Like many salons, East Village Spa in Des Moines, Iowa, was fully booked for Valentine’s Day, then right before the appointment cancellation charge cut-off of 48 hours, clients “suddenly” realized they wouldn’t be able to come in. The salon quickly went through its waiting list but didn’t have enough people to fill in all of the holes. Rather than lose money on empty appointments, the salon posted the new openings on Twitter. “They were immediately snatched up by people who’d waited too long to make Valentine’s Day plans. Twitter helped us stay 100% booked,” says owner Cassie Sampson.
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social networking sites have really exploded in popularity in recent years. But for a novice user — or someone who only has a personal account — it may be intimidating to figure out what, if anything, this means for your business. The good news is, the sites can be a huge boon to your marketing efforts and, in general, are free to use. The only investment you need to make is your time. (Though, be forewarned that once you get the hang of social networking, you might have a hard time signing off! The sites can be addictive.) The rewards are plentiful, including increases in your client base, a fully booked schedule, and better overall relations with current and future clients. “Clients are interacting on social networks more than ever, at work and at home. Being a visual reminder in their daily life is the best marketing strategy,” says Millie Haynam, a salon consultant (and owner of Natural Beauty Salon in Twinsburg, Ohio) whose specialty is marketing. “Being connected to your clients in a way they are currently staying connected gets you in their inner circle. The best marketing tool is a way to have your target market introducing you to their friends; this is social network marketing in a nutshell.”
Rhonda Kibuk, owner of The Purple Pinkie in Ford City, Pa., has a similar success story to share. “I totally credit Facebook for the ‘glitter toes’ frenzy we experienced this summer. Our chair was booked three weeks out, solid. I posted some photos of my own glitter toes on the site, along with a status update that said, ‘I have glitter toes, do you?’ It just exploded; in one day I did six sets, and another day I did five. It was all from Facebook marketing.”
To start reaping the rewards of social networking, salon owners and nail techs who successfully use the sites recommend a few simple steps to get your own account up and running. It varies slightly from site to site, but in general the basic steps go something like this:
1. Decide which site(s) best fit your salon. Each social networking site has its own niche. (There’s more on this to come below.)
2. Fill out all of the basic information. Make sure to include your salon’s address, phone number, website, hours of operation, Mapquest link to the location, brands you carry, staff profiles, services offered, and a calendar of upcoming events.
3. Whether called friends, followers, fans, subscribers, or something else, the next thing you need are people who view your page regularly. Many sites have recommended lists or can search your existing e-mail address book for people you know who are already on the site. Others let you search based on your salon’s target demographics (like 30- to 40- year-olds within five miles of your salon’s zip code). Make sure to also promote your online presence through the salon. This includes mentioning the URL on business cards, e-mail signatures, the answering machine, via a chatty receptionist, or even by offering a monthly drawing for sign ups and referrals.
4. By far, the task that takes the biggest time commitment is maintaining your page, though that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. There are plenty of updates that come up in the salon naturally. This includes notices on new specials, uploading recent event or nail art photos, taking a poll on what retail product clients would like offered in your salon, or touting special deals exclusively to your social networking followers. On many sites you can even do these updates on the go from either a smartphone (many of the sites have iPhone applications) or even a regular cell phone (Twitter and Facebook both let you update your status by using your standard text messaging feature). It’s recommended that the person in charge of the account log on at least once daily.
With more than 200 million active users, Facebook has a reach that makes most other social networking sites pale in comparison. The site allows business owners to set up a free page for their business (you do have to create a personal page first, but if that makes you uneasy, just fill out the bare minimum of information on the personal page and go to the “settings” menu to set stringent privacy settings), which then lets you send updates to your clients, add links to related businesses like polish manufacturers whose brands you use, upload digital photos and videos, and write public notes.
Kibuk says, “The Purple Pinkie uses pretty much all areas of our page. The photo gallery generates business. We provide client education in the ‘notes’ sections on topics like ‘Is your nail salon safe?’ ‘Do you really have gel nails on?’ or ‘Respecting your nail professionals’ time.’ We send out status updates to remind prom-goers to make their appointments so they get a spot. If we ever slow down (no signs of a recession here) we can use our status messages to promote open times in our book to fill them fast.”
Sampson’s salon too has a Facebook page and, though she says Twitter is more successful for her business, she appreciates Facebook’s event invitation feature, which Twitter doesn’t have.
Twitter’s niche is being short, simple, and to the point — which is a must when each “tweet” (AKA message) your salon posts can only be a maximum of 140 characters. Create a logon and password for your salon, then start tweeting away. Janet Sanders, who’s in charge of the Twitter account for Fort Collins, Colo.-based Cleopatra’s Day Spa, says: “The information you tweet about can be in several categories, including: 1. Informative — ‘Don’t forget to put SPF on your hands, too!’ 2. General — ‘What a great day for a Papaya Pedicure! Choose from great new Zoya colors!’ 3. Announcement — ‘We are closed on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. for a private party’, and 4. A ‘retweet,’ which is when someone else says something neat and you want to pass it on to your followers, while crediting the original source.”
