Beauty and the (social) beast: why do salons struggle to get social media marketing right?

Spa Accents by Karl Cossio

According to latest research from Habia (the government appointed sector skills body), seventy per cent of UK beauty salons use some sort of ICT in running their business. The vast majority of salons who use a computer use it for their company website (77 per cent), for Facebook (73 per cent) and/ or for Twitter (27 per cent).

Marketing and promotion skills are cited as the number one priority in terms of skills business owners would like their staff to have (68 per cent of business owners), but most salons don’t have any kind of training plan or a training budget. I’m taking a wild guess they don’t have a social media marketing strategy either.

I took a sample of ten independent beauty salons and used Brandwatch to track how they performed on social media over one month. The salons are spread across the UK so aren’t directly competing with each other – but I wanted to get a UK-wide feel for best practice – to find who has the best share of voice on social, if you like.

Here’s what I found…

[Note: Finding salons to compare in the first place was hard enough. The ten salons I looked at came from an amalgam of all the “best UK salons” lists I could find on Google. Many salons on those lists don’t appear to use social at all – so the ten I selected are possibly the best of the bunch – via my very random sampling method. Do let me know if there’s any better ones I’ve missed out!] 

1. Joint “winners”, with 22% per cent share of voice each, were The Potting Shed (West Yorkshire) and Gina Conway (London). To be fair, Gina Conway also does hair, but as an established beauty spa with a strong presence on social, it was good to include as a benchmark for others. While other salons’ social activity was marked by peaks and troughs, Gina Conway was the most consistent – showing steady engagement and mentions throughout the month. In the long term, consistency is the best way to build relationships.

2. In terms of sheer numbers, Beauty Quarter (Edinburgh) scores best on Facebook with 6,929 fans, while The Potting Shed tops the league on Twitter with 7,267 followers. Both these figures are disproportionately high in comparison to other UK salons – the median of the group, for example, was 1,388 fans on Facebook and just 729 on Twitter.

3. I’d love to know what each salon has done to achieve these numbers, most likely a mix of paid and organic growth. But both have a strong brand and unique visual identity. Beauty Quarter also has the highest Facebook engagement rate (2%) out of the ten – but this is virtually all ‘likes’ on relatively generic stock photos (posted daily).

4. Not surprisingly, The Potting Shed also scored highest in terms of Twitter mentions for the month – 148 over the period. Mentions peaked on 12 May and 6 June due to highly personal chit-chat (not instigated by The Potting Shed) with a couple of other Twitter users, and another peak on 2 June – The Potting Shed’s birthday (no hashtag created, though). The Potting Shed has its tweets protected so maybe it can get away with personal conversations, but these still sit a bit uncomfortably when it’s meant to be a brand doing the tweeting. And any negativity, whether direct or by association, should be avoided.

5. Bliss Beauty Spa (Leeds) deserves special mention for its #WinSpaDay competition which caused a flurry of re-tweets on 17 and 30 May. (However, these still didn’t beat rival Leeds salon Pout Beauty‘s single tweet from Valentine’s 2014: “RT to win a luxury #Valentine’s hamper” – which garnered a whopping 347 shares).

6. In general, salons are reluctant to use hashtags, certainly when it comes to generating their own. Aurora (Cardiff) had a number of tweets talking about its tenth birthday party and charity fundraiser on 20 May – but there was no event hashtag for people who might have wanted to find out more.

7. Instagram and Pinterest are very under-utilised: a missed opportunity because these networks have high aesthetic appeal and are popular with beauty brands and bloggers alike. Only two of the salons I looked at have Instagram accounts, and another two use Pinterest. Of these, Cucumba (London) was the only serious effort: it regularly posts colourful photos of fruit, nails and make-up to Instagram, with 437 followers lapping them up.

8. Google+ Local is fast becoming a must-have. Six out of the ten salons boasted Google+ pages, with accompanying photos and customer reviews. With social proof and related tools (like Net Promoter Score) becoming increasingly important to all business, it makes sense that salons should set themselves up to look gorgeous when someone does a search on Google.

Why do salons struggle with social? Time is key: most UK salons are run by owner-managers who need to juggle every facet of the business. In the latest research from Habia, 63 per cent of respondents were single salon businesses, with a further 19 per cent describing themselves as freelance/ mobile. A massive 94 per cent of businesses in the Habia footprint in England employ fewer than 10 members of staff. I can’t say for certain how many of the ten salons I looked at fell into this category, but one thing’s for sure – a helping hand with social media would do all of them the power of good.

This post is one of a series written in collaboration with Brandwatch. For more on how different small businesses are using social media, see #stateofindependents.

Photo: Karl Cossio

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