Creative, visual and consumer-facing – why would hair salons have a problem with social media? But the conversation on social media in the UK is dominated by just one name: Bleach London.

The Dalston salon’s YouTube channel (above) has 4.7K subscribers. It has 50K fans on Twitter, 70K on Facebook and 240K on Instagram. Bleach’s “how to” videos notch up an average of 11K views, and a new hairstyle can be trending on Twitter within hours (witness the excitement around Lottie Tomlinson’s new #RainbowRoots on 5 November).

Just to put Bleach London’s online presence in context, out of the ten UK salons I surveyed, Bleach takes 74 per cent of social mentions (see Brandwatch graphic below). Bleach London’s nearest rival in terms of social voice comes from Mark Hill in Hull – a savvy salon with its own product line in Boots and a staunch fanbase among Geordie Shore cast members. But Mark Hill still only gets 10 per cent of social mentions.

UK hair salons share of voice

UK hair salons: share of voice, Nov 2015 (via Brandwatch)

One reason for Bleach’s social media success could be the passion and talent of its founder, the Midlands-born, Dalston-based stylist, Alex Brownsell. Starting Bleach in her London flat, then moving into the back of a nail salon, just as Dalston was gentrifying, Brownsell gained an early celebrity following and zeitgeist-y feel which seem to have stayed with the brand and helped build momentum.

This momentum is illustrated in the chart below: in terms of effort put into social, Bleach gets more bang for its buck. Bleach London is the third largest content creator, after Josh Wood and Mark Hill, so we can presume its success on social is disproportionate to the time spent crafting updates and carefully cropping photos – the vast majority of Bleach London’s mentions originate not with the brand but in its wider community.

UK hair salons top authors Nov 2015

UK hair salons: top authors, Nov 2015 (via Brandwatch)

These peer recommendations and referrals are gold dust – they indicate trustworthiness and create social proof, which in turn generates further recommendations and referrals. It’s no surprise that Bleach London is driving the online conversation around hair with names of its stylists (Scarlett, Natasha), looks (rainbow, rainbow roots), products (swampspritz) and activities (Periscope tutorial) all featuring strongly – as shown in the word cloud below.

UK hair salons popular topics Nov 2015

 UK hair salons: popular topics, Nov 2015 (via Brandwatch)

Other hairdressing salons may compete with dedicated hashtags (#MakeYourMark) or industry events (OpenChairNight, TrendVision), but Bleach London is dominating the hair conversation online.

The fact that Bleach is streets ahead in terms of social media success indicates what’s possible in this sector. Hair salons have traditionally been small businesses with owners who claim they don’t have time to invest in social media strategy or training. Well, Bleach has re-set the bar. Other salons need to sit up and take note.

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.


Jemima Gibbons
Jemima Gibbons

Social media consultant and author of Monkeys with Typewriters (featured by BBC Radio 5 and the London Evening Standard). Get your social marketing up and running with my Social Media Launch Pack!

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