Blogging is the NEW Advertising – Content Marketing

Bombarded with ads everywhere, on nearly every Web page, in almost every app, Web users have become weary of online advertising, its aggressiveness and hard-selling tactics.  So much so that 70% of people prefer content to straight out advertisements. Consumers interested in the hair and beauty industry are no exception. Due to the nature of its products and services, the hair and beauty industry has always perpetuated aggressive online advertising. But things have changed significantly in recent years, as blogging and social networking have become immensely popular not only for individuals, but also for brands and businesses of every kind – from the small, local hair salon serving a handful of customers a day, to the big and fancy beauty salons in malls and downtown areas.

Why Blogging Matters for Your Hair and Beauty Business

business blogging is the new advertising hair salons content marketingA high percentage of consumers will research a product or service online first before deciding whether or not to buy it. This is one of the reasons why your hair and beauty business should make the most of blogging and social media, both to attract new customers and keep existing customers interested and informed. It is much more effective and natural to bring consumers closer to your brand and build trust if you offer them good-quality, engaging content relevant to your industry than if you invest in advertising, which is by contrast impersonal, indirect, and above all, has little to no informative value.

Recent studies reveal that over 60% of the people who prefer content to advertisements say that content helps them feel closer to the brand, making it easier for them to trust and respect it. Furthermore, content enables them to better understand the brand’s products and services, as well as the industry as a whole, which in turn empowers them to make better buying decisions.

Here are the other reasons why blogging is the new advertising:

Blogs are indexed by search engines. When relevant keywords are used, blogs can increase your online visibility, making it easier for consumers to find your hair and beauty business through Google.

Blogs promote sharing. You can easily add social sharing buttons (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc) to your blog posts, encouraging readers to share them with their friends and followers. It’s free advertising, and it’s far more credible than ads because it comes as a recommendation from a friend. Sharing also creates inbound links, which lead to higher referral traffic, as well as to higher Google and Bing rankings for your Web pages.

Blogs foster engagement. Readers can comment on your blog posts, offering you valuable feedback.

blogging is the new advertising content marketingBlogs improve your reputation. If you share with your audience haircare and beauty how-tos and tips, discuss important topics in the industry, and tell them things they don’t know about your products and services, they will regard you as a specialist in the industry and feel more confident about entrusting their hair, nails, or bodies to your care.

Blogs give you the opportunity to invite industry experts as guest bloggers. Experts from your industry, whether they are hairstylists, beauticians, or product reviewers, might feel flattered if you ask them to share their insider’s knowledge with your audience by making a guest appearance on your blog. Their presence on your blog enriches your blog and boosts your brand’s reputation.

Blogging, combined with social media marketing on well-chosen channels, enables your hair and beauty business to engage in what is called ‘authority marketing’.  That is, establishing a strong connection with your audience by using your experience and expertise to provide them with informative or interesting content that expands their knowledge, helping them choose the right products and services for them. The best way to get customers for life is to get them to know, like, and trust your brand and the team behind it.

Checkout the Resources page to find my recommendations for the best blogging platforms and hosting.

The Advantages of Being Social

wordcloud-679949_640While blogging and content marketing can benefit any business in any industry, businesses in the hair and beauty industry especially can make excellent use of this approach to marketing to increase brand awareness, turn existing customers into loyal followers, and attract new clients. When it comes to hair and beauty products and services, people are looking for quality and reliability above all, and they can be faithful and devoted to a brand which fulfils its promises and delivers good-quality products.

Many of your returning customers already trust you, and chances are you know most of them on a personal level already. Blogging, social media marketing, and content marketing enable you to maintain a relationship with those customers even after they leave your shop, by offering them content they are interested in. When your content is good, a sense of value is created, and your customers feel connected to you and to your team on a much more personal level than they ever could by reading ads alone. The ideal result of that connection is not only returning customers, but positive testimonials, good online reviews, and referrals.

However, 86% of organizations are already using content marketing, at least according to this study from the Content Marketing Institute, which surveyed 5,000 marketers in 109 countries. What this means for your hair and beauty business is that it’s simply not enough to create a blog and post content on it and be active on a few social networks. Most of your competitors are doing that already. It’s crucial to be social and informative in the right way.

Inform, Don’t Sell

blogging-428955_640Whatever some may claim, there is no secret to winning people over with content, no secret marketing strategy — it’s all about shifting your marketing efforts from devising ads which nobody cares about to creating worthwhile content related to your industry that has value for your customers. The important thing to remember is that you’re not trying to market – you’re not attempting to sell something directly, nor do you ramble on and on about your business and your products and services. Instead, focus on giving away hints and tips for free through articles and other types of content, including videos and infographics.

Drawing on your experience in the industry, you can share your thoughts and ideas about topics that are of interest to your clients, such as whether hair coloring damages the hair, or the importance of using environmentally-friendly beauty care products. Stories of what is happening in your salon are also a big hit, especially when they show your employees at work. Make sure you vary the type of content you present on your blog – the hair and beauty industry is visually intensive, and visitors will like to see photos and videos. Before/after photos of customers and videos showing the transformation your clients undergo in your salon can generate a lot of social likes, share, and comments, and boost the reputation your business enjoys online.

