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Instagram Is Your New Business Card

Todays blog post is by Michelle Stevenson, hair stylist, extension specialist and educator.

Your Instagram is your new business card.  Think about how many business cards you went through trying to design the right one that fit your personality.  Think about how many fonts, backgrounds, and images you scrolled through to find the right one to convey who you are on a small piece of paper.  Now, think about your Instagram page.  Does your Instagram page convey who you are?

I have some advice that has worked for me.  I encourage you to take this advice, along with your own judgement and knowledge and turn your page into something that is uniquely you.  So first we have to figure out who you are.  Before we answer that question, you are going to have to do some homework.  Look at who you already follow.  Why do you follow them?  What is it about that page that keeps you following that person?  Now, go to your Instagram page.  Does your Instagram page convey who you are? I am going to keep referring to this question to encourage you to dig deep into who you are as a stylist, artist, and business owner.

I want to start by encouraging you to post with intent.  What is your end result?  This is difficult for an artistic mind.  We want to learn something and then immediately go and change everything all at once.  Try your best not to do that. 

How much do you dislike it when someone floods your feed of one picture after another after another?  First of all, you are going to get people who unfollow you, because they are annoyed.  Also, you will get little to no engagement on each photo because people will not have time to like or comment on any one picture, because there are so many to pick from in their feed.  They may like or comment on one, but since there is less engagement, you will go lower on your followers feed due to the new algorithm. 

The new algorithm is not bad.  It just means that every post has to have some more forethought than it did in the past.  Think about what you want your page to look like.  Slowly, incorporate your new theme or the new way you post photos, and within a week you will have a new page and you may even want to rethink your initial ideas.  That is ok.  Then, ask yourself, does your Instagram page convey who you are? At this time, you can go back to some of your older posts that are irrelevant to your new theme and delete or you can leave them so you can periodically scroll back and see how far you have come.

Next, be sure to optimize your bio.  Your bio says who you are.  Look at your bio right now.  Does it accurately describe who you are and what you do?  If it does not, then take the time to update and edit it so that it does.  Make sure to include how clients can contact you.  If you do not feel comfortable putting your phone number on your Instagram bio, look into getting a google phone number so people have a way of contacting you.  Make sure you put your city and state, your salon name and info, and be sure to put a link in the website line.  If you do not have a website, put your salon’s website or your Facebook link. 

Posting good content is a given, but what does that mean?  Of course you are talented and do amazing work behind the chair, but does that translate onto your Instagram page?  The picture itself should be good, but there are ways to enhance our work with editing apps to make it look great and to help with consistency of theme. 

Also make sure the focus is the work.  You'll want to be sure to remove any items in the background prior to taking a photo that may be a distraction from your subject.  This would include products, coffee cups, dirty towels, your clients purse, etc. that may take focus off of your work.  A clean background is ideal, but not always possible.  I do suggest however, to get comfortable standing your client up, taking off their cape, and playing with different poses to get the right shot.  You will also see things through the lens of your camera that you may have missed when finishing your client. 

Here are a few of my favorite apps and how I use them:

            Photo Editor: It is my favorite tool because it is easy to navigate and offers so many features that I like to use.  You can select up to 5 pictures to edit at a time.  You have the option to put a frame or overlay (i.e. shape) around your photo. You can change the orientation.  So if your model is facing right, but your theme is to have everyone facing left, you can easily make that happen with the orientation option.  I also love the blur option to blur out a very busy background.  Blemish is a great tool to fix any blemishes on the face, or my favorite, to conceal any bobby pins or unsightly part lines in your photos. I would suggest against using any filters or adjusting the lighting or color too much because you want your work to be true to what it looks like in real life, not what you can make it look like. 

            Phonto: This is my favorite app for adding your Instagram handle into your photo.  There has been so much controversy over this subject.  Put your Instagram handle on your work if you want to.  If you don’t want to, then don’t.  There is no right or wrong.  I would just encourage you to use it consistently in the same font or same area of the photo if you do choose to use it in your photos.  You can choose from hundreds of fonts, change the transparency, and move and tilt it around your photo.  Just remember if you are going to zoom in on the photo, to make sure you keep that in mind and make your name smaller if you will be zooming in on it later.

            Split Pic: This app is best for transformations or side by side photos.  I like this app for extreme transformations, or progression photos also.  They blend seamlessly together and I prefer this look over a side by side with a line down the middle of the photo.    

Lighting plays a huge part in how your picture will turn out also.  Natural lighting is always best but not always reliable.  I encourage you to look outside of your salon.  Look for any blank,stone,brick or stucco walls, even if they are not right next to the salon.  Make sure your client and your camera are in the shade.  This may be a different spot in the morning versus the afternoon.  Experiment, take pictures at different angles, and remember to move your client.  You can move yourself around your client, but get comfortable moving your client to get the right poses.  Take a lot of pictures so you have a lot to choose from.  Look at other Instagram pages that inspire you to find different poses to work with and ultimately you will find your own style. 

