The Rules of (Social Media) Engagement

Social media has become a huge part of our lives in the last 10 years, but it comes with pros and cons. On the one hand, it allows you to promote your services and skills to your target audience with little to no money invested—a boon for the small business owner or freelancer. On the other, one wrong move and you can potentially do irrevocable damage to the career that you’ve worked so hard to build. “Once you put something out [on social media], it’s reposted, commented on, saved and—most importantly—it becomes public record,” says Marina Torosian, co-owner of Laqué Nail Bar and Beauty Lounge, with two locations in Los Angeles and an Instagram following of 1.8 million. For this last reason alone, knowing how to conduct yourself online should be a top priority for nail artists. After all, the beauty industry thrives on social media: On Instagram, a search for #nails nets more than 81 million posts, while #nailsalon returns more than 3.7 million posts and #nailartist a not-too-shabby 2.8 million. The takeaway: Your potential clients are a post away from discovering you—but only if you play by the rules. “Social media is a two-way conversation and, like any other dialogue, there’s etiquette involved,” says Kelly Ehlers, founder and president of Evoke Brand Strategies and Hello Salon Pro. Here, nine social media etiquette rules you should abide by to keep followers devoted.

Social media symbols and phrasesCourtesy of Getty

Practice these nine guidelines for social media etiquette to help you net real offline success.

1. Don’t Get Too Personal: Your personality is part of your brand, right? But sharing your personal life on your professional social media channels does a disservice to your business. “It’s much harder to grow a following when you don’t have a clear, straight content focus,” stresses Celina Rydén, international educator and brand ambassador for Light Elegance and social media influencer with close to 200,000 followers on Instagram. Agrees Jen Mathews, president of Top Tier Media and creator of the My Beauty Bunny juggernaut (its combined social media following is nearing 1 million): “Personal photos have no business on your professional page. It looks amateurish and unprofessional.” Does that mean you should never make an appearance? Not necessarily. According to Michelle Brisbois, vice president of Frenchies Modern Nail Care franchise operations, exceptions to this rule include content that connects your customers to owners and nail techs rather than a corporate entity, such as images of you or your team working in the salon on clients or attending or working events where your business is on display. “[These scenarios would make] sense to customers, whereas a photo of you drinking a glass of wine while on a weekend girls’ trip does not,” Mathews agrees. Just as your off-duty escapades should be kept clear of your business feeds, so, too, should your personal beliefs. “Always keep in mind that your customers come from many different backgrounds, so in general, it’s best to keep the political content on your personal pages only,” Mathews advises. However, if you simply can’t separate your salon or brand from a certain cause, post with conviction, but realize that you could lose current and potential clients. “I don’t recommend this, but if you go this route, you have to own it completely and be prepared for any negative press or fallout,” Mathews says.

2. Be the Bigger Person: Read the comments on social media and you’re likely to come across a few—or many—bad actors and online trolls. The comments section has become a place to air grievances, and no matter if the gripe is warranted or not, it deserves your attention. “The best way to address a negative comment is to respond sooner rather than later. Your followers will remember how you handle these situations, which makes it important to handle each negative comment with professionalism,” says Ehlers. “Try to keep the initial public-facing response short and sweet, then ask them to privately send a direct message to further discuss the matter.” If a competitor or peer talks negatively about your business online, take the high road. “Ignore it,” Mathews advises. “If someone (like a follower) brings it to your attention, thank her, but never show anger. Remember: Nothing is private on social media—including direct messages. Screenshots of heated exchanges have been known to take large brands down!” Also, it should go without saying: Never encourage bad behavior in your followers. “I absolutely hate when I see peers ‘calling out’ other peers online. It looks extremely unprofessional and [any peer-related problems] are best dealt with privately rather than asking your followers to comment on another peer’s page,” laments editorial nail artist Chelsea King, who has an Instagram following of more than 100,000.With both followers and competitors, rude or aggressive behavior may deserve a block, but remember to use that power judiciously, says Ehlers. “If someone is harassing you or you feel unsafe in any way, you can report their account and/or block them from contacting you further,” she says. Check the social media channels’ guidelines, and be sure to keep a professional tone throughout the process. But before you block, advises celebrity manicurist Mar y Soul Inzerillo, whose 40,000-plus followers on Instagram watch her bedazzle A-listers’ nails, think about whether it will negatively impact your image—especially among your peers. Will you cross paths with someone you blocked in real life? Online actions, after all, have real-life consequences.

3. Be Attentive: Though we tend to respond more quickly to negative comments, all comments deserve your attention. “Responding to comments and likes is a great way to show appreciation to your followers,” says Ehlers. “Actively engaging with thoughtful responses can organically grow your following, too.” Steer clear of canned responses. Instead, “set aside the time to go the extra mile with custom comments that let each follower know you appreciate them,” she suggests.

