Outside of organic word of mouth, tanning businesses we speak with now consistently report that social media is their most useful way to reach potential clients. As Facebook and Instagram have become more prominent and tanning business owners have seen how effective and adaptable they are for advertising, we’re even seeing most salons acknowledge that they’re largely abandoning the traditional forms of marketing they used to rely on so much. The cost of print, radio or other forms just doesn’t add up, when they can reach audiences so affordably and effectively on social media and clearly see the results via the analytics the platforms provides.
But, while posting on Facebook and Instagram is free, and paid advertising on the platforms is affordable enough for pretty much any business to fit in its budget, that doesn’t mean everybody is equally positioned to succeed. Just like some businesses have sizable media placement budgets and others have virtually none, some salons are large enough to pay for dedicated marketing personnel and resources. Others have owners that understand social media and can handle it pretty well on their own with the help of millennial employees that grew up in the social media generation. Then, there are others we speak with who are admittedly clueless about the whole thing.
When the Smart Tan staff peruses the Facebook Pages of salons around the country, confirming new openings and closings, we’ve also noticed a broader trend. While many salons do a great job utilizing social media, lots of others have allowed their Pages to fall completely into obscurity. They’ve gone months, or even years without posting, and when they do, it’s only vital information like surprise closings or hours adjustments. Imagine a potential client coming across your Facebook Page and seeing that your last post was three months ago. Do you think they’d be likely to give your business a try? It’s understandable how a small business with no dedicated marketing employee could allow this to happen, but it’s also disheartening to see, because we understand the opportunity they’re missing.
Then, there are others who have sustained their pages, but, quite frankly, they could clearly use some help. While some salon owners will admit that they don’t have an inkling of how to even plan their social media strategy, others simply don’t have the resources to execute it in a way that looks highly professional – like something you’d see from major national brands in other industries. They might not know where to get the right images that they’re licensed to use or how to edit them for their specific purposes. If you’re posting content that doesn’t look high quality, you really need to consider how that’s impacting the way consumers view your business. It’s kind of like putting homemade sign with your name and logo outside your salon.
Whether it’s with training, marketing or other resources, part of Smart Tan’s mission has always been to level the playing for all tanning businesses, from the largest to the smallest. Today, we recognize that most salons need some help, to varying degrees, with social media marketing. First, you need to understand what you need to do, then you need to be able to execute it, and we want to help you with both. In this article, we’ll share the beginnings of a Social Media Marketing Calendar that you can put to work right away and also use as a blueprint for your own future plans.
Save the Date
Small businesses across the world rely on social media to provide affordable, customizable, direct marketing to their customers. But as the medium matures, platforms like Facebook are making it more difficult for businesses to reach their fans without paying for ads on the site.
But this isn’t all bad news. While organic reach of your posts may decline, marketing blogs report that engagement is up, which means higher quality interactions with the fans who see your posts. In order to optimize the number of people who see your posts and the engagement you get from them, social media demands quality content worth sharing.
Posting regularly on Facebook and Instagram while maintaining all other aspects of your business might sound daunting, but one simple tool can automate the process and cut your work in half. If you want to make your marketing as easy as possible, adopt and stick to a Social Media Marketing Calendar. This resource contains a plan for how, when, where and about what you’ll advertise. Marketing agencies, creatives, bloggers, and companies of all sizes use calendars like an action plan for their marketing.
By plotting out events and promotions on the calendar, you can create a comprehensive schedule of marketing activities and dictate your approach way ahead of time. Instead of scrounging up a random post whenever you happen to get on Facebook for the day, you can sit down and curate a week’s worth of meaningful messages all at once. You’ll be amazed at the improvement in your productivity once you get a plan in place.
Seeing your month mapped out in front of you also makes it easier to create content shaped by the themes and celebrations that matter to your clients. Your tanners may love getting beauty tips around wedding season and skin care tips in the winter. Looking at the calendar also allows you to anticipate potential lulls in business or take advantage of under-celebrated events like Women’s History Month, Groundhog Day, Daylight Savings and Tax Day.
Another benefit of a calendar is that you can designate times to address different subsets of your customer base. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to marketing, which is why you should plan posts and advertisements that address new tanners, non-tanners, returning customers, sunless tanners, men, women, and every adult generation. Diversify your messaging and measure what resonates with your audience. And don’t forget to adjust your editorial schedule based on the results! The whole point is to create a tool that effectively utilizes your time and resources on marketing that works.
Although there is an initial time investment in getting your editorial calendar just the way you want it, the process becomes quicker with time. One of the other redeeming factors of the social media calendar approach is that it’s something you can utilize year after year. The first year might be somewhat challenging and time consuming, but once you have your calendar built, you will still need new content each year, but you already have a rough plan to work with from the previous year. Then, the next year, you’ll be able to better understand what works and continue to make your planning and execution more effective and efficient.
