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More than ever, we’re a visual society. In our hectic lives, we prefer small, easily digestible bits of information – preferably accompanied by pretty pictures. Enter Instagram, a wildly popular social media app and a great way to market your boutique salon business.

Instagram is a photo-sharing app that launched a little over four years ago and has gained an enormous following. To date, there are more than 300 million active Instagram users worldwide. That’s a huge audience of potential customers!

If you want to start marketing your salon through Instagram, the first thing you need to do is create a business profile and make sure it is set to public. If your profile is private, Instagram users won’t be able to see your photos unless they follow you, and your hashtagged posts won’t show up in searches or on the Explore page.

The second step is to fill your Instagram feed with engaging photos. Perhaps the biggest impact social media has had on marketing is that marketing today is personal. Consumers want to see the soul behind a brand! They want to feel a connection to the products they use and the companies they support. The relationship that a client has with his or her stylist has always been personal. It’s more like a friendship than a business relationship. Your clients know how great you are on a personal level, and Instagram gives you a way to share your skills and personality with a larger audience.

Share photos of your work, inspiration, and a little bit of who you are, but always make sure that your content is what appeals to your target audience! What do they want to see pictures of? If you specialize in healthy, all-natural hair care, post photos that show your interest and dedication to that philosophy. Not all of your content has to be focused solely on your salon. You are your salon’s best brand ambassador, and a sprinkling of other content that shows who you are is also valuable. Of course, the core of your content should be about your salon.

When posting on Instagram, it’s a good idea to have a consistent look and feel to your all of your photos. You want your pictures to tell a story. What is the story of your salon and how can you develop that story in a visual and creative way? This will help in developing a branded feel to your Instagram profile. Oftentimes people like to show a before and after side-by-side or want to show upwards of 4-5 photos in one single image. In order to create images like this, you’ll want to use an app such as Pic Stitch or Pic Collage.

Now that we have that down, here are two easy ways to use your Instagram photos for marketing.

All About the Hashtags

Hashtags are a way to tag your social media posts with keywords that make it easy for users to search for specific topics. Searching for a topic using a hashtag has become as prevalent as googling. Say you’re searching for pictures of updos. As of this writing, a search on Instagram for #updo found a million photos and counting! In the description of your photo, use brand-specific hashtags, general hashtags, and trending hashtags.

Using the Sola brand-specific hashtag #solasalons will allow your photos to show up in the Sola category. At Sola Salons, we check this hashtag regularly in order to share your content to our growing fan base. Using a hashtag that references your specialty or philosophy can help to extend your photo’s reach. For example, if you use Redken styling products, the hashtag #redkenready would categorize your photo with more than 35,000 other photos that use that hashtag. Then if someone is interested in seeing photos with #redkenready, yours would pop up.

If you have work that you want to catch the attention of bigger media publications like #ModernSalon or #AmericanSalon, use their hashtags. If you specialize in a certain technique, use that hashtag. Research what's trending in your city and your specific line of expertise. If you have content that fits the trending hashtag category, using it is a simple way to engage new users. Feel free to use more than one hashtag because each one is an opportunity for a new user to discover your content. Instagram allows as many as 30 hashtags per post. That doesn’t mean you should 30 hashtags, though. Too many can make your photo description hard to read, so use just enough to accurately describe your photo.

Also, come up with your own brand specific hashtag! Encourage your clients to use your branded hashtag when posting selfies or hair pics to their personal Instagram accounts. That will introduce your salon to their followers, which is a whole new pool of potential new clients. Be sure to monitor your brand hashtags regularly to see what people are saying about your salon. As with all social media, respond to comments and concerns quickly to maintain happy customer relationships.

Host a Promotion

Hosting a promotion is a great way to increase your followers and brand awareness. There’s nothing like the promise of free products or special add on services to encourage engagement! An Instagram contest can be as simple as offering a prize to randomly selected winners who use your hashtag. Or you can require entrants to tag their friends in your photo’s comments, as well. By tagging their friends, a larger group of people will know about the promotion.

Don’t make users jump through too many hoops, though. The goal is increasing engagement and brand awareness, and people are most likely to share and participate if you keep it easy. The bottom line is that Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms out there. It’s a great way to show off your skills and build relationships with your current and potential clients. The more you post and get involved in the conversation, the more you’ll get out of it.

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