4. Mind Intellectual Property:Reposting images from other artists traditionally has a negative connotation among the online nail community, but experts agree if you tag and give credit to the original artist, you’re good to go. “Giving credit to the original account and artist will let that person know you admire his or her work and will help prevent conflict,” Ehlers says. Stay on the safe side by reaching out to the original artist via direct message to ask permission to share before posting. Also, when reposting other’s work, “never crop out or delete a watermark!” Rydén stresses.If you don’t know the source of the image (think: memes or inspiration quotes created by others), Brisbois advises erring on the side of caution and not posting it. “The rule of thumb should be, if you feel like you’re inappropriately sharing something or can’t find a way to give credit, you probably shouldn’t post it,” she asserts. Finally, if someone claims ownership of an image you posted, Mathews says you have two choices: “Either take it down immediately or give attribution if that’s the solution you both agree on,” she says.

5. Don’t Misrepresent Your Work: Airbrushing your images beyond recognition is not only unethical, but it also truly does a disservice to you, your potential clients and the industry as a whole. “I believe it’s false advertising to completely change a photo,” says Inzerillo. “A potential client will come into your salon or book a nail stylist for a photo shoot, and if the work isn’t as good as what you showed on social media … it can make the client hesitant in the future or question other manicurists in a negative way.”

6. Don’t Crowd Your Followers’ Feeds: Though “optimal” post frequency differs from platform to platform, everyone agrees that flooding your followers’ feeds with posts can turn them off—and tune them out to the point of unfollowing you. The reason: It looks like you’re spamming them even if that’s not your intention. When mapping out the posting schedule for Frenchies studios, Brisbois says the goal is to “keep followers engaged, but not overwhelmed with too many posts.” Mathews follows this formula: Post one to two times a day on your chosen platform(s)—three times if you have a large following—and leave at least an hour between posts.

7. Honor Client Confidentiality: Before posting a snap of your client’s gorgeous nail art, be sure to ask permission. Think of it this way: “Would you walk up to a stranger on the street and take a picture of her without asking?” Rydén asks. (Answer: Not likely.) In the world of editorial or celebrity nails, you can practice due diligence by checking the call sheet, says Inzerillo. “If it says no social media, then don’t even bother asking to post a picture and definitely don’t take a sneaky photo,” she says. “It’s ethically irresponsible not to follow what they specifically ask you not to do.” If you disrespect the rule, you likely won’t be rehired. Remember, too, if the project won’t go live until a later date, you shouldn’t post the imagery prior to publishing. So how does the immediacy of Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram Stories fit into this? Again, be mindful of the clients’ rules, and don’t show finished looks. If you do want to post anything, King suggests keeping it simple—think: a video of your kit or the polishes that will be used. As for tagging clients, you should always ask permission, because an unsolicited tag could have actual ramifications, Torosian warns. “We had a client who didn’t want [to be tagged or have a photo posted] because she has an ex-husband who she has a restraining order against,” she says. Adds Mathews: “You never know if a client wants her likeness (even her hands) shared in public. Some people are private. You never know the story until you ask.”

8. Double-Check Your Grammar: Nothing spells unprofessional like misspelled words. Even if your brand has a casual tone, spelling and grammar mistakes come across as lazy. “This is a topic that is so much more important than people realize,” Rydén asserts. “It’s like going to a job interview: Don’t dress for the job you already have, dress for the job you want!” To avoid errors, Ehlers recommends reviewing your captions and comments before posting—“not just once, but twice,” she says, pointing out that, on a purely functional level, spelling makes a difference in hashtags and tagging. “One letter can be the difference between tagging a client or tagging a stranger, and misspelling a hashtag won’t get your profile the exposure you’re trying to achieve.” Luckily, most platforms include an edit function, so use it as soon as you spot the error.

9. Always Be Positive: While this final etiquette rule seems like a no-brainer, it really is the one that should be at the forefront of every post you construct. Why? Positivity has a proven beneficial impact on social media engagement. “Not only does a positive tone keep your page professional, it also encourages followers. According to Facebook, the more positive the posts, the more positive the engagement,” Ehlers explains. “Your followers want to make real-time connections, and inspiring, upbeat posts are great conversation-starters. Remember, social media can lead to referrals. It pays to be nice, especially in the salon pro industry!”


Do you practice any of these social media etiquette tips? Let us know in the comments below!

-Karie L. Frost is a New York-based freelance writer with a proclivity for all things beauty and fitness.

[Image courtesy of Getty Images]

This article was first published in the July 2018 issue of NAILPRO

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