Sampson knows the power of a retweet to spread information lightening fast via Twitter. “On May Day I posted a picture of a basket that contained a gift certificate, nail polish, and other spa goodies (via the website Twitpic.com) and said that the 20th person to retweet my post would win the basket. This launched a massive amount of retweeting in a short time. Over 600 people clicked the link to see the photo of the basket, and I got 50 new followers that day.” With such savvy marketing, it’s no wonder that Sampson credits Twitter as the third largest traffic driver to her salon’s website, coming in behind Google and Citysearch.com.
Sampson adds that her clients have posted so many positive reviews on their own Twitter pages about their experiences at East Village Spa that she’s started adding them to the salon’s website in lieu of traditional testimonials.
Similar in functionality to Facebook, MySpace has many features that are useful to salon owners (status updates, digital photo albums, a public bulletin board that all of your “friends” can see), but the site has been declining in popularity ever since Facebook opened its membership up to the general public. (Facebook was originally a site exclusively for college students.) If your salon doesn’t have a MySpace page yet, it’s advisable to skip the MySpace wave and go straight to Facebook because you’d have an easier time finding your client base there (with the possible exception of the high school crowd, which still has a strong presence on MySpace).
Nail tech Tiffanie Rodriguez of BeautyWorks in Tulare, Calif., says, “I have used the bulletin feature many times to book appointments and let my clients know if I have a cancelation. I also use it to post any specials for the week. I can have my own nail portfolio; I can network and meet new clients. I can keep in touch with my current clients and send them appointment reminders.”
“I never planned to use YouTube as a way to build my business, but it has gained me worldwide recognition. I meet people from all over the world who have seen my videos,” says Redlands, Calif.-based nail tech Lynn Lammers, whose videos have been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube, the social networking site whose niche is amateur video.
For salons, good subjects for videos include nail art and other technical step-by-steps and virtual salon tours. “I think most people like to try before they buy. It gives potential clients a sense of familiarity. Before they get to your salon, they already know what you and/or your service look like,” Lammers says.
You don’t need fancy equipment to start shooting YouTube videos. Many of the techs we talked to use webcams or a basic digital camera that has a video setting. If you need to edit your video, there are free programs available, including Windows Movie Maker and iMovie, which are usually included on any new PC or Mac, respectively. It’s advisable to add text to your video that states your salon name and website, so viewers have a place to follow up with you.
“Be prepared for lots of questions and be prepared to answer,” says Carl Anderson, owner of The Nail Zoo in New South Wales, Australia. “Since I’ve been on YouTube, my videos have had over 1,600,000 views, so someone is watching.” Anderson says he’s gotten quite a few new clients through his videos, which are also posted on his salon’s own website.
Blogging, or keeping an online public diary of thought pertaining to a particular subject, is another great way to market your business. The beauty of a blog is the intimacy and rapport it creates between your salon and your clientele. Candice Everest of Marysville, Wash., started a Blogger blog to chronicle her experiences opening her first salon, Panache Nail Studio. “I absolutely love, love, love the Footlogix line and am so glad I chose it for the studio foot services. Here’s a before and after... Stop reading now if you’re squeamish,” she says during one post that showcases a picture of her pre- and post-pedi feet.
In addition to multiple websites, Millie Haynam also has a blog, “Adventures of a Professional Beauty Girl,” and recommends other salons get on the blogging bandwagon too. Blog posts can be short (a paragraph or two at a time) but should be regularly updated so readers retain interest. While they should include personal thoughts, be careful not to stray too far into non-salon-related territory. “Definitely keep your site in the manner of clients you want to attract,” Haynam says. Let viewers leave comments on your blog (they’ll show up after each post), so you can get feedback on what clients like and don’t like about your blog and about your salon.
Just a quick note on another social networking site that’s been getting a lot of press lately: LinkedIn. The site has more than 42 million members, but is more of a career-building website rather than a tool to attract clients. Sometimes described as “Facebook for grown-ups,” the site lets members input their resumes and other career-related information in order to link up with co-workers and others in your industry to find out about job and freelance opportunities. Your salon could consider starting a page as a nail tech recruiting tool.
Connect with NAILS Magazine on several of the sites mentioned in this article:
For more information on social networking sites, check out these past NAILS Magazine articles:
10 Nail Websites to Bookmark (October 2008)
YouTube Training (April 2008)
Are Salons and MySpace a Good Match?”(February 2008)