It's hard to remember what life was like before Instagram. Founded in October 2010, the platform is young, relatively speaking. But with one billion active monthly users, Instagram has quickly risen to the top of the social media pack, especially in the U.S. For any business with a visual component—think artists, photographers, salon owners—having an Instagram "presence" is a must.

Of course, there's a big difference between simply having an Instagram presence and having an effective Instagram presence. To that end, if you're a salon owner, you should maintain a business Instagram profile for your salon. Why? Well, the potential benefits are many. As Instagram notes...

  • 60% of people say they discover new products on Instagram.
  • 200 million+ Instagrammers visit at least one business profile daily.
  • 1/3 of the most viewed stories are from businesses.

Plus, true business profiles have extra features built in (like advertising capabilities).

For this article, we're going to assume you already have a business profile set up for your salon. (If not, check out how to do so here.) We're also going to approach our salon social media ideas from a salon owner's perspective.

That said, many of the tips can also apply to individuals with their own personal accounts. Remember, it's perfectly OK for your employees to have their own IG accounts. In fact, the Instagram "magic" happens when employees tag their salon—and vice versa. This article from Marlo Beauty Supply can help you find out how some of the most social media-savvy beauty pros grew their following, it could inspire you!

Let’s move onto the tips, tricks, and recommendations. (Note: many of these recommendations will apply to other social media accounts that are good for salons, like Facebook and Pinterest.)

1. Learn how to take great pics.

Instagram is all about the eye candy. Just consider this compelling stat: 995 photos are uploaded on Instagram every second.

The good news? You don't have to be a professional photographer to take professional-looking shots. Your smartphone camera will work. Simply learn some basic techniques, invest in a few budget-friendly props, and you'll be on your way to more followers, likes, and—best of all—clients.

Note: Remember to ASK permission before you snap and share a picture of your client! And, of course, respect your client's wishes if they don't want their picture taken.

  • Get a feel for what your phone can do. Not all phones are created equal. Experiment with the built-in filters and editing functions. If you get a new phone, you'll need to go through this process again.
  • Don't underestimate the importance of good lighting. Natural light is always best. If your salon has natural light, take your shots in that area. Or even ask your client if it would be OK to snap a picture of them outside. Overcast days are ideal, believe it or not. If you must take a photo outside in full sunlight, make sure your client isn't looking directly into the sun—no squinting eyes!
  • Invest in lighting props. If you need to snap your pics inside and your salon doesn't have good natural light, consider investing in a ring light and a hair light. The ring light will help illuminate your client's face. (Ring lights became all the rage during the pandemic; people bought them to look better during Zoom calls.) You can get a small ring light that attaches to your phone or a larger one that stands. The hair light, which you'll shine down on the client from behind, will highlight things like textures and colors.
  • Pay attention to the background. Busy backgrounds distract. Shoot your clients on a solid-colored background. Don't have one? Invest in a backdrop. Remember, your IG photos will help brand your salon. So, for example, if there's a color you use in your logo, you could make that the color of your backdrop. This doesn't mean you MUST use a solid background. A brick wall painted a light pink to match your salon's logo could also work.
  • Think about the vibe you want for your Instagram page. A consistent background will make for a more polished feel for your overall Instagram page. If someone goes directly to your page and encounters many of the tiled pics with the same consistent background, it'll help create a curated look and potentially boost your brand awareness (especially if you're using your salon's signature color).
  • Take multiple shots from different angles. You want a shot that's flattering to your client AND that shows off the awesome work you just did. Not to mention, a series of shots can be great to share. People love swiping!
  • Give your client the Hollywood treatment. Tell them how fabulous they look! Make it fun! You want them laughing, smiling, living it up. If they seem uncomfortable or camera-shy, however, don’t overdo it. (Always respect their wishes!) Not everyone loves to ham it up for the camera, and that's OK. You'll have plenty of people who will be happy to oblige.
  • Make your work the star. Remember, the focus should be on the work you did—the hair, the nails, the makeup. You get the idea. Focusing only on the work can also be a great option for camera-shy clients. Some folks might (understandably) be more comfortable sharing the back of their head rather than having their whole face plastered on Instagram.
  • Go easy on the editing. Sure, you'll want to edit out a busy background or add occasional flair with a romantic or vintage filter. Or if a client is feeling self-conscious about a blemish on their cheek, blur that sucker out. Just don't let the editing become the star. People crave authenticity, especially when it comes to things like hair, nails, and skin. Half the battle for good pics is good lighting and solid backgrounds. Do those two things, and you won't need to edit much.
  • But when you do edit or add effects, use tried and true apps. Google is your friend. So are your colleagues. Ask them what they use. Boomerang from Instagram is always a fun one—it takes 10 quick photos and turns them into a mini video. Facetune is another popular photo-editing app among beauty pros.
  • Have fun when posting captions with your photos. Be cheeky. Be casual. Be conversational. Tag appropriately, whether it's your employee, the client, or both. Be mindful of your hashtags—don't go overboard (more on this below).
  • Learn, learn, learn. There's no shortage of tutorials on how salon workers can take better photos for Instagram (just google that phrase, and you'll find plenty). Watch tutorials. Consider taking a continuing education class.

