Hashtag 101

by Brittni Rubin | September 18, 2013

Hashtags are an essential part of the social media space. What was once a Twitter-specific trend is now a staple for the likes of Instagram, Tumblr, and Flickr — even Facebook and Google+ are catching on. 

Fundamentally, a hashtag is a “#” symbol followed by one or more words, without spaces or punctuation, relevant to a specific topic. According to Twitter’s website, the hashtag was originally created by users of the social media site to engage in a global conversation.

By integrating proper hashtag usage on social media into your marketing strategy, you can position your salon in front of hundreds — if not thousands — of people with a vested interest in the ever-growing world of nails.


Know The Digital Lingo

Like a funny YouTube video or witty meme, hashtags can go viral. We’re in the early era of “nail-stagraming,” and some of the most trafficked hashtags in the online nail community already have over a million posts.

Once a hashtag gains traction, it becomes a popular destination for social media users, and a way for them to see and be seen, according to Jaqueleen Larson, interactive media manager for OPI.

Prevalent nail hashtags right now include #nailart, #nailartaddict, #nailswag, #NOTD (nail of the day), #nailporn, #nailgasm, and #ilovenails. Using trending hashtags ultimately leads to a greater chance that nail fanatics will stumble upon that post. “Salons or nail techs can easily establish themselves as an authority in the space as a destination for quality nail art,” Larson says.

Even using more basic yet popular descriptive tags like #glitter, #neon, and #holographic, can help categorize information and drive traffic to the right audience.

Just as it’s important to be relevant on social media, it’s equally as important to stay aware of what’s trending in order to study how the population at large is taking to certain styles and products.


Create Your Own Hashtags

Some manufacturers, nail techs, and salons are successful at creating their own hashtags. If done correctly, it can increase brand ownership and searchability, but doing so requires a bit of research. Use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook’s search features to find out which tags are already in existence.

Once you get a feel for the market, work with your observations and your brand’s messaging to build your own hashtag. Larson suggests making it short and catchy — don’t get too creative with spelling either!

“A lot of times, people, in an effort to make a hashtag short, cut out vowels,” she says. “But when people hear your hashtag verbally and write it down, they’re going to include those vowels. Find that balance between shorthand texting-speak and normal words-of-mouth.”

Cristin Grogan, a social media specialist who has worked with beauty brands such as Sephora and Chanel, suggests first starting your hashtag campaign off-line.

Create in-salon signage sporting your new hashtag — clients are frequently on their phones in salons, so it’s the perfect time to educate them. Try running contests. Give one free service per month to a randomly selected client who used your hashtag.

“You can’t exclusively own a hashtag, but you can ride it to the top of the hashtag search by using it more consistently than competitors,” Grogan says. “You have to get your employees and clients involved.”

If your hashtag is only populated by in-house posts for up to six months after you started using it, don’t worry.

“You have to put in due time to gain the street cred,” Larson says. “Be diligent about promoting and incentivizing, include buzz words like ‘nails’ and ‘polish’, use great images, and make sure your tags make sense.”



When a salon has a new endeavor, such as creating a hashtag or maintaining brand consistency on a social media platform, it’s important that everyone on the team is involved. Stephanie Tsai, a public relations consultant for Chi Nail Bar in Beverly Hills, Calif., shares some of the salon’s in-house tactics for incentivizing employees and clients.

  • Chi Nail Bar empowers its nail artists to create their own Instagram profiles and build their own social media followers while still tagging @chinailbar. The main Chi account supports all of its artists in return.
  • The salon picks the top looks created each day and features them on social media. This excites clients and helps the nail techs stay updated and inspired.
  • If you have high-profile clients, leverage that network by asking them to follow you on social media. Ask them to tag you whenever they talk about their nails.

Smart Tagging

Although hashtagging on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook is similar, it’s not quite the same. Get to know each space individually to make more eye-catching posts.

On Instagram it’s acceptable to have what’s called a “tag cloud,” which is a large collection of hashtags embedded in the caption you post when you initially upload your picture. That caption always stays tethered to the top, so you want to include your most important hashtags there.

If you want your post to look cleaner, you can always put a tag cloud in a comment on your own photo.

On Twitter, because characters are limited, your hashtag is precious real estate. Larson suggests using two hashtags or less per post.

“We found our Twitter audience skews slightly more mature and welleducated,” Larson says. “They use Twitter as a personal RSS feed. If you use more than two hashtags, people will see you as attention-seeking rather than adding value to a conversation.”

Hashtagging on Facebook is still a new endeavor, but it might have a promising future. Google+ recently announced its incorporation of hashtags as well.

“I don’t think people are using them full-force on Facebook quite yet, but if you’re a brand and you want to be a front-runner, go for it,” Larson says. “If you want your brand to be searchable, that’s how you need to start phrasing your status updates on Facebook.”


Use Hashtags To Crowdsource

According to Larson, there’s data showing that people are using Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest almost like Yelp to find customer reviews on businesses. “The nail industry is very visual, so people want to see the venue and the end product before coming in to get the service,” Larson says.

One way to reel in this type of user — one who is more likely to actually visit your salon — is to use location-specific hashtags. (For example #nyc or #nycnailsalon.) With more specific hashtags, you reach a smaller crowd, but it might be a more valuable one.

Tiffani Douglas — a nail tech, author, and social media guru — says the best approach is to couple general nail oriented hashtags with more specific hashtags so you’re reaching the best of both realms.

You can also be your own headhunter. Use the search features to see if anyone’s talking about salons in your area and reach out to them directly. This is a key opportunity to capture the sale, but a proper response requires a personal touch.

“Social media can be very casual, so have a conversation rather than taking the ‘let’s book you an appointment now!’ approach,” Grogan says. “Think, ‘How would I sound if I were talking to a friend?’”

One way to avoid sounding too advertorial is to start the conversation with a more general question such as, “We’re in the area! What are you looking for?”

“It’s hard and it takes practice, but you start to get the feel for it,” says Grogan.


Get Back Up And Try Again

In the world of social media, there’s no harm, no foul. The digital audience grows exponentially, so it’s never too late to try again or join the space. If your hashtag never takes off, don’t be discouraged.

Every salon or nail tech has a different target audience and sometimes it’s just a matter of testing the waters to find out what works best for your specific crowd.

Larson says when OPI was launching its new matte top coat, the brand went for the hashtag #opimattetc. It used “tc” instead of “topcoat” — this shorthand limited searchability and didn’t catch-on as well as OPI would have liked.

“We’re always learning and evolving, and the most important thing is to stay true to the voice of the brand,” Larson says. “As for tags, just tag, and tag, and tag until one sticks.”


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