Be Active & Post Often

Regardless of the content you publish, consistency is key whether you post on your blog twice a week, or twice a month.  Still, the more often you can issue content, the higher chance you have to interest and engage your readers.  It’s also vital that you keep your content fresh, tailored to the season you are in and focused on the latests trends and fashions in your industry. At the same time, your blogging efforts need to go hand in hand with your social media efforts at connecting with people. You can and should share your blog posts on all the social channels on which you are active, but also try to keep things fresh by creating unique content for every network, which isn’t so hard considering that an image can express more than a thousands words, or that you can quickly record a video of your team at work with your smartphone (provided you have your customer’s consent, of course!). It’s good to keep in mind that if you serve your followers the same content across all social networks, they have no reason to follow you beyond Facebook and Twitter.

Choose Your Social Channels With Care

It is important to choose the right social media channels for your business, the ones that are appropriate for your target market. An effective approach is to identify the social media channel where most of your customers are active based on demographics and location.  For most hair and beauty businesses it’s Facebook and Twitter, though a bit of marketing research and website analytics may lead to surprising discoveries. That done, focus your efforts on that channel rather than diffusing them across networks and wasting time and energy looking for customers where they are not.

Facebook and Twitter are the two social behemoths you can’t go wrong with, but as a hair and beauty business, you must be aware of the great usefulness of highly visual social networks, such as video giant YouTube, image-sharing social networks Pinterest and Instagram, and slideshow network SlideShare, which can help you present image and video-based content in highly appealing formats to interested audiences. And, of course, you must not forget about LinkedIn, the professional network which can help you connect with important people in your industry, everyone from business owners to magazine editors to hair care and beauty products manufacturers.

Be Socially Active and Curate Worthwhile Content

man-404376_640Don’t get carried away by all those social possibilities, especially if you aren’t sure you have the resources to create content and be active on all of them. Focus on 1-2 networks in the beginning, crafting appealing profiles, posting on them consistently, every day if possible, and interacting with your audience by replying to comments. You must be especially careful with comments that provide feedback, ask for information, or complain, because today more and more consumers take their customer support problems straight to your Facebook or Twitter page.

You should also keep your image galleries tidy and fresh and, crucially, share news, resources, and other valuable information from sources OTHER THAN YOURSELF that are related to your industry and of value for your followers. Create worthwhile content by finding interesting articles on authority sites and copy-pasting links with short comments into your social streams, always giving due credit of course, making sure that the content comes from reliable and trustworthy sources OTHER THAN YOUR DIRECT COMPETITORS, such as industry experts, research agencies, or product manufacturers.

Curating content regularly will result in an image boost and increased credibility for your business, because one thing that companies which excel at online marketing have in common is that they don’t talk only about themselves — they talk about their industry as a whole, while always being relevant.

Social Media Specials

Another excellent social strategy that can have a big impact on your audience is to give away vouchers and coupons, not just on holidays, but randomly every now and then. Making vouchers and coupons a time- or number-limited offer can help create excitement and buzz, as well as generate an onrush of traffic from those who are eager to claim them. Image-based social media contests are also a big winner for most hair and beauty care businesses. You can get creative, encouraging your audience to post before/after pictures or their best hairstyle photos, and in return you can offer them vouchers when they come in your saloon. Do this and you can bet that they will spread the word about you among their friends.

Email Marketing

news-226932_640Finally, do not ignore email marketing which, far from being dead, remains an excellent tool for connecting with existing customers, with far higher conversion rates than most other types of online-based marketing or advertising strategies. Again, there’s no secret to succeeding at email marketing. You need to craft engaging newsletters and use them not as direct marketing means, but as opportunities to talk about topics that are close to your followers’ hearts. If you don’t have the time or resources to create unique newsletters once a week, you can always enable email subscriptions on your blog, so that you can deliver your freshest blog posts to your followers’ inbox as soon as you post them up.

Don’t Forget Your Calls to Action

Before you get started with your blogging and social efforts for promoting your hair and beauty business, just remember that you need to create valuable and engaging content and refrain from trying to sell your products and services directly. Your social calls to action, your email subscription calls to action, have to be social in intent, urging people to follow you, to like your content, to share it, but not necessarily to buy stuff from you. Your email subscription call to action is particularly important, as every blog visitors will see it, and should be crafted with thought, to inspire people to really follow you. Once trust is established, followers invariably become customers. Not only that, but they can become fans and be devoted to your brand for many years to come.

The Bottom Line

KEEP AT IT. Blogging, social media, and newsletters can generate huge traffic, attract many customers, and ultimately increase your sales. But they need time before they show results, and they require consistency, constancy, and dedication. Don’t be discouraged by a slow start, and don’t fall into complacency. Always try to adapt to new trends and to improve your social engagement efforts, and its reach and success will certainly grow.

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About Anthony Presotto

Currently one of only two Australian hairstylists who are members of the Hairdressing World Expert Panel, Anthony Presotto is on a mission to empower salon owners, sharing his expertise as an author, international speaker and salon business strategist.

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