general public get a better understanding of acupuncture, it’s validity, and how it can help them. (Like these ones, for example: Acupuncture Photography Project, Art of Acupuncture, acupuncture kids’ books.)
- Her message about the importance of using video in marketing is timely and so important. As she mentions later on in our interview, by 2019, 80% of internet traffic is expected to revolve around video. Eighty percent! That’s huge!
In a nutshell, we as acupuncturists and small business owners cannot afford to ignore video. As Isang says, if we want to really get our message out there and be heard in a sea of information online, video is non-negotiable.
In fact, AcuTalks is one of two inspirational websites that finally made me realize I HAD to start marketing with video. (Luria Petrucci of Live Streaming Pros was the other website that gave me that final push!)
Thanks to Isang and Luria, I started Marketing Tip Mondays on Facebook Live, even though it was super scary at first. But people’s response to the videos has been phenomenal; my audience is way more engaged with my videos than with my typical posts on Facebook. For that reason alone (increased engagement), video has been worth it.
So here’s to diving in even when something scares you – like video!
I hope this interview with Isang inspires you to take the plunge, because as she explains, video helps build trust and engagement with your target audience, and it’s 100% worth your time and effort.
Today Isang and I talk about:
- Why she’s so passionate about creating acupuncture videos
- How these videos have already helped her market her own private practice
- How we can all get started with video today
- What we can do to make our beginner videos look professional
Welcome, Isang! I’m so excited for the opportunity to pick your brain today. Let’s start with the basics: where did you go to acupuncture school and when did you graduate?
I went to Tri-State College of Acupuncture in New York City. I’m a newly minted acupuncturist, having graduated in June 2017!
What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?
I have had my own private practice as a licensed massage therapist since 2012. My boyfriend is a physical therapist and we have decided to combine our practices this year under the name On Point Sports Care. Now that I have my license, I’m offering acupuncture as well.
We’re both very involved in the fitness world, so we’re planning future projects around sports events and communities. We have been hustling all summer to get our new offices and content ready to go for the Fall season, so I don’t feel like I’ve been able to rest and celebrate after graduation. But we’re promising ourselves a vacation in the Winter for sure!
You have a pretty cool story about how you became interested in acupuncture. And it explains your passion for working with athletes in your practice! Can you tell us about it?
I competed on Columbia University’s Track and Field team. During my senior year in 2009, I developed a stubborn injury. After exhausting all my options with the school’s athletic trainers, I was told I would have to take off my last season as they had no answers for me.
Even though my injury was being stubborn, I was even more stubborn. It was my last season in college, and I was not going to let it be taken away from me.
I Googled all options for how to resolve my injury, and eventually the word Acupuncture came up. After giving it some thought, I decided I had nothing to lose. So I went down to a practitioner in Union Square. After one session, not only did he resolve 80% of my pain, but he also opened my eyes to the possibility that perhaps other things were connected to why I became injured, such as lifestyle, diet and stress levels. I kept going back for a few more sessions, and after he resolved my injury completely, I was able to compete in my last season of college.
Needless to say, I was hooked, and over the years saw my health and lifestyle move in a positive direction. I also saw my athletic abilities improve, and that was a huge incentive for me to keep going back to acupuncture.
In 2010, I decided I wanted to go to massage therapy school. I was already interested in Alternative Health, and wanted to see what it would be like to develop my skill set for manual therapy. So I enrolled in the Swedish Institute of Health Sciences. Fast forward, I decided to enroll in acupuncture school after graduating from massage school, and now here we are!
When did you start recording videos (in general) and when did you start recording videos about acupuncture? Has video always been an interest/ passion of yours?
I started pushing the record button on my iPhone generally in… 2014? I can’t say I remember specifically when. Actually your question made me go back to my first ever Instagram video, and lo and behold, it was the Ice Bucket Challenge! Now that is a great example about the power of video!
