The Ultimate Instagram Guide for Stylists and Beauty Pros

Taylor Hugo


The Ultimate Instagram Guide for Stylists and Beauty Pros

May 29, 2019

How to create and maintain an Instagram profile that converts—from likes on your photos to more clients in your chair.

Getting the most out of Instagram for your business is so much more than posting pretty pictures. Between sharing images with a cohesive aesthetic, nailing the right hashtags and navigating an algorithm to keep your content visible, using the social media platform can feel more like a science than an art some days.

If you’ve been posting without a solid strategy up until now, you might not know how to begin to build a business account that attracts more clients. That’s where we come in. Follow this step-by-step guide to set up a solid Instagram account that best promotes your services as a beauty pro.

Whether you’re an esthetician, hairstylist, makeup or nail artist, using Instagram correctly can help you reach more people and better promote your personal brand. Ready to learn the best tips and tricks to creating an engaging Instagram account? Read on!

1. Choose your name and username

First, choose a catchy name and username. Although these are sometimes mistaken as the same thing, there is a significant difference between your name and username. A username is your “handle,” or the letters/words that follow the @ symbol. Your name is what appears in a bold font above your bio—completely different but equally important, as these two items are how users can search for your profile.

Tips to select your username:

Limited to 30 characters, a username can only contain letters, numbers, periods and underscores. Since it’s the primary way you’re identified on Instagram, you want to pick something that is:

  • unique but easy to remember
  • related to your business
  • professional

Salon owners should use the name of their salon, while individual hairstylists might opt for a combination of their name and profession, such as Q Salon & Spa cosmetologist @hair_by_hunternicole. Usernames are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. So if your top pick isn’t available, try incorporating a period or underscore, or add your location, as @avalonsalonelkriver did.

Your username is displayed at the top of your profile.

Tips to select your name:

Most people on Instagram, though, won’t be looking for your specific username. Instead, they’ll be searching keywords for accounts and content that align to their interests.

To increase searchability, vary the words used in your name and username (they shouldn’t be identical), and don’t be shy about including phrases that will resonate with your intended audience. Look to successful existing accounts for beauty Instagram name ideas.

TopKnott shoutout: For example, @meg_nailedit is the handle for a St. Louis Park-based beautician, but her “name” is “nail artisté.” Or take @elizabethhairstyle, a Spalon Montage stylist whose Instagram name is “Elizabeth Campbell MN Hair.”

By using keywords—“nail” and “MN Hair”—in their names, they have a better chance at reaching Instagram users who are not already following them.

Your name appears below the username.

Keep in mind: Your name can be changed at any time, so try a couple of different versions and see what works best for you.

2. Create a business account

No matter how much content or how many followers you have, anyone can own a business account on Instagram. It can be a powerful tool for you or your salon if used properly. You can either switch a personal account or start a new, separate profile for your salon services. Why do it? Because setting yourself up as a business will grant you access to special features, such as …


This is perhaps the most useful Instagram business account feature, because it lets you see how your posts are performing and who they’re reaching. The metrics provide information such as the age range and gender of your followers, where they’re located and when they’re using Instagram. It can also tell you how many weekly profile visits and impressions you’ve received (a.k.a., the total number of times all of your posts have been seen).

In business accounts, click the Insights icon in the upper right to see your detailed follower metrics.


With this feature, any post you create can be turned into a paid promotion. Choose where you want the ad to send people—your Instagram profile, your website or your direct message inbox, for example—and then choose who you want to reach.

You can either allow Instagram to automatically target users similar to your followers, or manually create your ideal audience based on location, interests, age and gender. A sliding scale lets you set a daily budget and duration. Your reach increases the more money and time you’re able to afford, but Instagram recommends starting with at least $10 a day for three days.

Select the ‘Promote’ button, then choose a post to use as your ad.

Contact information:

If you look at a personal Instagram page, you’ll notice that you only have the option to contact the user through the app’s direct messaging feature. But with a business account you can add contact buttons that prompt followers to email, text or call you.

