Instagram has evolved from a platform people use to share pictures to a pop-culture powerhouse that creative industries use to build brand awareness and influence buying behaviour.

Since there is a huge visual component to styling and colouring hair, Instagram is the perfect marketing platform for a hair salon.

Here are five easy ways for hair salons to drive engagement on Instagram.

1. Create an Instagram business account

Having access to Instagram Insights is essential if you want to find ways to increase engagement. Although you can switch easily from a personal to a business account on Instagram, since Instagram Insights is built on Facebook’s well-engineered ad-machine, you will need to create a Facebook Business page in order to gain access to any key performance metrics that determine engagement rate.

These include: reach, impressions, profile visits, key times of engagement, audience demographics (including gender, age) and location (by city or country).

2. Tell your story

Instagram is a minimalist platform. You can’t share URLs with every post or create event pages. Your post ingredients are comprised of a visual element (images, videos) and the narrative element (caption, emojis, hashtags).

The best way to build an engaging post is to have the different elements complement each other. A descriptive caption provides context for the image. Add emojis to make your captions more whimsical.

3. Help your audience find you

Hashtags help your audience locate your brand. Research shows that an Instagram post with at least one hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement than a post without a hashtag.

While you might want to limit your Twitter and Facebook posts to include 2 – 3 hashtags, an Instagram post can have anywhere between 7 – 30 hashtags without negatively impacting your engagement rate.

Here are some examples of popular hashtags used by hair salons in Vancouver: #Hairgoals #Vancouverhairstylist #Balayage #blonding #colourcorrection #vyrstylist #longhair #waves #brighthair #hairdressing #highlights #canadahair #bridal #hairpainting #bestsaloninthecity #rootmelt #handpainted #hairoftheday #organicsalon #vancouverisawesome #redhead #newhair #newlook #beforeandafter #hairinspiration #healthyhair

These don’t include hashtags that simply refer to the colour of the hair. Examples include #Blondehair #blondebalayage #pinkhair #almondhair #purplehair #purpleandpinkhair #ombrehair #bestalmond

To find the right balance of hashtags, see if every hashtag can convey a unique emotion or idea. If you tagged your post with #blonde and #balayage, for example, you don’t want to also add #blondebalayage as a third hashtag. Hashtags are a way of isolating your story in multiple larger narratives so that every person who’s searching for that narrative can find your post.

While Instagram allows you to post directly to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, consider adding Pinterest to your repertoire as well. Pinterest has become a hub for sharing ideas and how-tos, and is often the first place people visit when they’re looking for fresh ways to experiment with their hair.

Then make it easy for people to follow you by providing links to all your social media accounts on your website.

4. Use Instagram’s native support apps

Instagram offers three other apps that can help you package your content more quickly and cohesively. Because they’re created by Instagram, they work seamlessly with the medium.

Layout lets you create unique collages of your pictures, and is ideal for when you want to show before and after photos. Boomerang helps you create bursts of mini-videos that you can then package into Instagram stories and Hyperlapse helps you create time lapse videos.

5. Pay attention to what’s changing

Instagram launched Instagram Stories in August 2016 and Instagram Stories Highlights in December 2017, dramatically changing how users would interact with the medium.

If you’re using Instagram as your marketing tool, you need to pay attention to what’s coming next. Instagram’s latest announcement will particularly affect Canadians. Earlier this year, in an effort to encourage users to focus on the quality of posts over the quality of likes, Instagram announced that it is testing out a feature that hides likes in Canada. Paying close attention to which changes in the platform will affect your engagement metrics and how is vital to running a successful marketing campaign. Similarly to platform changes, you should keep an eye on the creatives trending in your industry by creating a swipe file of the best out there.

Instagram is an excellent platform to showcase the range and versatility of skill your salon can offer: create how-to videos, elegantly styled hairdos, and colouring experiments. As the quality of your content grows, your followers will look to you for expertise and inspiration, thus increasing your engagement.