As pressures rise to be on top of your game when it comes to content creation, just how important is social media for a modern day hairdresser or barber?

It’s no secret that building an online presence can be a real game-changer when it comes to running a successful business. What first started as infrequent updates on a Facebook page or occasional posts on Instagram has evolved into the lofty heights of content creation – something which nobody is taught when starting out in the industry.

As I sat in the audience at The Coterie London on Monday night, listening to the panel discuss the future for hairdressing, it was the notion of hairdressers becoming ‘creators’ that really stuck with me. Maybe that’s unsurprising, given I’m Creative HEAD’s digital and social media manager, but it became apparent from the eight industry experts sharing their views, that for them, the value of social media (when done right!) cannot be underestimated – of course I agree wholeheartedly on that front! Yes, it can feel overwhelming – especially when just two years ago we didn’t know what a Reel was – but it really can be a springboard for big things. Take Jay Birmingham as a fantastic example – the session artist now has a whopping 42K followers on his hair account alone!

I’ve watched how Jay has developed his personal brand over the years, finding a niche in working with influencers and celebrities to help grow his following through word of mouth. Every day I see examples of ‘influencer hairdressing’ when scrolling the Creative HEAD feed, whether filmed tutorials, taking people behind-the-scenes into work life, or sharing looks that become trending styles, I believe it is an area of the industry which is only continuing to grow further. Like Jay, when I consider this aspect of the industry, names such as Chris Appleton and Andrew Fitzsimons immediately spring to mind. Particularly in the past five to ten years, I’ve seen first-hand how social media has elevated the industry and given birth to a new era of hairdressing icons. “For me, social media was the best thing to happen. It saved our industry; especially in COVID when it was a tool to remind clients or followers that we existed,” Jay explained.

As well helping hairdressers to become ‘influencers’ in their own right, I believe social media is at its core a brilliant tool for attracting new clients, and reaching the type of clients you want to work with. You are what you attract, so if it’s vivids, balayage or great cuts that you want to be your bread and butter, that is first and foremost the content you have to be sharing. As Georgia Freeman of Q Cut Hair & Beauty pointed out, “post what you enjoy doing the most, because that’s what you want to do.”

Listening to Georgia, I was so impressed to hear that 10 per cent of her clients have discovered her through social media, with some travelling over an hour and a half for an appointment. Though newer to the industry, I think this highlights the value in adapting to what Instagram wants, as opposed to trying to fight it. We could discuss algorithms, reach and views until we’re blue in the face, but the bottom line is that in order to be seen you need to be doing the right things. “Having a presence online gives you exposure. No one looks at Google anymore, Instagram is your free portfolio and the best marketing tool you can have,” Georgia said. It seems a rather bold statement, but I was eagerly nodding in the audience because she is absolutely right. Think like a consumer for a moment – how do you discover new brands, restaurants or places to visit on holiday? The answer is in hashtags, geotags and scrolling through the ‘explore’ page. If I’m being brutally honest, I’m immediately sceptical of any Google review now, but a well curated Instagram feed doesn’t lie.

With such a useful business tool at our fingertips, it’s vital to make sure it is being used right. I’ve seen SO much amazing content in my many hours spent scrolling and searching for potential reposts, but unfortunately I’ve seen many fall at the first hurdle. Whether that means separate accounts for work and personal posts, taking extra effort to capture finished looks or capitalising on current trends, I thoroughly believe are many ways to make Instagram or TikTok work for you, but an even greater number of pitfalls to avoid.

Aside from the obvious need for good lighting, keeping filters to a minimal and ensuring you post at key times, a successful social media profile needs to be authentic. When a potential client first comes across your page, what does it say about you? Nobody knows your business better than you, but you have to make sure you’re presenting the best version of yourself – not the one you’ve seen 10 other hair pros mimicking in an attempt to be popular. As one of the panel at The Coterie, Karrie Fitzmaurice, owner of Kit Studios,  discussed how there are two ways to remain authentic when creating content. “Who you are born as is the content you create, that is your purpose. For others, the focus of the content is their true goal – it is the first thing on their mind when they wake up.” Whichever the approach, Karrie is right when she says that it will help with posting authentic content. Of course,  I know more than most that what we share on social media and what we deem as a ‘real life’ are often worlds apart, but our presence online can have elements of both. If your content has a purpose, then it will be authentic.

As curator of the Creative HEAD feed, what resonated with me the most was Karrie’s magic formula to growing organically online. She explained that once you have your purpose and goals, you need to use that alongside what is trending on social media. With both these factors in place, it is then key to repeat and go hard in order to do what the platform wants of its users, which is to post all the time. I know that can seem incredibly daunting, but consistency is absolutely key to growing your following. I’ve had to adapt what content we share too, but even just adding a trending audio to a great process video or a finished look can dramatically improve the reach of your content.

Talking to The Coterie crowd, Jack Mead of Jack & The Wolfe made a strong statement I can absolutely get behind – every hair pro should embrace social media. Having amassed over 74K followers, I would urge any reader to take one look at Jack’s feed because it is a great example of finding your niche with Reels content. Jack has learnt what content gets the best engagement in order to grow his business further, and I think it’s particularly clever how he’s coupled that with the extended reach posting Reels regularly offers. You’ll see how  Jack documents the transformative process of a salon service, placing clients in front of the camera to show the real emotion. “The most important part of what we do is how a client feels after, so I wanted to capture the emotional side,” he said. “If they are okay with being filmed, document the beginning, middle and end of the appointment. Show the happiness they feel.”

I will be the first to acknowledge that managing an Instagram account doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Nobody is born knowing how to reply to a DM, film a slick TikTok transition or edit videos. We’re all still learning, right? That’s why I agree with Jay’s advice to invest in a content creator, such as a student or recent graduate who may know far more. Regardless of where you’re at or which avenue you take,  my main piece of advice is to remember to remain true to you. If you’re going to use social media, use it correctly. The end result? Good work will always get seen – and you may end up on Creative HEAD’s channels too!