From self-filming to content plans, Tom Smith deep dives into social strategies and how to become more social savvy
Hair-voyent Tom Smith uses his social media platforms for everything from education and discussing hair health to styling tutorials and trend forecasting. Not only has Tom accurately predicted upcoming trends each season, but he has built his social media platforms – primarily Instagram and TikTok – from the ground up.
We sat down with Tom to pick his brain on how hairdressers can, realistically, build their social media platforms from scratch and become more social savvy.
“Try to be realistic about how much time you can commit to socials and make yourself accountable for it. I think the hardest thing about becoming more social savvy is being misled by the way that we consume social media ourselves. While we might just sit at the bus stop scrolling through social media, that’s not meaningful time spent building a social profile.
So, begin by thinking about what time you can commit, that might be an hour a week, it may be one day a week – if you are just starting out, it might be enough to do an hour, two or three times a week. I don’t book out one entire day a week because my schedule doesn’t allow, but I probably do the equivalent amount in hours scattered throughout the week.”
Find your mission
“I think having a strategy is important, though the word strategy can feel a bit intimidating sometimes, but what that really means is what do you have to offer? And what do you want to achieve? What you have to offer might be knowledge about interesting colour placements and colour formulas, and what you want to achieve is one day becoming an educator or a colour educator for a brand. And so, when you have an idea of these two parts, then you’ve got your mission. From then, everything that you create on social media, if it fits into both of those two categories, you know that you’re on the right track.”
“A great tip when creating content is imagine a person who is your audience. Now, of course, various different types of people are going to watch, listen or read your content, but if you have one person in mind when you’re recording a video or writing, it allows you to keep your tone of voice really consistent – it may be someone you know, a younger hairdresser in your team or a client that you want to help.
Having a niche is important, because the lesson that you will learn the hard way if you don’t implement it straight away is that you cannot be all things to all people.”
Confidence on camera
Not everyone is comfortable with speaking to-camera. If you want to go down this path, you’re going to have to get comfortable with it and the best thing to do is just practice! You can film many things that you don’t post out if you don’t feel comfortable, but the way that I would counter that is to not wait until it’s perfect because it never will be. I was given this advice early on, but sometimes you must just post it. Sometimes, the edit is good enough, other times you might have used the wrong sentence construction, but that’s okay.
Personally, I’ve always been better on camera than in person. I enjoy the process as quite an interesting self-reflection exercise because we all have this version of ourselves that we think we put out there, the face that we see when we look in the mirror, and the way that we like to be photographed or videoed. To self-film and talk, it helps you get to know yourself better, which sounds a bit deep and spiritual, but I genuinely believe that it’s quite a healthy practice.
It’s a really good place to start to film by yourself, watch it back, edit it down and practice. For me personally, I film with a crew and I’m comfortable with doing it, but it’s always easier, faster, and more efficient when I’m filming by myself because there’re just less distractions.
If you’re uncomfortable watching yourself back on camera it does not mean that you shouldn’t get comfortable and that you shouldn’t try and push through it. Admittedly, it’s disconcerting hearing your own voice because you sound different in your head than you sound out loud, but it’s a bit of tough love, that’s the only way around it. Overcome that hurdle, you will overcome it, but the quicker you do, the more effective and productive that you can be.
Can I just use a voiceover?
“There are ways to build a following if that’s your motivation, and there are certainly ways to get your skill set out there without putting your face or voice to camera. However, if one of your goals is to build a community and use your personality as part of the focus of your social media, it’s going to be very challenging to do that without letting your audience see you and connect with you. Therefore, it really depends on your goals.
If you want to showcase that you can do beautiful hair, or if you want to be an educator and teach other hairdressers, you’re going to need to be comfortable being seen at some point. If you want to encourage new clients to begin with you, then you need to show a bit of yourself because it’s you they’re coming to see you. I would advise that while you do that type of content creation, you also work on getting more comfortable with being on camera. Start somewhere and don’t just wait!”
When you start posting consistently, it’s easy to feel bad when your post didn’t do well. Practice pulling your focus away from waiting for virality and focus it more towards posting consistently at regular intervals.
Algorithms will reward you for consistency, and therefore you have more chance of going viral. Viral content can be down to the quality of your content, how accurate you are with your audience, or how quickly you edit, but a lot of it is down to computers and algorithms. When you know that, it takes the judgement away, because you realise it is a bit of a game, and out of your control completely. For every 10 videos that don’t perform well, you’re getting one step closer to the one that’s going to hit and do well. If you stop posting, you’ll never get there.”
Does everyone need to do a TikTok dance?
“No! And if anything, I think that if you are an expert sharing your expertise, successful content will package up the information in an easy to digest, desirable to watch way. Gimmicks only last so long and it’s not going to contribute to your long-term success.”
“I’ve done a lot of research into how to maximise content – and I don’t do it perfectly, there are hundreds of people that do it much better than me – but one thing that I’ve learned is it’s easy to look for a magic bullet.