Social media and videos can have a powerful impact: starting social movements, making a person’s day, and even inspiring someone to try something they’ve always been afraid of. Obviously there are cons to social media, and at times it can be overwhelming.
But I started to understand that video is the chance to tell your story, and to tell it in a way that sticks! I learned over time it could be an extraordinary contribution to a community, to a cause, and even to your loved ones. Video can make a difference! It has helped me find my voice, and I feel I can contribute in an effective way to the acupuncture community.
I would say I officially started recording videos in 2015. Mainly funny cat and goofy fitness videos. It was fun, and I found myself reverse engineering some of my favorite videos online. I loved how these quality videos would add music or edit a certain way to make a story come to life. It was especially helpful that my boyfriend is a huge movie buff, and my biggest constructive critic when I show him a video I produced. At that time I was using my iPhone and iMovie for everything, and I was loving it!
Looking back again at my Instagram feed, it looks like I officially recorded an acupuncture video in August 2016. I asked my acupuncturist friend Zach at Athlos Sports Acupuncture to show him giving me an acupuncture session. I was frustrated with not being able to show effectively how acupuncture works to my friends, or convince them that I wasn’t dying on the table or anything. To them it was a crazy concept to get needled, and they were even more surprised that it was an actual healthcare profession and that we went to school for it! Eeek! I felt there was a huge disconnect between the public and the acupuncture world.
I wanted to bring them into our acupuncture world and show that what I was doing was amazing and that I was very relaxed on the table. After posting it on Facebook and seeing the positive responses and questions that came from it, that’s when I had my epiphany moment. That’s actually where I started to come up with ideas that would eventually lead to AcuTalks the next year!
After starting AcuTalks, that’s when things really started to move fast. After seeing the positive responses for each video I posted in the beginning, and the way it inspired my colleagues and friends, I just went for it. I dived in to learning about videography.
At first, it was a little stressful. Here I was asking acupuncture students and practitioners to jump into these interviews and share their story… while I was still trying to figure out the ins/outs of setting up for an interview, what equipment to buy, how to interview, where to interview, when to interview etc. But I at least knew the why! My Why was very strong, so I stuck with it.
My friends also started reaching out to me on social media. They were kindly suggesting little things here and there that were big no-no’s in setting up lighting/angles etc. Some walked me through Adobe systems so I could have more editing tools, and others shared ideas for future videos. AcuTalks started becoming a community of like-minded people who wanted to see the story of acupuncture told through the power of video and social media.
I eventually graduated to my first DSLR camera in March (a gift from my amazing boyfriend!) and this month I’m currently learning how to tell a story by storyboarding and using cinematic language. There’s so much to learn, and I can’t wait to share my upcoming projects with the acupuncture world.
Do you plan to use video to market for your personal practice?
I am indeed using video to market my personal practice! There are estimates that about 80% of web traffic in 2019 will be video. It’s important to adapt and to stay with trends if we want to have our voices heard.
I plan to use my newfound skills to market myself for my practice as an athlete and practitioner who wants to see her patients cross the finish line or win at their next competition.
But it’s up to me to get the message across, and there’s so much opportunity now to do so! Social media, newsletters, vlogging, networking, etc. Practicing my message on video and posting it on multiple platforms increases the chances that some athlete in need will see it and find a solution to their injury or training goals.
What are your goals for AcuTalks? What do you hope people experience through AcuTalks?
I love how AcuTalks is still in its infancy and there’s room to grow and decide on the next big steps. Currently I’m working on a few partnerships/sponsorships and trying to learn more about online business models and how to capture the message of acupuncture in video format. This year my main goal is to get a solid system set up for providing content, learn fundamental techniques for recording with a DSLR, and getting ready for a new website.
I’m still grateful and dumbfounded by how popular AcuTalks has become in our community. I love the messages from the other side of the world. I’m learning so much about other countries and how acupuncture is practiced there. And that’s also been shaping how I’ve been approaching AcuTalks.