You may also look into purchasing a ring light.  Especially if you work in the evenings, a ring light will really help you capture your work.  How many times do you finish your client in the evening, and your work just does not translate the same on your camera or phone?  I have invested in small lights and phone ring light attachments.  From my own experience, I highly recommend taking any money you would have invested in those attachments and put it towards purchasing a ring light.  I would encourage you to search online and make sure to read the customer comments prior to purchasing. Remember too, you can take photos in natural lighting as well as the ring light to get two different looks and more content for your page.    

Tagging and hash-tagging can be confusing when you are getting started on Instagram.  Tagging is an option to get your work seen.  Prior to posting, there is an option to Tag People.  If you click Tag people, your photo will come up.  Then click on your photo and a search bar will come up.  You can tag up to 20 pages. 

The pages I choose to tag frequently are: AmericanSalon, ModernSalon, BehindTheChair, Instabraid, Cosmoprof, AuthenticHairArmy, StylistsSupportingStylists, Imallaboutdahair.

I prefer to tag these pages because they do a lot of reposting and I am hoping to get featured.  I also would tag my client in the photo.  Tagging your clients is great way to get his or her friends to find you too and your client may even repost your photo on their Instagram page. 

With hashtagging, I would suggest first to search hastags to see if you are hashtagging the correct thing.  You can search them by clicking on the hashtag and seeing what comes up.  Also put the majority of your hashtags in a comment below your caption.  You can list out frequent hashtags you like to use in your notes and then copy and paste when it is time to post.  You want to include hastags that draw your target audience.  For me, I have clients as well as hairdressers who follow me.  So I do a combination of hashtags to attract both audiences. 

I want to get my work featured by larger pages so I like to hashtag: #modernsalon, #americansalon, #behindthechair, #cosmoprof, etc.  But I also like my clients and potential clients to be able to find me so I hashtag: #orangecountyhair, #ocbalayage #ochairstylist, etc.  

It is also a good idea to come up with your own hashtag.  Make sure it is not taken by searching it first and then start hashtagging all of your work with your own personal hashtag.  Mine is #hairbymichellestevenson because #michellehair was already being used by someone else. 

One thing to know is that with some of the basic hashtags, so for example #hair has over 97 million photos, so the likelihood of someone finding you from that hashtag is low, however if you search #ochair there are 32,000 posts, so the likelihood becomes much greater for a client to find you.  However if you do get in the “top posts” for one of the hashtags that have a lot more posts, it means more exposure for you.  This might mean exposure to people from other countries since Instagram is worldwide, so choose your hashtags carefully because you only get 30 per post.

Also people want to do business with people.  Your followers want to see your work, but they also want to see you and your personality.  Do you ever think about how much in common you have with your clients?  There is a reason.  People are attracted to you for your skill, but 80% of the reason people stay in your chair is their interaction with you.  How you make them feel.  So showing your personality is key.  Every so often, post a picture of you doing something you love.  Maybe for you, its hiking, going to Disneyland, or reading.  Whatever it may be, you will form a connection with people who enjoy the same things.  For me, I post inspirational quotes, because that’s what I like to see on other pages.  I also post pictures of me taking classes and teaching classes because that is my passion.  It is so important to be you and if you need time to figure out who you are that’s ok too!

Consistency is key is keeping an engaged audience.  Figure out a plan.  Do you want to post every evening? Do you want to post every morning? Do you want to post every other day or once a week? Whatever you choose to do, continue to be consistent with a posting schedule.  You may want to start with once a week, then twice a week, then once a day.  I choose to post every morning between 6-8 am and every evening between 6-8pm.  I find that this is when people are waking up and winding down during the day.  I get a lot of engagement and found that these times work best for me. 

Engagement is also another key factor with Instagram.  How awesome do you feel when someone likes your post? Liking someone’s post is a great way to show them that you like what they are posting, but commenting has a far bigger impact.  Remember Instagram is a “social” network so remember to be social.  When you choose to like or comment, be genuine.  And remember your followers can see what you are liking and commenting on as well, so be mindful when engaging. You can prepare your photos and hashtags ahead of time so that you can post even when you are busy.  Once you develop your own style and you become true to who you are, it will be a lot easier because you are choosing to be you!

Keeping up with social media is time consuming and it is a lot of work.  Unfortunately like it or not, it is now part of your job.  It is a skill that you need to cultivate just like cutting, or styling, or braiding.  It is ever evolving, so it is something you must invest your time in.  Hopefully articles like this will save you time doing all of the research on your own. 

If you like this article and want to learn more from me, I am on Periscope: MichelleS every Monday morning and would love to have you on my scope.  You can also find me on Instagram @michellehair.  And remember to ask yourself, “Does my Instagram page convey who I am?”  If it doesn’t, change it!

I want to personally send love and thanks to my beautiful friend Michelle Stevenson for sharing this incredible knowledge with us all.  Michelle is not only my new go-to Instagram expert, but she is an all around great educator for both business knowledge and skills behind the chair.  Michelle's Periscopes inspire me weekly and her Instagram page is flawless.  If you ever get a chance to catch her in a live class, don't let the opportunity pass you by and I hope you keep your eye on this amazing inspiration because her star is on the rise.  

XOXO

Britt