I think that adding a trending audio cannot hurt your content, but if your content is not snappy, interesting, hooky, edited down, then a trending audio is not going to make it go viral. Another example of this is hashtags – why bother with hashtags until you know you’ve made a good piece of content? Focus first on getting your message across in the shortest, most condensed, easy to understand and entertaining way possible. Once you’ve got that sorted, then start to bring in those extra details to improve the performance.
It’s almost like how it doesn’t matter how good your blow-dry is, if you’ve not washed that hair properly, it’s not going to sit nicely. If the content that you film has not been a good shampoo, then it doesn’t matter about the bells and whistles that you’ve put on it, it’s not going to do well.”
Making your social platforms more successful
“A lot of people beat themselves up for not being able to figure out how to create successful content on their own. If you don’t have much budget to invest into a social media course, though if you’re serious about this I recommend that you do take one, another valuable approach is to seek out that information from the people who you know.
It might be a peer in the salon, someone in the industry who has been doing social media well, is getting good engagement and you like the way they do content. Take them for a drink, ask them what they do, and I guarantee you they will be happy to share some advice with you. Some snippets of information are far more valuable than watching TikTok’s on how to make viral content.
If you don’t have someone to ask, then maybe you do need to save up some budget and see if you can find a social media course or a webinar. There’s lots of information out there but don’t beat yourself up for not being able to figure it out alone, just remain really open to absorbing that information, even if you have to pay for it.”
We’re so overexposed…who should we believe?
“There isn’t anyone specifically that springs to mind that says everything factually and I believe everything that they say, but I think when you do have access to so much information, it’s about figuring out what seems to come up again and again. When things that are being said more frequently, that’s a good sign that there’s some kind of truth in it, but I think a big part of it is trying and seeing what works for you.
There is a real trial and error element to this industry with social media success. Don’t just try it once. If you’re inspired by a different form of content, film five or 10 videos and post them out gradually, before you decide whether it works for you. You need time for your audience and for the algorithm to pick up what you’re doing – it can feel a bit slow. I’m sure one day there’ll be much more of a governing body of what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, but for now look at what most people are saying, then put things into action one thing at a time.”
Patience is a virtue
“It is a constant and fast-moving business, which is why it’s great, and why it has so much value, but it’s quite normal to always feeling like you’re playing catch up. I don’t know anyone that feels like they’re the one leading the way on this. I can only share my knowledge based on my experience and my best guess, but I’m not the leading authority on any of this.
Try to take a step back and don’t get too caught up in video by video but try to look month by month. If you’re a person who posts, it’s much easier to increase the frequency of posting. So even if you start by just posting twice a week, do that for two months and it will become much easier to n post three or four times a week.”
Content plan vs. Busy schedule
“There are two answers here. Firstly, I could sit here and say it doesn’t need to be three colour transformations that take you five hours to do and an hour to edit, you can create smaller content – and I will say the good thing about social media right now is that shorter content is doing better – so shorter, snappier snippets and behind the scenes things do perform well for people in our industry. Not everything can be labour intensive, but when I’m thinking about my content plan for the month ahead, I have various types of content. Some will take half a day to film and another hour to edit , where as some I can do from start to finish within half an hour or less. Be smart about the length of time that each piece of content takes and try to put something in that’s realistic for you to post consistently.
Secondly, slightly more controversial, change the language that you’re using to talk about that problem with yourself. For example, rather than “I do not have time to exercise”, try, “I am choosing to not prioritise my health.” That’s quite confronting to hear, but if we boil it down, if we’re not posting, we are choosing to not prioritise our public profile, or our social media growth, or our goal of becoming an educator or our goal of increasing the number of clients that know who we are and will potentially book. By saying, “I’m choosing to not prioritise posting”, at least you’re being honest with yourself. Once you’ve said that to yourself a few times, you’ll think, why am I not choosing to prioritise posting when I know that for my goals it’s one of the most valuable things that I could be doing?
So, maybe you don’t need to watch two episodes of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills tonight, but instead you could watch one episode and then spend an hour making a content plan for the month. That’s the more philosophical answer, but it’s really helped me to be accountable for many things in my life.”
Does size matter?
“I’ve learned that a variety of styles is best for my page and it’s more realistic for me to create. I still do static image posts, because I like to use my Instagram as a bit of a portfolio of work. So, I will also share infographic carousels, which are swipe posts to hold attention for a bit longer and are designed to educate. Then I also do trend work, whether it be explaining articles that I’ve contributed to, or breaking down trends for consumers or hairdressers to understand. Finally, I post general advice, hair hacks or behind-the-scenes transformations. I typically post in the order of how much time investment they take for me to do; the shorter content I post less frequently, but it takes me less time, and the longer content I do tend to post more often, and it takes me more time. That is a harder battle but that isn’t necessarily right for everyone.
I had someone help me recently, as I outsourced an expert. I had a lot of the information but what they did that was helpful for me was to take all the bits that I wanted to do and put it into an organised plan, and so it held me accountable to actually do it.”