Sharpest tool in the box

From Hashtags to ‘Stories’: Ross Hansen explains exactly how to make the most of Instagram.

With the uncertainty and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a very difficult time for hair and beauty businesses up and down the country at the moment. It’s still unclear when businesses will be able to open back up again, so in this worrying time any positive steps that can be taken to shore up business health need to be fully embraced.

Social media is one of the areas that can bring potentially huge long-term rewards for businesses. With people at home and using social media even more often, it’s a good time to create relationships and remind potential customers exactly what your business has to offer post-lockdown.

And when it comes to social media platforms, Instagram is surely right up there with the best.

Following its creation in 2010, Instagram has skyrocketed in popularity to become one of the biggest players in the social media game. With 1 billion active monthly users, it’s an ideal platform for businesses to expand their audience and engage with their customers. It’s particularly ideal for hair and beauty businesses, as Instagram’s dedication to photos and videos allows professionals to really show off what they can do.

Instagram has evolved since its creation, and there are now a range of different features that savvy businesses can take advantage of. Here we’ll explore the main ones.


Hashtags have always been one of the key strengths of Instagram. With other platforms such as Facebook, for example, it can be difficult to expand a page’s reach and build a community without highly targeted ads. But Instagram’s hashtags are perfect for finding an audience.

It takes a bit of research, but once you’ve found the best hashtags to use you can quickly catapult your posts to the attention of the thousands (and sometimes millions) of people who are following that particular hashtag.

So, whatever your specialty, whether it’s beard trimming, haircuts or effortless fades, there are hashtags out there that will put you in front of exactly the kind of interested people you’re looking for. Localised hashtags are also incredibly useful – allowing you to grow a community (and potential customer base) that’s near you.

Don’t go overboard, though. Make your hashtags relevant and specific, and don’t use too many. Although Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags for each post, there’s a school of thought that the optimum number of hashtags is actually 9.


Go viral on the Explore page

The holy grail of Instagram, however, is the Explore page. Occupying the same space as the in-app search function, this page automatically shows users content that’s specially curated for them based on their past activity within the app. If you manage to get your posts on this feed, you have the chance of going viral and seeing your impressions (and followers) skyrocket – as the people who will see your content there will likely be interested and engaged in your particular niche already.

Reaching the Explore page is easier said than done, however – Instagram’s algorithm decides which posts to use depending on how successful they are in the crucial first hour or two after posting. Your post has to be very popular with your own followers, and experience high levels of engagement through comments, to stand a chance.

Relatable videos are often very successful, and it could be that a video showcasing your barbering skills in a funny and engaging way is your ticket to Instagram stardom. But it’s also important to strike the right balance – don’t forget to shape meaningful content for your followers, and the right content for your particular business goals.

Stories and IG Live

This is where Instagram can really excel for your barber business. One of the best ways of forging meaningful, long-lasting relationships with your followers (and potential customers) is to connect with them on the human level. Instagram’s Stories feature allows you to do just that – you can show everyone the real you, behind the scenes, in a series of short videos that automatically disappear after 24 hours. You can treat it as a virtual diary, in which you show your followers that you’re not just another faceless brand. The even more recent IGTV feature is similar, but this time you’ll be recording live – and your followers will receive a notification as soon as it begins, increasing your reach and engagement.

The particular advantages of this approach for a hair and beauty brand are clear; the Stories feature can act as a supplementary feed of content that might not be quite right for your main Instagram grid. The disposable nature of Stories means there’s less pressure for them to be perfect. On the other hand, if you’re particularly pleased with a story you’ve put together, you can save it to the Highlights feature of your profile for your followers to find in future.


The long game

It’s undoubtedly a challenging time for hair and beauty businesses right now, but by developing your Instagram game during lockdown you’ll be in a stronger position in the long-term – and have a new community of engaged followers (and potential customers!) to interact with in future. It may be daunting, but even small improvements to your Instagram presence can reap dividends, and who knows, you might make some new virtual friends along the way!

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