How, When and Why
When you go to make your Social Media Marketing Calendar, before you delve into specific content, there are a number of considerations to understand.
First, how often do you need to post? Well, generally speaking, go ahead and post away on Facebook! Facebook’s algorithm is designed to make you pay for many people to see your posts, so your unpaid posts won’t make overwhelm your followers by any means. Obviously that doesn’t mean post 10 times a day, but you should probably aim to post something every day. That can include sharing posts and things that are easier, but you should likely aim for at least 3-5 original image-based, “primary” posts per week. On Instagram, you will want to post less. That platform would generally be reserved for those three to five primary posts a week.
The idea of quality over quantity is still valid. Check out some major brands’ Pages. They aren’t making random text posts with haphazardly formed writing. Images are nearly always used, and everything is well written, grammatically correct and purposeful. You don’t want to make posts like you would on your personal page if you want to be viewed as highly professional, like these major brands.
Ever since Instagram hit the scene and took over as the most popular new social platform, it has also caused Facebook and all other social platforms to evolve. Instagram was the first platform that was centered entirely on images, and after it became so prevalent, Facebook, Twitter and others shifted to be more focused on visual content. So, when it comes to marketing on these platforms, your most effective posts will be highly visual. Words matter, but they won’t be noticed as much if they’re not coupled with effective and compelling imagery. So, your posts should always include images, even if it’s a post about something very informational.
So, that then leads naturally to the question of where do you get your images? For any images that aren’t your own, you need to be licensed to use them. That does cost money, but stock photo services like Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com) are extremely valuable and reasonably priced. You get access to hundreds of thousands of photos that will suit almost any need you could imagine for one monthly rate. It’s well worth the investment, and you can also use it for additional marketing efforts and other purposes. For the more personal stuff, that has never been easier. Any recent iPhone or other smartphone should have a good enough camera to produce images and video that are high enough quality for social media.
The other vital consideration is how to incorporate paid advertising on social media. Even if you aren’t in a position to pay for promotion on Facebook and Instagram, you should be taking advantage of free organic reach. But, when you consider the “cost” of the time that takes, it’s probably fair to say that spending a little money to get vastly superior results is a better use of your resources. Especially when you’re building your follower base, your paid advertising will pay off again and again, because it will help you reach people with your message, then they will follow you and be more likely to see your content again in the future.
But, regardless of the timing, paid posts pay off. Spending as much as is practical for you will produce incrementally better results, but for the extremely budget-conscious readers out there, just a $25 weekly promoted post will net you thousands of viewers for your best and most important content. Again, for the budget conscious, you can also save paid posts for content that will directly drive revenue, like specials or announcements, or enhance your following, like giveaways (more on that later).
So, outside of the time it takes you and your staff, your budget for your entire monthly social media effort is as simple as this:
Stock images – $100
Paid posts – $100
Giveaways – $50
Content is King
This isn’t rocket science. You don’t have to think too far outside the box to develop plenty of effective content. The problem many small businesses run into is commitment and planning. You know better than anybody how busy running a small business can get, and when you don’t have a dedicated marketing employee focused on maintaining your social media, it’s one of those things that can easily get lost in the shuffle. That’s where these ideas and your marketing calendar come in. When you have a list in front of you of you of what kind of content you need when, it will help make it a routine that you can maintain, and it’s easy to come up with the more specific content ideas you need. Just focus on what your business offers, what you’re all about and then what else your clients are interested in that you can tie back to your business in any way shape or form.
Here’s an overview of the types of content you can add to your calendar for each month, right away! Then you’ll just need to incorporate the specifics of your business and audience, and you can have a plan for months ahead in no time!
Equipment: Highlight a different piece of equipment on a weekly or monthly basis. Take a nice photo and include information about how that unit fits into your clients’ tanning routine.
Sunless: Feature a specific aspect of the sunless tanning process on a weekly basis. That could be the equipment, prep, a particular part of the process, an ancillary product, or a special tip for better results. Take a photo or a video of a staff member explaining, if necessary.
Staff feature: One of the best things about social media is the ability to connect on a more personal level with your audience. You can personalize your business to those who aren’t so familiar by posting a picture or video of a different staff member on a regular basis, and letting them share something interesting about themself and what they love about tanning, or how they like to tan at the salon.
Customer feature: You can also personalize the experience using your customers. You might think you’d be bothering them by asking, but many people would embrace the opportunity to be on featured on you page, or you can offer them a small discount or freebie. Get a photo or video of a client with a nice tan, and have them explain, or write in the caption, how they achieve those results at your salon.
