Many personal brands are set up with a strong business focus underpinning them, but Dr Iman Tehari, a surgeon from Iran, set up social media accounts to combat his loneliness after becoming stranded in Toronto when the pandemic interrupted his travel plans.
The surgeon and part-time poet’s popularity on Instagram alone snowballed from 11 followers (in the first few weeks) to almost 90,000 within nine months. He has close to 247,000 fans on Tik Tok and almost 5,000 on social app Clubhouse.
You can hear our full conversation on the Interviews With Experts podcast.
Dr Iman’s success is admirable, and I wanted to know how he stayed calm enough to create this when the world was in panic and when his life had been turned upside down.
Dr Iman: “My experience as a surgeon in Iran helped me. I worked in trauma surgery for two years in a war zone. I was ready for something bad to happen every day and I was constantly dealing with life and death. What can be worse? You see everything and you realise that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”
Not only did he stay calm but he found ways to reach out to people and fully engage with them very quickly. I was eager to know more about how he grew his following.
Dr Iman: “I was desperate. I was alone in a new country and I didn’t speak the language. I was lonely and realised that other people felt lonely and scared. I was looking for friends and the online community started to grow from there so I created more purposeful content to share with them.
People were in shock and didn’t know how to deal with it. We all had adjustment disorder and we needed someone to remind us to have hope. I saw it as supportive psychotherapy. I developed my content around this idea.”
In many ways this message of hope is incredibly simple but in times of crisis people start to look inwards to assess what the situation means for them and their immediate family. During lockdown it was easy to forget that there was a much wider world to consider. One of the reasons I believe Dr Iman’s following has grown so quickly is his ability to personalise his content and create a highly relatable ‘online persona’. What he shared next was intriguing.
Dr Iman: “I am a surgeon and a poet. When you know medicine you know the body and mind of human beings and you know what to say. When you are a poet you know how to say it. I combine these two and of course make it more of a performance. In the beginning it was tricky; I was trying to connect with a society I didn’t know much about. I was brought up in eastern philosophy, wisdom and poetry and I was creating for Western eyes.
It was a challenge. I read lots of books every day, listened to podcasts and learnt from social media. I’m a goal oriented person so I try not to get distracted. I believe that you should not count your followers but make each of your followers count. My goal is to pass kindness and support around the world.”
It’s not about the money
Not only has Dr Iman created this incredible audience, he engages with his followers daily and finds out what they want from him. He’s been asked to create merchandise and write a book. With plans to share his message beyond the digital realm I wanted to know what he thought the future might hold.
Dr Iman: “Fixing things makes me feel incredible, that’s why I do it. It’s a bond between me and my friends. Whatever I share helps people think more and offers them reassurance. People need what I share right now so that’s what I am focusing on; maybe over time when that need is a little less [fewer worries around the pandemic] I will make some money from it.
I have a lot of ideas. My soul has been asking a lot of questions. If I was in a situation where I could do this as my profession I would be happy forever.”
Dr Iman’s heartfelt passion and enthusiasm to make a difference in the world has won the hearts and minds of so many people.