In this ongoing series, we'll learn how real brick-and-mortar businesses are boosting their digital presence and ask social-media experts for their best suggestions.
G Michael Salon opened in suburban Indianapolis in 2009, and within three years moved to a larger location to accommodate growth. With 13 employees, the full-service salon uses various social media platforms to engage its customers with a focus on beauty and lifestyle trends, says co-owner Greg Lee. Instead of assigning one person to handle social media, members of the management team chip in to update the salon's Pinterest boards and Facebook page, yet Lee says Twitter remains a challenge. "We maintain social media when there is a free moment in our day," Lee says.
Promoting an aspirational lifestyle. Image-rich Pinterest is a great place for salons to showcase their work but G Michael Salon has taken their page beyond hairstyle and color trends. More than 91 boards contain 6,500 pins on everything from beauty and fashion to travel and home decor, attracting more than 5,000 followers. "Their profile is very robust," says Maciej Fita, founder of Brandignity, an SEO optimization and social media marketing company based in Naples Fla.
Kelly Ehlers, president of Madison, Wis.-based Evoke Brand Strategies, specializes in digital, social and mobile strategies with a focus on the beauty industry. She recently studied a network of 17 salons in Texas and found Pinterest was the number one source of Website referral traffic."They've got tons of traction there," she says of G Michael Salon. Posts reflect the salon's "x factor," she says, or what makes them cool and unique. In this case, being an arbiter of trends.
Showcasing talent. G Michael Salon's Facebook page boasts before-and-after photos of stylists' work, reviews from clients and mentions of their charity work and other achievements. In May, the salon released stylist bios on its Website and Facebook page. Each bio is accompanied by a professional photo of the stylist taken at a local antique store. Fita says bios help existing customers feel connected to the salon, as well as attract new clientele. "Many customers are looking for a stylist with expertise in a certain area," he says.
What the experts advise
Own your hashtags. G Michael Salon uses hashtags throughout its social channels and these can be powerful search tools, according to Ehlers. "Using those hashtags throughout platforms will increase your searchability within social media and outside social media as well," she says. You can't exclusively "own" a hashtag, but Ehlers says you can rise to the top of a hashtag search by using it more consistently than your competitors. Hashtags debuted on Facebook in mid-June and she expects them to soon become searchable on Google. However, G Michael often uses 12 or more hashtags at a time and Ehlers recommends that they be used more sparingly to avoid affecting readability or diluting a message. Picking one or two strategic hashtags per post, such as #gmichaelsalon and #indysalon, and using them frequently, can maintain the attention of existing followers. Seasonal tags, such as #julyfourth, can help the company engage with new audiences.
Target Twitter. Twitter remains a challenge area and Lee admits the team has struggled with how to best utilize it. "It seems to be so random, so fast-paced and somewhat impersonal," Lee says. "Most of the time what we need to convey via social media is a lot longer than the allotted 140 characters." The salon currently feeds its Pinterest posts to Twitter, but Ehlers advises the team selectively link longer Pinterest or Facebook posts to their feed to control the volume. She suggests the salon take an hour each Monday morning to schedule essential posts for the week using a site like HootSuite. This way, when the moment strikes, staffers can join Twitter conversations about relevant salon topics with beauty personalities and top trade magazines like @modernsalon, by tagging their Twitter handle, increasing engagement and presenting themselves as experts. When it comes to punchy posts, Fita suggests a multi-pronged approach "consisting of coupons, promotions, salon news, and how-to tips for people to take care of their hair at home," he says, reminding the salon to drive visitors to their Website. "They're now one click away from scheduling an appointment," Fita says.
An earlier version of this story misstated the number of G Michael Salon's Pinterest followers. The correct number is approximately 5,000.