Purchase Options: It doesn’t have to be a special to be worth sharing. Hopefully your menu provides great value even without discounts. Share a specific membership or package option on a regular basis, and explain how it can fit right person’s needs perfectly at a great value.
Specials: This is the one most businesses already do, and probably do too much. Try to limit posting a special to once a week, but definitely consider allocating your paid advertising dollars here on a regular basis. Make sure to include an appropriate and attractive image – not just the details of the deal!
Products: Again, it doesn’t have to be discounted to do a “product highlight.” Share a photo or video and some information on the benefits for the client, rather than just the features. Think about who uses it and how to try to appeal to the people who will actually buy it.
Education: You can always offer tips, but this as much about reminding your audience of your professionalism and expertise as it is about providing practical information. Highlight your Smart Tan Certifications or different tidbits of knowledge you learned from Smart Tan training that will really show clients that your education is second to none!
Celebrity: Influencers don’t have to actually endorse you to have an influence and garner attention to your Page. You can find licensed images of celebrities with great tans on stock images sites, and remind your audience that tanning is cool and they can easily look like them by visiting your salon! CelebritiesDoIt.com also features spray tan information and celebrity spray tan sightings that are easy for you to share.
Lifestyle: Tap into your clients’ interests and remind them why a great tan melds perfectly with those things. There are stock images of people in your target audience (with great tans) doing almost anything you could think of. Concerts, sports and embracing nature come to mind, just to name a few. Remind them, in the caption, that they want to look and feel good doing these things with a tan!
Sun-related: Remind clients that tanning isn’t so much different than being in the sun outside, which most of them obviously love. It’s not so much talking about health effects, but just about loving sunshine. Sun lovers will tend to love tanning, so they will relate well. A great example is a stock image of someone doing yoga in the sun. It reminds them of the relaxation they get from tanning, and draws a connection between indoor and outdoor tanning.
Timely: When you plan your month, identify three or four “timely” matters to post about. In November, for example, there are several that are fairly obviously. You’re probably already planning to post about Thanksgiving. Then you have different aspects of the fall season (fall clothes, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, pumpkin patches, and all the other things your target audience loves), football season, the end of Daylight Savings Time, and so much more! More generally speaking, month after month, just think about what you’re doing, what you love about the time, as well as the specific events that relate to high school, college and any other audience you cater to. In December, it will largely be about gifts and embracing the holiday spirit. In January, focus on the whole “new year, new you” idea, as well as fighting off the winter blues with tanning. In February and March, you start to move into vacation season and preparing for warmer weather with tanning.
National ______ Day: This is a specific type of “timely” post you can utilize on a regular basis. Use a calendar (www.nationaldaycalendar.com) that lists all the (often cheesy) “National Days of the Year” and find a few each month that make sense for your audience. There are so many to choose from! Some are more serious and many are quite silly, but if you’re on social media a lot, you’ve surely noticed tons of posts about these days, and people love it! This month, “National Men Make Dinner Day” would be funny and relatable to your audience. For “National Espresso Day,” remind them that a strong coffee and a tanning session can make any day a good one. Then there’s Small Business Saturday, which is obviously a “gimme” for our market.
Local: Find other calendars that list local events and utilize them in a similar manner as the National Days calendar. Show that you care about your community by promoting events that your clients might be interested in.
Articles: Fill in spaces in your calendar by sharing articles about topics that are loosely related to tanning, like beauty, fashion, or sunshine. Google whatever topics you have in mind, or set up Google Alerts for an endless supply of content. Don’t get carried away with this, though, because you still want your own content primarily.
Contests: This one is hugely beneficial for generating engagement and followers – worth every penny and then some! For the cost of a $20 bottle of lotion or tanning package and $25 in Facebook advertising, you can garner the attention of tens of thousands of people in your area. Post a monthly giveaway, ask your audience to Like the post and tag friends to win, promote for $25, sit back, and watch the reach flourish. You’d be amazed at how much people will do for a very small freebie, and the paid reach will grow massively as people interact with the post and drive organic reach. It’s not unusual for such a post to reach tens of thousands of people. And, these people are seeing that you give away freebies, so they’re obviously going to Like your Page and stay tuned for more!
Promoted Posts: These could fall into any of the categories above, but it’s advisable to do at least one a week, even if you’re only spending $25 on each. Focus on specials and contests that will drive revenue and followers, but definitely throw in an occasional promoted “lifestyle” or “human interest” post that you think your followers would enjoy and interact with. When you promote something that will generate interaction, you get even more bang for your buck, as the interaction drives additional organic reach on top of the paid reach.
These ideas are just a drop in the bucket of options. There are endless amounts of things you can post about, but hopefully this will help you form your calendar and inspire some additional ideas. From there, you can add, adjust and refine to make the process easier and more effective moving forward.