Bellus Academy in Poway, CA, cleverly appeals to potential students with memes.
Bellus Academy in Poway, CA, cleverly appeals to potential students with memes.

MODERN SALON Media annually collaborates with the American Association of Cosmetology Schools (AACS) for MODERN SALON’s Excellence in Education program. The purpose is to help the professional beauty school community gather, share and celebrate examples of great salon education experiences and beauty career development happening across the country. 2017 marks the seventh year of honoring schools through Excellence in Education.

Honorees are determined based on key criteria in each category and grouped according to school size or whether or not they entered as a multi-unit school or single location. Two top honorees are recognized in each category—one individual school location and a chain-school organization—and were announced at the AACS Annual Convention & Expo.

View all the 2017 Excellence in Education finalists here. 

To view top honorees in all eight categories, click here.

Individual location: Cameo College of Essential Beauty: Murray, Utah
Chain school: Bellus Academy: Poway, California

The schools that entered Excellence in Education this year are all stand-outs in student relations, technology, facilities and more. In marketing, these schools have also figured out ways to stand out from each other and appeal to the type of student they want to enroll.

Although traditional advertising on TV and in local news sources is still utilized, school owners are turning more and more to a more affordable option—social media.

Schools aren’t just posting openings on Facebook and a few photos on Instagram anymore. Owners have researched the best way to reach their clients and potential students, and are making an impact with innovative social media strategies.

On Instagram, original posts, carousel posts, stories and live streaming all help schools increase their number of followers.

Hashtagging the school name and keeping the tagging consistent is also boosting followers. At Bellus Academy in Poway, California, the owners took it another step and created a meme campaign. The 12 cleverly captioned memes were used on Facebook and Instagram, and, of course, included a link to the school. 

Bellus also created an online survey a la Buzzfeed to engage potential students.

Tapping into hot trends is key online, even if they’re fleeting. But savvy owners want to stay timely, which is why they’re engaging experts for help—their students.

Cameo College is also ramping up on social media.

“Because of Instagram’s growing importance, marketing efforts have been increased to strengthen our presence by creating original content that takes advantage of new updates like carousel posts, stories and live-streaming,” says Adriane Baxter, school director at Cameo College.

Social-media teams can be found in almost every cosmetology school, staying one step ahead of trends and making sure the school’s social media presence is strong.

Schools are still using targeted e-mails to promote events and producing the occasional TV or print ad, but the area where they are focusing on the most is video.

Whether it’s on YouTube or Facebook, videos are proving to be an effective marketing tool and inexpensive to produce.

Some schools have taken it to the next level with video-production artists to shoot professional videos for online ads, whereas others rely on iPhones and apps to capture video of students working or instructors demonstrating.

At Bellus, owners and staff noticed the popularity of student kit videos on YouTube (videos of students opening their kits and explaining the items in them). Bellus opted to create a video of an educator going through their student kit and discussing the highlights. They put the video on YouTube, where any potential student can view it and get an up close peek at all the goodies they receive when they become a student.

“Bellus Academy has always looked for inspiration outside of the beauty industry so we can be innovative and original with our campaigns,” says Jenn Lyles, marketing director. “We're focused on targeted marketing to specific demographics as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.

“We realized students at different beauty schools all over the country are opening up their student kits on YouTube and getting thousands of views. I knew promoting our student kits would be a fantastic, visual way of showing something tangible you get when you enroll at Bellus Academy. Our admissions director told me that the wow factor on tours wasn’t the school itself, but rather the student kit. So we created a campaign around our stellar student kit. Millennials and Gen Z want things now. You can’t get a diploma overnight, you can’t get your license immediately, but you can get your kit! So why not showcase that?”

Schools are also taking video of students’ daily activities, video testimonials from alumni, pictorial collections recapping events and much more. Video is allowing schools to market their culture in a way pictures and words cannot.

To boost all this online activity, schools are aggressive with SEO and Google Adworks campaigns. The result: more innovative, successful marketing strategies at a lower cost.

For more info on Excellence in Education, visit

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