2. Think beyond photos...experiment with videos (Instagram Reels and IGTV).

Why does video matter so much? Well, as Search Engine Journal reports, video posts on Instagram receive twice the engagement as other posts.

A couple notes regarding videos...

Ideas for short and long-form videos:

  • Do a time lapse video of an updo or a blow out or a day in the life of your salon.
  • Do a tutorial: How to properly remove nail polish, how to achieve the perfect cat eye, how to use a round brush.
  • Give a tour. If you've got a cool space, show it off!
  • Introduce your staff. Do a fun Q&A with each employee a la Vogue's famous "73 Questions." (You don't need to ask 73!)
  • Do more Boomerangs! We mentioned Boomerang earlier (a series of ten quick photos stitched together into a mini-video). Capture someone flipping those cool new bangs or curls or wiggling their fancy new acrylics. You get the idea!

Keep in mind that videos you record on your phone can be used in multiple channels—not just Instagram. Think FB, YouTube, your website.

Experiment with Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are that little extra something-something for fans of your brand. They last only 24 hours. They can be pictures or videos. They're different from other videos you take with your phone and upload to IG because they don't appear in your tiled IG page, but rather behind your profile pic.

If you've ever gone to a profile and saw the pinky-orange swirling ring around the profile pic, that means there are some IG Stories you haven't seen yet. They're fun and casual and best of all, no one expects editing or professional perfection!

Even better? They increase engagement BIG time. As HubSpot reports, "Since launching back in August 2016, a total of 250 million Instagram users have started sharing disappearing content on Instagram Stories -- contributing to the huge jump in time spent in-app every day from 24 minutes to 32."

3. Pay attention to your hashtags.

We were going to put this recommendation under the section below on promoting your page, but hashtags are such a big part of IG, that we felt the subject deserved its own section.

Hashtags help people find and engage with content they care about. For example, someone interested in discovering their next new hair style might search on #hairinspo. If you've used that hashtag with your images, they'll come up.

So which hashtags should you use? And how many is too many?

Check out best.hashtags.com for real-time trends and great ideas. (For example, here's the link for best hashtags for hair dressers.) You can find trends for other beauty pro topics, like nails, skin, makeup, barbering, and so forth.

When it comes to numbers, less is more. You don't need to stuff every hashtag under the sun into your post. Search Engine Journal reports, "Using more hashtags actually decreases the average engagement rate. It’s likely better to use fewer hashtags (no more than 5) than to use too many. Ultimately, when it comes to hashtags, it’s not about quantity. It’s about relevance."

4. Promote your profile.

Just because you built your IG account, that doesn't mean they'll come. Some people will, but you still need to regularly remind folks about your IG presence.

