This article is part of our Salon Business Startup Guide—a curated list of articles to help you plan, start, and grow your salon business!

Successful hair salons have to stay on top of trends, so it’s no surprise that salon owners and stylists are also embracing the hottest social media trend: Instagram.

Instagram is the newest social media kid on the block, and its popularity is skyrocketing. According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, Instagram was the fastest growing social media network in 2014. Instagram reports a staggering 300 million users.

Given Instagram’s visual nature and its potential to reach so many customers, it’s an ideal fit for hair salons. From trendy hairstyles to creative nail art, there are endless marketing possibilities on Instagram.

Whether you have Instagram experience or not, this guide is meant to help hair salons cash in on this popular social site.

Done any creative coifs lately? Show them off!

Done any creative coifs lately? Show them off!

What to post

Let’s start with what to post on your Instagram account. Like all social media sites, you want a variety of posts. Here are some ideas:

1. Before and after pictures

There’s no better place for before and after photos than a hair salon. When a customer is going for a new color or a transformational cut, it’s an opportunity to snap photos and show your talents to your social audience, like this stylist did.

Of course, you’ll want to ask your customer if he or she is okay with you taking the picture and posting it on Instagram, but once you’ve got permission, this is a great thing to share with your followers.

2. Cool updos

Whether you’ve recently completed a bridal style or simply done a creative braid on a client, break out your phone and get a picture of it. Here’s a cool shot of a braid that celebrity stylist Sarah Potempa shared on her Instagram page.

3. New products

When a new styling product or tool comes in to your shop, grab a pic and share it on Instagram, like this stylist did. You don’t want to advertise products too often, but once in awhile they’re fine.

4. Notes to say thanks

Social media is a great place to offer a public thank you. Thank a new client for coming in, or a new vendor for teaming up with you.

5. Upcoming deals and events

Offering a promotion or a customer appreciation event? Share it on Instagram. Here’s a manicure pass that makes for a great post. Take a picture of the in-store poster that you use to advertise the promotion or event and use that image for Instagram.

6. Timely posts

Whether it’s prom season or Mother’s Day, make sure you post about timely topics. By posting shots of current holidays, you show your customers that your shop is relevant.

7. Welcome new employees

When you hire new stylists or makeup artists, share the news and a picture on Instagram.

8. Be fun and creative

It’s okay to share a picture of yourself working, a quote, a shot of a rainbow outside of your shop. It’s good show your audience that you’re human. You want your Instagram site to be relatable.


Run an Instagram contest where your followers post their favorite styles.

Tips to attract followers

Of course, your marketing power is only as strong as your social media reach. You’ll want to make efforts to attract followers. Here are a few tips to do just that:

1. Host a contest

Contests are a great way to generate some buzz. The “post a picture and win” type of contest is popular and easy; for example, ask your customers to post a picture of their favorite beach hairstyle. Pick a winner at random and give them a $10 off coupon to your salon.

For added exposure, have participants tag their friends. This opens up the possibility of more followers.

2. Post regularly

Like other social media sites, it’s important to post to your Instagram site on a consistent basis. Pick a schedule that works for you and stick to it.

3. Engage with your audience

When someone leaves a comment, make sure you respond. You want to show others that your Instagram site is a spot where customers can interact with you and your brand.

4. Encourage others to share

Get others to share photos on your page too. Put a few signs up in your salon asking customers to share a picture of their hairstyle on Instagram, and have your stylists mention it too.

5. Add Instagram to emails

Add your Instagram handle or a link to your Instagram to any promotional emails that you send your clients. You should also include a link to the site in every employee’s email signature.

6. Advertise your Instagram on other channels

Use other marketing channels to advertise your Instagram page. For example, mention it in store signage, add the icon and website, put the website address on your business cards and other handouts, and ask fans from other social media sites to follow you on Instagram.

7. Tag others

As with other social sites, you should tag other people in your posts to increase exposure. When you tag someone else, the post shows up on his or her Instagram page as well. Let’s say you team up with a charity to offer free cuts to veterans. Be sure to advertise the event on Instagram and tag the charity that you’re working with.

Tips on hashtag use

Hashtags are an important part of the Instagram world. Think of them as keywords; when someone searches Instagram for something, it scans hashtags to come up with search results.

It’s a good idea to use a handful of hashtags. Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post. Now, 30 is bit excessive, but four or five hashtags can improve your visibility. Here are a few tips to select hashtags:

1. Use both specific and general hashtags

If you post a shot of a wedding updo, using #WeddingUpdo is a good idea. However, the hashtag is pretty broad, so it could yield a lot of search results. Your shot might be buried in a bunch of pictures, so in addition to general hashtags, use specific words too. Maybe something like #FrenchBraidWeddingUpdo, or use both, by including #FrenchBraid and #WeddingUpdo.

2. Mention your location in a hashtag

Help potential customers find your salon by tagging your photos with your business name and its city.

3. Take advantage of appropriate trending hashtags

Instagram doesn’t have a list of trending hashtags like Twitter does, but it’s a safe bet that if something is trending on Twitter, it’s trending on other social channels too.

So, when your Twitter accounts tells you that #GoldenGlobeAwards is trending, try to create a post that focuses on the award show. Try posting a shot of a fancy updo and ask your followers if that kind of style will hit the red carpets at the #GoldenGlobeAwards.

4. Use product hashtags

A lot of product lines have established Instagram sites, so use product hashtags when you can. For example, if your shop sells Redken products, you could use #redkenready in your posts. The product you use might even feature your post on their Instagram, which is great exposure.


Even if it’s a selfie, start thinking like a photographer.

Picture-taking tips and tools

Instagram is all about the visuals, so you have to post crisp, clean photos to your page. That’s not to say that you have to hire a professional photographer to take shots for you, but you do have to take some care when you’re snapping pictures. Since most people use their phone to take pictures, here are a few tips to make sure that your smartphone shots are top-notch:

1. Get closer rather than zooming in

The zoom function on your smartphone isn’t great. It’s better to move closer than it is to zoom in.

2. Take more than one photo

It’s always a good idea to take more than one photo from different angles. You don’t have to use every photo you take, but it’s good to have options.

3. Watch your background

Be mindful of what’s in the background of your picture. You don’t want a background that takes away from the main focus of the shot.

4. Check your focus

On most smartphones you simply tap the screen to get the camera to automatically focus. Make sure you do so before taking the picture.

5. Get clients to smile

Your clients should look happy in the photos you share. Leave the sullen, angry look for runway models.

6. Use apps to make your life easier

Once you take a picture, you’ll want to edit the image and give it a little flair. There are many apps that can help you spruce up your shots, but here are five of the most popular tools for salon owners:

  • Overgram: Use Overgram to add text like the words “Before” and “After” to your photos.
  • Facetune: This app lets you fix blemishes on portraits. In other words, you can erase a pimple or red eyes.
  • PicFrame: Showcase your photos in frames with this handy app.
  • Aviary: This app offers great photo editing options like cropping and color boost.
  • Afterlight: If you want to get artsy and add cool filters to your photos, this app is for you.

More and more customers are treating Instagram like a visual Google. When it comes to nail trends and hairstyles, people want pictures, not blog posts.

That’s why Instagram is a natural marketing tool for salons. While updating Instagram does take some time, it’s a small investment to make to attract new customers and maintain a relationship with current ones.

[instagram-widget id=”BA-5gaDuDL7″]

Does your salon use Instagram? Has it increased your brand exposure and your business? Do you have additional tips for salon owners? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

AvatarLisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a journalist with a decade of experience in all facets of media.