The influencer marketing industry is projected to hit $2.38 billion this year. What started as a wave of indie brands turning to Instagram influencers to gain visibility for their previously unknown products has transformed into Fortune 500 companies vying for the influencer embrace of their lotion/water bottles/bed frames/smart home devices, too. And for good reason — who among us hasn’t been moved to buy a face serum here or a chunky earring there at the recommendation of a trusted Instagram expert? For content creators, their commodity is their influence — and that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) come cheap. From sponsored content to ads to paid appearances — it’s nothing short of a business. So we’re pulling back the curtain on the curated world of influence and how the deals get made.
Last time, we talked to a fashion influencer who began her career as a fashion writer before making the leap to full-time influencing. And now we’re chatting with Dr. Lisa Lippman, DVM, the lead veterinarian at Fuzzy Pet Health in New York City, who, in addition to her vet practice, co-hosts the podcast Pets & Punchlines and helms a very dog-filled Instagram. Below, we talked to Lippman about #sponcon, her favorite pet Instas to follow, and how she juggles being an influencer with her day job as a vet.
Refinery29: How did you go from vet to having an Instagram following?
Dr. Lisa Lippman: I started my Instagram page about four years ago for fun and as a place to help educate pet parents about all the things I get asked. Then, about three years ago, I happened to have a patient who went really viral — Samson, the biggest cat in New York City. His @catstradamus account had tens of thousands of followers at the time, and tons of people and media would ask questions about how big he was, how his health was, etc. Since I’m his veterinarian, his owner had me jump in to answer those questions, and we sort of grew together from there.
How do you choose which brands you want to work with?
I only ever collaborate with brands that I trust. About half of the time I’m the one who approaches the companies that I love. I reach out, explain who I am and what I’m about, and let them know how much I love their product and how I’d love to share the news with my followers and patients. Other times, brands will reach out to me to request a collaboration. They send me samples, and if I fall in love with their product and their company, I’ll help spread the word!
What percentage of your income comes from Instagram versus your day job as a vet?
I wouldn’t have Instagram if I weren’t a vet, so it’s sort of a chicken-and-egg question. My passion is my patients, and my primary job is being a vet for Fuzzy Pet Health.
Do you identify as an influencer?
That’s a good question. I love being active on social media, both because of the awesome people and pets that I get to interact with, but I’m also very conscious of the responsibility that comes with having a platform, no matter the size. Social media is a tool, and I’m so happy that I get to use it to help people better care for their animal friends. I don’t know that I’m an influencer, but I certainly hope I’m a positive influence!
What are your favorite accounts to follow?
So many! Too many to list. But they fall into a few basic categories. For “pupfluencers,” I love @ellabeanthedog, @petinsider @brussels.sprout, @ashhess, and @girlwithnojob. For pet health, I’m totally into @fuzzypethealth, @drsuecancervet, and @thedermvet. For dog training, I love @allthingspups, @thezendogla, and @schoolforthedogs. I’m also really interested in fashion and makeup, so I follow @michaelapodo, @andreeacristina, and @weworewhat.
How has Instagram helped your business?
Instagram has helped me be a better vet. Normally, veterinarians are able to share their expertise on a daily basis, but only ever with their clients. Instagram provides me with a platform to share what I’ve learned both in school and through experience with hundreds of thousands of people from all across the world. What could be better than that? Instagram also really helped promote Fuzzy Pet Health, which was brand new to New York City, so we could help as many animals as possible. I love helping animals, and Instagram and social media have helped me do that on a much larger scale than I ever thought possible.
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