  • Add the Instagram logo to your website. Every website should have an obvious Instagram icon in the header and/or footer (and, of course, any other social platforms your salon is active on, like Facebook).
  • Make sure all employee email signatures include IG logos with links to the salon's IG profile. If they have their own personal IG accounts, they can and should promote those as well.
  • Ask new clients for follows! When you work with a new client, ask them if they've seen your IG page. If not, give them your salon's handle and ask them to follow. (Many will do it on the spot!)
  • Encourage clients to tag your salon when they share pics of their new style, nails, skin, makeup. And, of course, if you share pics of them, TAG them.
  • Promote promotions! This might seem like a no brainer, but if your salon is offering a special or doing a promotion or whatever, TALK IT UP ON Instagram. You could create a visual that reflects your brand (again, think of the look and feel of your overall IG page) and that provides the details. It doesn't need to be wordy. Something like, "Hello, Springtime! Enjoy a 10% discount on colors through the end of April!"
  • Encourage your followers and clients to use the Support Small Business Sticker. Instagram introduced this feature during the pandemic to help small businesses. Remind your followers to use it (and not just for your business, but all the small businesses they love). Get the details here.

5. Foster a community.

Social media is SOCIAL. You're creating a community. Make sure you participate in and monitor what's going on in yours.

  • Tag appropriately—and generously. This includes your employees. Make sure you highlight their work and tag them. Tag clients as well. Tag vendors. If people don't have IG accounts to tag, give them shout-outs anyway.
  • Pay attention to comments. Respond to each comment. Or at the very least, give it a heart or thumbs up. If you're lucky enough to have a huge following and tons of comments, you should still "dip" into the convos, even if you can't respond to every single one.
  • Kick out trolls! Sadly, trolls come with the social media territory. It's OK to have a ZERO tolerance policy for abusive or toxic behavior. Block people who are inappropriate (don't engage, don't respond). You can also use Instagram's custom and default keyword filtering to combat harassment.
  • To build your following, follow others. Follow employees, clients, colleagues, professional organizations, partners (like Milady!)
  • Post regularly. Once you master the picture-taking techniques, it shouldn't be hard to post regularly. What do we mean by "regularly"? Daily at least. (Business days, anyway!) And if you're serious about Instagram marketing, probably a few times a day.

6. Make it easy for people to contact you NOW.

We get that you might not want to end EVERY Instagram post with your salon's phone number. You might think it looks too salesy or spammy. But hear us out.

What if someone just looked through a bunch of your pics and LOVES the work you're doing? And what if they are on the prowl for a new salon? Don't you want to take advantage of that immediate interest? Putting the salon’s phone number front and center at the end of a post could be a good way to capture a booking.

Be fun and cheeky in how you give the number out: "Want a fresh new color for spring like this one? Book an appointment with us and let's get fresh! 555-555-5555."

At the very least, make sure you have a link in your bio to your website. And make sure your website is up to date with hours and contact info. (Oh, you'd be surprised what we've seen.)

7. Measure success.

You can't know if your Instagram marketing (or any marketing effort, for that matter) is working unless you measure the results.

Brand awareness, of course, is hard to quantify. Many people believe IG marketing is all about building a brand. And it is. But that's not all it is. You can—and should—get clients and re-bookings from your efforts.

  • Look at analytics. Instagram business profiles have analytics baked right in called Instagram Insights. You'll be able to see things like the number of impressions, reach, likes, comments, and website clicks. You can geek out as much as you want with this data. At the very least, what you want to do is more of what's working and less of what isn't. If your audience really loves Boomerangs, for example, do more of them!
  • Ask new clients how they found you. This is a good habit to get into. Encourage your receptionists to ask people, include a "how'd you hear about us" option on any website forms, and have your employees ask the question as well. Create a place where you gather/record the info. It's not always 100% scientific, but if you keep hearing IG, you know you're doing something right.

Good luck and have fun!

Remember, social media is supposed to be social. Yes, you have a business account. But that doesn't mean it has to be "all business." Enjoy yourself. Make sure your employees are having fun. Experiment and play. Pay attention to what works (and what doesn't). Be open to learning new features as they roll out. Be authentic. And again, most of all—have fun! You got this!

If your interested in finding out how some of the most social media savvy beauty professionals grew their following, check out this interview by Marlo Beauty Supply.

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