NEW YORK: Nadya Okamoto, CEO of lifestyle period brand August, opened PRWeek’s Healthcare Awards+Conference on Tuesday by sharing how she is breaking the stigma around periods and increasing equity for menstruation products. 

Okamoto said periods have historically been depicted in a negative light, often as “something to not talk about, something to be ashamed of.” 

“If no one talks about it, there isn’t this thinking of ‘what period product am I using? What’s in my product? How am I taxed on the product? What goes into the pricing of it?’” said Okamoto. “As you see more brands and social media becoming a way to do that, competition and doing marketing about it is breaking the stigma, because the stigma is literally not talking about it.”

Okamoto tries to run August like a beauty brand and wants to build a fanbase and “excited following” for it. Okamoto and August have a collective 6 million followers on social media, building that audience by talking about the brand, the product and showcasing the company’s journey. 

Bigger period-product brands don’t lean into social media in general, Okamoto said. That is where August is different.

When Okamoto began using TikTok, she would make 80 to 100 videos a day, experimenting with what worked. Within her first year on TikTok, she gained 2 million followers and kept growing. 

Okamoto said she doesn’t have a long-term strategy for social media, which is why she gravitates toward TikTok because she makes many videos in real time. For example, she sometimes sees a question and decides on a whim to reply via video and talk to the camera. 

Okamoto views everything as content, from her outfits to images of nature to interesting conversations. She also shares anything going on with her health, such as the fact that she has borderline personality disorder, is pre-diabetic and found a lump in her breast. In one of her most-viewed videos, she shared her experience getting a papsmear. 

“A lot of Gen Z and Gen Alpha are documenting their lives publicly,” she said. “That is the opportunity for any healthcare brands.”

Advice to wannabe influencers

Dr. Mike Varshavski, a board-certified family medicine physician at Chatham Family Medicine and social media influencer, said he gets “frustrated” when he hears teenagers say they want to be influencers when they grow up. His advice to people who want to find fame on social media is to develop a skill doing something “meaningful,” he said during a live podcast recording. 

“Get an education, learn something, get a craft or skill that you can bring to the audience online,” he said. “These days, anyone can be a content creator or post something and have it go viral. But unless you have meaning behind what you are doing, all of that gets lost.”

Varshavski said that when he gained popularity on social media, people asked him when he planned to stop practicing medicine. He said his answer was “never,” and he has increased the number of days he works at the hospital. 

Varshavski has an audience of more than 25 million followers across social media platforms. But he said he has never had a “positive time” on TikTok.

“Out of all the social media platforms, it is where I get the least amount of support, it is where the most misinformation is allowed to stand and when I raise flags about this, they are the slowest platform to act,” said Varshavski.

This article originally appeared on PRWeek US.