Joy Moy, owner of Joy of Acupuncture in Huntington, talks about her journey to over 340,000 followers on TikTok. Credit: Newsday / Reece T. Williams; TikTok/Reece T. Williams; TikTok

Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone. Joy Moy took a chance on TikTok, and it saved her acupuncture and integrative medicine practice during the pandemic.

Her clinic, Joy of Acupuncture in Huntington, shut down for months. She was about to launch a brand of organic skincare products, Joy Moy Skincare, which she’d been formulating for years, when the pandemic hit.

She was in a fix. "I was struggling to manage my kids' online schooling, thinking of ways to survive economically (i.e. pay my clinic's mortgage) and maintain some semblance of sanity when the future was scary and uncertain. I drove door-to-door to patients' homes to sell my skincare products and herbal remedies — anything to earn money. Kids like to eat, right?" said the mother of two.

Pre-COVID, her marketing strategy was getting referrals from doctors and word of mouth. Last April, her then 11-year-old daughter, Jovana suggested she get on TikTok. "I scoffed, again, since she had mentioned in 2019 that I should get on TikTok to make educational videos about acupuncture and TCM [traditional Chinese medicine]. I assumed TikTok was an app for teens and 20-year-olds showing off their dance skills."

Moy watched all kinds of videos on TikTok for about a month. Despite her reservations — "Who'd want to see me, an overweight, 40-something woman with remnants of Bell's palsy, making videos?" — she started creating short-form videos espousing the benefits of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

Turns out, plenty of people did want to see. Her TikTok adventure began in May of 2020 and within a year she has more than 340,000 followers and 1.3 million "likes."

She shared her TikTok success with Newsday.

How did you build your audience?

I think people are gravitating to natural solutions to dealing with pain. They want to get off medication. They are looking to alternatives to surgery and for ways to heal. I get comments from people thanking me for showing them that acupuncture can help. When I post on TikTok it also posts on Instagram and Facebook. My videos are shareable, so I get extra mileage. I’ve built from word of mouth. I have professional athletes and celebrity followers like Jenny McCarthy [Wahlberg].

What’s been the impact on your business?

TikTok has been a game changer. I’ve gotten at least 100 new patients from it. I had a water company bottler, and a maker of self-massage guns approach me about product placement in my videos. Although I haven’t done it. I don’t feel it’s appropriate because my focus is educating people about TCM, but it’s an opportunity. I received an offer from a Florida college to teach online classes after I did a guest lecturer spot for them. We’re working out the details.

How is the skincare line going?

In May, I formally launched the first two products from my skincare line on JoyMoy.com. I’m hoping the TikTok buzz will help. My acupuncture patients are buying, I’m selling them in small local shops and through fellow acupuncturists who are certified in cosmetic acupuncture, so it’s an easy fit.

Do you do any other promotions?

Marketing with short-form videos has been so successful, I haven’t needed to do much else. I haven’t paid for advertising on any of the social media platforms.

Has there been any downside to TikTok?

There are trolls and haters. People can be cruel. I had someone tell me to look in the mirror and stick needles in my face because by face is [messed up]. I ignore the haters.

You’ve mastered TikTok what’s next?

My husband is encouraging me to think big, about a future where I have my own show on cable or radio.