I’m learning that the spirit of our profession is strong worldwide, and I want to capture it as best I can in these videos. I want viewers to experience hope, inspiration, and to feel that they have a stronger voice as a profession.
I also want to challenge other acupuncturists to engage more within their communities and other healthcare professions on important issues. We have to be open to being uncomfortable, to step into conversations that we may have avoided in the past.
As a profession we can dramatically shape healthcare in the coming years, and we need to be in the thick of the conversation with other healthcare professionals.
Do you feel like AcuTalks brings awareness to you and your practice? Just having that presence online and being seen as an expert?
This is something Bob Wong (of Art of Acupuncture) and I have talked about in the past: that putting content out on the internet consistently, even if it’s not specifically for a marketing purpose, ends up having an effect on your practice because potential patients stumble across it and automatically assume you’re an expert, which helps builds trust and makes them more likely to come see you as a patient.
Yes, I believe it does! My patients and friends tell me they love watching the AcuTalks videos. I have become associated with acupuncture in my social/athletic circles and overall, being consistent has been paying off. I believe people trust me more to provide them acupuncture, and they get to understand my background and my passion for this medicine before they even meet me in person.
Do you have any advice for acupuncturists who want to use video in their marketing?
I love this quote: “Don’t wait for clarity to take action. Take action to find clarity.” For me, it’s jump in and see what video means to you and your practice no matter where you are, how long you have been practicing, or even the size of your audience. Whether you have five Facebook friends or 5,000 on your social media account, it doesn’t matter! Practice sharing video with who you have to share it with. Don’t wait to be proficient in making videos, just make videos!
I love that quote, and I couldn’t agree more. I feel like too many of us hesitate to try new marketing avenues because we feel like we’re not “expert” enough at them. But the way to become an expert is to get started and practice!
What kind of equipment and editing software should we use?
Don’t let fear or lack of equipment get in your way. Start off with the basics: an iPhone or a home camera. Prop it up on something, have a friend record you, use the Live option on social media apps.
Practice for a few minutes several times each week with a message about your practice, what acupuncture is, etc., My first piece of equipment for my iPhone was a tripod, which was around $30. I used iMovie for editing. Honestly, I still use those basic tools when I’m suddenly inspired or in a rush to get an update out. Do what you can with what you have.
What can we do to make our videos look professional?
In the beginning, I found that the main thing behind making a video “jump” and look professional is cutting out the words “um,” “so,” “hmmm,” or other long pauses in between thoughts. It keeps the rhythm going, and the audience will feel you gave the video care and attention.
Also, keep the camera stable and avoid low light where possible. Bring good lighting to your face!
Lastly, try to keep the message short, sweet and to-the-point. There’s so much to share about acupuncture, and you can spread out your ideas over time. But from what I’ve learned, a video over 45 seconds is now considered too long for the average viewer. Try making various episodes about different topics!
Do they need a sidekick to help them record or can they do it all on their own?
You can do this on your own! Of course it’s more fun with a sidekick and you may have more options. But I’m a lone wolf. I can record anytime, anywhere and I’ve created systems around how to do it efficiently. I can’t wait to share more about these systems in the near future *hint hint.*
Oooh, I can’t wait for that! I love a good surprise. Anything else you’d like to add today?
Thanks Michelle Grasek for inspiring me to believe in Marketing! You are my marketing superhero!
Thank you, Isang, for helping me to understand how essential video has become in marketing of any kind, and inspiring me to bite the bullet with Facebook Live!
Marketing Tip Monday on Facebook Live exists in large part thanks to you! 😄
Thanks again to Isang for sharing her wisdom and her practical advice for getting started with video. Hopefully we’ll be seeing even more of Isang here on michellegrasek.com, so she can keep teaching us to use video to market our acupuncture practices!
Do you use video to market your practice? Have you seen increased engagement and patient numbers as a result? Share in the comments below!