The Rules of Engagement: Building Your Brand on Social Media

by Jamie Newman | January 23, 2018
Olivia Smalley @omgartistry on stage for the Socia Media panel at Joico's Global Destination Education 2018.
Olivia Smalley @omgartistry on stage for the Socia Media panel at Joico's Global Destination Education 2018.

 Eight months ago, Olivia Smalley made a promise to herself—whether or not she gained one more follower, she wanted to boost her engagement from its current rate of 17%. She began to reply to every single comment that landed on her Instagram page, and made a habit of doing so. Fast forward to now, and her engagement has reached 76%.

Smalley, better known by some as her Instagram handle @omgartistry is a hairstylist, makeup artist, beauty blogger and member or CosmoProf’s 2018 artistic team. She says Instagram hasn’t opened a few doors for her, it’s opened all the doors for her. She’s worked with brands such as It’s a 10, Kenra, Colortrak and Joico, celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Nick Jonas, and more because of her Instagram presence.

At Joico’s Global Destination Education 2018 in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, MODERN sat down with Smalley to learn her tips for social-media success that have worked the best for her. Here are some stand-outs.

On Building Your Brand: Smalley asks: “How are you going to be different? How are you going to stand out from the crowd? How are you going to turn this into a lifestyle of who you are, where you are and what you do? You have to find out your why.”

What you put out there to the internet is what it says about you. So if you’re more edgy or classy or romantic, your brand should resemble that. You want to make sure your layout matches your aesthetic.

When you are first figuring out your own niche and vibe, her first piece of advice is to build a “brand social” Pinterest board. Save any photo that really resonates with you to the board, then come back to it later and reflect why you are attracted to it. Translate that “why” into your brand and into your work.

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe: Do you hate doing vibrant color? Do you have doing gray coverage? Then don’t post them on your page! Smalley specializes in blonde color, so that is most of the hair you will see on her page.

In addition to not posting what you don’t enjoy doing, do post similar looks to brands you do want to work with or clients you want to work on. Smalley started drawing her aesthetic for photos to target brands she wanted to work with. For example, Smalley started posting photos of beautiful, healthy hair to attract Joico’s eye, because of its “joi of healthy hair” tagline.

 Captions Tell Your Story: Smalley says captions are the biggest real estate you’re not necessarily utilizing.

“You’re showing the picture, but now you have to paint the picture,” she says. “Tell a story! Draw a connection with your audience so they’re more susceptible to interact with that image and comment, like, or even follow you.”

The Science of Hashtagging: Don’t go overboard on your hashtags, and be sure to make them meaningful. She recommends using hashtag that have between 10,000 and 100,000 in their category. For example, #balayage has more than 9.7 million tags, so it probably won’t be a worthwhile tag because it will get caught in the mess. On the otherhand, #blondebalayage has 495,000 tags, making it much more effective.

“A smaller, more confined, more defined hashtag works better,” Smalley says. “It’s not to say don’t put those in the mix, but don’t make those all your hashtags.”

A few months ago, Smalley was also who taught us what shadowbanning is, meaning certain words that are seen as inauthentic by Instagram and are essentially banned from hashtag categories and don’t show up, such as #thanksgiving.

Some best types of hashtags to keep in mind for your images are industry-specific, such as hair techniques, brands, feature pages (like #modernsalon). Also, if you’re building your page, local hashtags are a great place to start. Think local high schools, the nearest big city if you’re in a smaller town, or tourist destinations—remember these for your geotag as well.

Don’t Forget Instagram Stories: “Facebook is your word of mouth, then people ask for your portfolio, which is your Instagram, but then how do you capture that client,” Smalley asks. “People get to know you through Instagram stories.”

Smalley says 50% of the reason clients come to you is because of YOU. If they’re going to be spending four to six hours with you, they might want to know what your personality is like. Instagram stories is an in-depth, behind the scenes reality of who you are as a person and what you do.

But, Smalley warns, be personable without being too personal.

“Whatever you’re putting out there is a stamp on your brand—make it a good one,” she says. The golden ratio of stories is the 80/20 rule: 80% business and 20% about yourself.

Make Meaningful Connections Online that Translate to Real Life: Once you start tagging your favorite brands, entering competitions and engaging on their page, it’s likely you will start becoming top-of-mind to various artists, influencers and outlets.

“If you want comments, if you want likes, if you want followers, be the person you want to meet on Instagram,” Smalley says. “Reach out to people, tell them you love their work—if you’re thinking it in your head, write it on your phone. It’s important to have those online cheerleaders to help with your engagement, and you help theirs as well.”

An added tip from Smalley: make sure your captions are five words or more (not including emojis) or else Instagram doesn’t view it as engagement.

Watch the full video, with these tips and more, here:

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