You can also list your business address, which will automatically open in Google Maps when clicked, and use action buttons that link your IG profile to other online platforms you already use, such as online appointment scheduling apps, a feature extremely convenient for your current and potential clients.

Click the ‘Edit Profile’ button, then select ‘Contact Options’

3. Select your pic

Along with your name and username, you want your profile photo to instantly convey who you are and what your business is all about.

If you’re a salon owner, that might mean using an image of your salon’s logo that matches your other social media accounts and collateral, such as business cards, for consistency.

If you’re an individual stylist, your Instagram profile photo could be a headshot of yourself holding a prop, such as a pair of shears. You could also feature a client’s recent cut and color.

Pro tip: Remember that users will be viewing your account on a small screen, so choose an image that makes it easy to see and focus on the intended subject. The ideal size is 180 by 180 pixels, but a minimum of 110 by 110 pixels will do.

Use consistent branding across social media channels (shown here: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook).

4. Categorize your business

When you make the switch from a personal to a business Instagram account, you’ll be able to choose a description for your profile. It’s important that this category is accurate—since it appears directly under your name and instantly alerts anyone who visits your Instagram page about what type of business you run.

To adjust your business category, simply hit the “Edit Profile” button, then scroll down to “Category.” Here, you’ll be able to choose from descriptions such as “Hair Salon,” “Hair Extensions Service,” or “Beauty, Cosmetic & Personal Care.”

5. Write your bio

Your beauty professional or hairstylist bio gives you the opportunity to share a little about yourself and the services you offer. It allows you to express your personality and set yourself apart from the crowd.

What to know about bio length:

It’s really important to list the most pertinent information in the first two lines. Why? Because while you have 150 characters, everything past two lines is hidden behind a “more” button that Instagram makes users click to read the full bio.

What to know about keywords in your bio:

Using phrases that people might search for in your bio will also help more people find you, similar to the use of target keywords in your account name.

For example, if you’re a hairstylist who specializes in balayage, add “hair stylist,” “balayage expert” and “MN salon” to your bio.

TopKnott shoutout: Take a look at the profile of Trio Hair Suite’s @jazmineschair, who wrote “lob haircuts” and “extensions” in her bio. This immediately tells followers what she specializes in, and also makes her easier to find for people searching for lob and extension inspiration on Instagram.

The bio section contains a short list of focused specialties.

What to know about hashtags and handles in your bio:

Instagram recently introduced the ability to add hashtags in your bio, so if you or your salon has a branded hashtag (such as Bryce Jermain Salon colorist @paintedbyjames’s #paintedbyjames) this is a perfect spot to include it.

You could even write, “Tag your new ’do with #yourhashtag for a chance to be featured,” to encourage your clients to share your hashtag with their followers. Hairstylists who work for a salon should also tag the salon’s Instagram handle in their bio.  

What to know about adding a call to action:

The last line of your bio should be some kind of call to action. We recommend the following: ask clients to leave reviews, book appointments or check out your service menu. Direct them to the web address underneath your bio, which might be your salon’s website or your TopKnott account.

6. Create engaging content

You’ve put in the time to set up your profile, but now you actually need to create and post content that builds an audience. Keep that follower count on the upswing with these Instagram tips:

Photos and videos:

Your feed should be the main focus of your account. Photos and videos need to be high quality. Think: sharp, in-focus images. Quality lighting. Good angles. Show a range of content, such as before-and-after images, giveaways, new products in the salon and beauty-related motivational quotes. Instagram is a great place to authentically showcase your personality.

TopKnott shoutout: Stillwater stylist @mallysondesigns is a pro at mixing hair photos with cheeky sayings like, “U like my hair? Gee thanks, I washed it,” a play on Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” lyrics.

This stylist mixes photos and text in her posts.


Instagram Stories add another layer of engagement with tools that allow you to host polls, record videos and ask your followers questions—and vice versa.

