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By Katie O’Reilly

social media advertising

(Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

When it comes to social media today, you’ve got to pay to play. While setting up a free Facebook business page used to be a viable way to promote your salon, it’s no longer enough, says Bob Bentz, president of Philadelphia digital ad agency Purplegator. “Today, only 11/2 percent to six percent of your organic business page posts are visible to your followers. What’s more, they’re shown primarily to consumers who’ve previously engaged with your posts, who tend to be employees and loyal customers who are going to come to your salon regardless,” says Bentz. “That’s why you have to pay to advertise on Facebook and other platforms.”

The good news is there’s virtually no barrier to entry for small businesses and individual techs; social media advertising is easy, cheap and effective. “Once you understand who your customer is on a very detailed level (think: location, age, income level and interests), you can get so targeted,” says Erik Huberman, owner and CEO of Hawke Media, a Santa Monica, California-based marketing firm. Here, digital marketing and beauty industry experts reveal the cheapest and most effective ways to boost salon visits, website traffic and brand awareness via social media advertising.

Getting Started 

Our experts are in agreement: Start with Facebook. “For the cost of running one ad in traditional media, your Facebook ad is displayed daily, for weeks at a time, and put before exactly who you want to see it, which is perfect for a business with a tight budget and niche audience, such as salons,” says Hilary Hamblin, a marketing expert with Momentum Consulting in Saltillo, Mississippi. Indeed, most nail salons draw only from their immediate three- to five-mile radius, says Bentz, who asks, “Why advertise on traditional media and pay to reach consumers who are never going to travel across town and visit?” Social media channels, like Facebook, can help you home in on your target consumer. “You can use the wealth of information that platforms like Facebook and Instagram collect to advertise to people who have a keen interest in nail art and/or follow nail polish brands you use in your shop,” says Jen Mathews, president of Top Tier Media, a Los Angeles-based social media agency serving beauty brands.

In addition to targeted placement, cost of entry is inexpensive, says Huberman, who notes that you can start with as little as $5 on Facebook. “It gives you the luxury of trial and error,” he says. “Try 50 different approaches and find out what performs.” Ameerah Palacios, a public relations professional in Nashville, Tennessee, recommends “testing” for three months with $50. “Use zip codes and interest-based ads that target the ideal person you want walking through your door, and then increase your budget.” She adds, “Google AdWords is also effective and affordable for salons with keyword-based search targeting. [Potential clients] Google ‘salons near me’ all the time.”

RELATED: Mastering Social Media

The difference is, when you advertise via Google search, you’re targeting people who are actively seeking out a local nail salon at that moment in time. “There’s obviously merit in that,” says Mathews, “but when you advertise on social media, you can find a loyal group of potential clients—some of whom might follow simply because they like your posts and who will think of you when the time comes for a new pedi.”

When it comes to choosing which social media channels to advertise with, again, know your target audience. Hamblin says Facebook and Pinterest are the best ways to target women. Looking to wrangle millennials? Advertise on Instagram, which offers the same targeting system as Facebook, but runs a bit more expensive, and Snapchat. “Just be sure to create a message geared for each specific audience and platform,” says Hamblin, who adds that  on most platforms, you can either pay for clicks or impressions. “The former means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad to go to your site or page, whereas an impression is just someone seeing your ad,” she explains. ”What you pay depends on whether you’re looking to affect action or just boost brand awareness.”

social media advertising

(Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Nuts & Bolts

To create an ad, you’ll need a Facebook and/or Twitter business account. Then, Ashton Spatz from Culver City, California’s Haley Miranda Group, recommends following Facebook’s basic ad recommendations (found at facebook.com/business). “They have plenty of [information] on how to set up your business page, your business manager, and how to self-purchase and create an ad,” he says. “At first, you’ll be running your ads in news feeds, on the audience network and in the right-hand column. Over time, you’ll begin to see what works best for your business and your objectives, and you can be more selective with your placements.” Explains Hamblin, “Social media advertising has been set up as a DIY product. Each platform allows you to create, schedule and manage your ads directly.” These ad modules allow you to target specific handles, demographics and locations.

The simplest way to advertise? Pay to boost existing posts. For example, on Facebook, you simply allocate a portion of your advertising budget to a post already on your businesses page. Just click the “boost post” option and, once the action is approved by Facebook, more people will see the selected post in their news feed. Bentz cautions, “Be careful with Facebook’s boost post feature, as it doesn’t work as well as the ‘dark post’ feature.” He explains, “With dark posts, you can experiment with different images, copy, offers and target markets; with boost post, you’re stuck with whatever advertising elements you have on your original post.” Whatever you do, posts should be geared toward your key demographic and placed on the social media platforms they’re actually using.

Additionally, if you choose to boost a post, make sure it’s engaging. “Social is a two-way medium,” says Gina Hutchings, a U.K.-based digital marketing consultant serving the beauty industry. “You can learn just as much about your audience as they can learn about you. Think about what types of content and imagery would entice you via Twitter or Facebook.” Hutchings suggests asking a question. “For example, ‘What’s your favorite autumn nail color?’ or ‘Are vintage nails the new fad?’ Ask people to post their favorite nail art, with a free treatment for the post with the most likes. This means you’re providing content, and engaging like-minded people; i.e. potential customers.”

When it comes to how many ads to employ and/or posts to boost, content marketing manager Sean Martin from Los Angeles-based digital agency Directive Consulting says, “Post however many ads you can afford per day. You can set up a daily budget when you set up your ad campaigns.” Keep in mind: bigger is generally better. “As with any other media, you get what you pay for,” says Hamblin. “The more you spend, the more return you can expect—although every individual business has a point where spending more does not mean more business.”

Return on Investment

So, how can you tell if your social media ads are effective? Each social media advertising interface comes with analytics you can monitor throughout your campaign. “Results will vary from business to business,” says Spatz. “We’ve seen rates boasting a $5,000-plus return on investment in direct sales, to [advertising] campaigns that have just broken even in the short term, but have established more brand awareness.”

As an advertising rule of thumb, Martin says, your returns should be around 25 percent. “For every dollar you spend, you should get a minimum of $1.25 back.” To help identify whether new customers are coming from social media advertising or not, Bentz recommends giving a promotional offer to first-time visitors. “As with all advertising, however, customers rarely remember where they saw your ad; you’ll just know business has increased.” This is why Hamblin suggests outfitting your website with a landing page that tracks where visitors are coming from. When those who have seen your ad click through to your website, collect their email addresses and try to get additional information about them via a short survey, in exchange for a discount. “A lot of people will click your ad when they’re not ready for a new mani,” says Huberman. “But you can put them on your email list and follow up.”

Martin notes that social media is just that—social. “Due to its ambiguous nature, you may not see an immediate direct increase in sales,” he says. “Just focus on a metric called engagement, which measures—through likes, shares, retweets, reader time and other measurements—how engaged your readership is with the [ads and boosted posts]. The higher this metric, the more brand awareness you’re building, which will indirectly lead to more conversions—and salon sales.”

How are you taking advantage of social media to market your services? Let us know in the comments below! 

[Images: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images, Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

This story was originally published in the February 2017 issue of NAILPRO.

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