Spa Management: Instagram 101

Snap your way to new clients, added revenue and other insta-benefits.

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In day spa marketing these days, the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" really boils down to staying savvy on the latest in social media. It seems that every day, something new and trendy pops up. Overwhelming? Sure, but whether or not you're personally on board with sharing, tweeting, posting or snapping your every thought, like or whim, your day spa, to some extent, needs to be. It's time to give in and realize: If you are not active on all of the most important social media platforms, you might be losing revenue, as well as new clients, to your competition.

Here, we're honing in on perhaps the fairest of them all, Instagram—that free mobile app that allows you to use your smart phone or tablet to convert average-quality snapshots into gorgeous, artistic imagery via special filters that leave photos looking more professional, creative and enticing. "Instagrammers" can then share these doctored-up photos via various major social media platforms.

“Not only does Instagram provide another opportunity for connectedness and community, but you can really use it to win clients’ hearts and create lifelong loyalty,” says Jeremy DeWeese, creative director of eRocketFuel Social Media.

As with many social media platforms, your presence on Instagram doesn't necessarily boil down to cash in the pocket. But, many consider it to be a necessary, visibility-boosting element of your overall social media marketing strategy. Says Ruby Gu, creative director at New York’s Oasis Day Spas, "Our primary goal with Instagram has been to use it to support other social media platforms—our Instagram feed goes directly to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, FourSquare and Flickr—and to provide our marketing channels with pretty and interesting images.”

Gu posts about three to five times each week. “This can include photos of our spa, featured retail products, shots of our city/town, a wellness-related quote or funny pictures clients can relate to,” she says. “We use Instagram’s robust tagging feature to add ‘hash tagged’ topics to our images to reach an audience beyond our immediate followers, too. For example, the #nyc hash tag generates a lot of response from New Yorkers, tourists—anyone interested in the city.” Gu adds, “Ever since we started hash tagging all of our Instagram posts, we’ve noticed a big uptick in ‘likes’ per image. We went from one to two likes per post to 10-15 after implementing the hash tags—and the more likes, the more followers.”

Clearly, tagging images pays off. And DAYSPA mined six more expert tips detailing the best ways to make Instagram work for your day spa. Check out the strategies below, then dust off your smart phone (ha) and say cheese!

1. Showcase your goods. "Show off your products or services,” urges DeWeese. “Instagram is free, and provides a mobile, window-shopping resource for your clients. So snap all of your products, and brag about them in the description field under each image. Customers even have the opportunity to comment under the image, providing very valuable testimonials that could translate to more ROI.”

Spa owners should show off not only products, but also treatment rooms and extras that give your services that special quality. “Let people take a sneak peek into what it would be like for them to use your services," says DeWeese.

2. Get creative. Any photos can be shared through Instagram, so it's up to you to make yours relatable to your spa audience. “For example, to promote our February Valentine's Day specials, I posted a beautiful and romantic photo of a rose bouquet, and in the caption and tags fields mentioned our February specials,” says Gu. “And to promote our makeover contest in January, I posted photos of various stages of bad hair. We had a snowstorm in NYC last week, so I took a photo of the Chrysler Building as seen from one of our spa locations, with the caption, ‘Time to lather up the hand creams!’—and we had immediate calls from people seeking hand cream recommendations."

3. Generate buzz. "Use Instagram to build a buzz about an upcoming product, sweepstakes or promotion,” DeWeese says. “Reward those who follow you by making them first in the know about offers and spa news. Whenever you unveil a new service, give them a behind-the-scenes look, and if you have an upcoming sweepstakes or promotion, take a picture of your banner, a placard or a sheet of paper, sharing details about it.”

4. Show off your team. "In any great business, there are the amazing people that make it work well,” DeWeese points out. “Snap those smiling faces and share them with the world. When customers see the personality and charm of your team, they will become endeared to them, and want to become part of your family—not to mention pampered by people who care.”

5. Embrace the art of the caption. First of all, always include one. Gu’s best practice for Instagram captioning involves a two-step process: “First, while uploading the photo, write a caption as if you're posting on Twitter (140 characters minimum, hash tag within the caption if possible), and share it through all of your other social networks,” she explains. “After the image is posted, write a comment on the same post with as many hash tags as possible. The hash tags help you reach a wider audience, but since a comment purely made up of hash tags can seem incoherent, having them in the second comment field keeps them out of your social networks that do not utilize hash tags, such as Facebook and FourSquare.”

6. Take it to the next level. "There are many new apps out now to help users create and edit images that were specifically designed for Instagram,” shares Gu. “For example, ‘Over’ and ‘Instaquote’ apps both help users create beautiful typography on photos, and both feature an easy ‘send to Instagram’ button, too. I've been making lots of fun spa- and wellness-related quotation images with those—and any social media guru knows that a great quote gets tons of likes.”

Carrie Borzillo is a freelance journalist and author based in Los Angeles.