For example, you could ask: “What would you like to learn? Bridal updo or beachy waves.” Take the results and then conduct a live demonstration.


Even though you want to post varied content, your feed should still have a cohesive look. There are a few simple tricks to achieve this, such as sticking to a palette of three to five colors or always taking before-and-after pictures in front of the same backdrop.

TopKnott shoutout: @ashley_lavishwayzata and @amandawellanhair nail this concept on their pages for their respective salons in Wayzata and Burnsville.

ashley_lavishwayzata uses consistent backgrounds and lighting.
While applying a filter to your photos can make them look consistent, be mindful of how it affects the image. You want your photos to be an accurate representation of your work, especially when it comes to hair color.


Did you know Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters? As such, it’s smart to think strategically about what you want to say about each post. The length of time users spend reading a post plays into how well it performs within Instagram’s algorithm. You don’t have to write a novel for every photo, but even a couple of sentences may help keep your followers engaged and better explain why you’re posting your content.


If you’ve been ignoring emojis for fear that they look unprofessional, it’s time to reconsider. Punch up your captions with a couple relevant emojis and you could get up to 47.7 percent more interactions on Instagram. So break out that illustrated pair of scissors or lipstick tube!

Finishing touches:

Once your image is selected and your caption is written, do everything you can to boost the post’s visibility. Add your location, which will automatically group the photo with others who’ve used the same location. Tag any handles that are relevant—your client, the salon or other beauty industry accounts that may repost your photo for even more exposure. Finally, never publish an Instagram post without hashtags!

7. #Hashtag like a #pro

Hashtags offer another way to get discovered and generate more engagement. These tags group your content with other posts using the same hashtags. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you develop your Instagram #strategy:

Number of hashtags:

Instagram allows you to include up to 30 hashtags on your posts and up to 10 on your Stories. Play around to figure out what works best for your account.  

Key phrases:

Figuring out which hashtags to include can feel overwhelming when the options are literally limitless. These keywords and phrases should be relevant and specific, but not so niche that the hashtags are rarely used (meaning app users won’t search for them). Look at the accounts of other salons and stylists, even your competitors—what seems to be working for them?

Some trending hashtags in the Twin Cities salon community include:


So what about those globally popular hashtags? You might think broad, trending phrases will get your content the most views (think: #hair with 179m posts or #balayage with 17m posts). Unfortunately, the more people use a certain hashtag, the faster posts disappear from the top of that hashtag’s “home page” (i.e., where all the posts incorporating a hashtag are grouped together for users to scroll).

That’s not to say you should avoid these more popular hashtags completely if they’re relevant—just make sure to combine them with some more specific hashtags to reach your intended audience.

TopKnott shoutout: Spalon Montage stylist and educator @kellybowenhair is great at using a healthy dose of relevant hashtags.


While convenient to simply copy and paste a long list of hashtags every time you post a photo, it’s not recommended. Beyond feeling spammy for your followers, this type of repetitiveness is actually against Instagram’s community guidelines.  


You want your followers to stay focused on what the message is in your caption. To keep your posts looking clean, add a couple of line breaks before typing your hashtags, or consider placing them in a comment.

This will take some tweaking and practice to perfect, but if you want to know whether or not you’re on the right track with your salon, beauty and hair hashtags, you can find some very telling cues right in the platform. Under each business account post, you have the option to “View Insights.” Tap that button, scroll down and look for “Impressions,” where you’ll be able to see exactly how much engagement you brought in with your hashtags.

8. Post regularly

Figuring out how often to post and when depends on the type of followers you have. Do your followers only pop in once a week to check up on their favorite brands, or are they daily scrollers? What time of day are they most likely to use the app? This is where your business account insights will come into play.

Monitor Instagram’s “Audience” tab and you’ll be able to design a schedule that takes advantage of the peak days and times your followers are using the platform. Big brands post an average of 1.5 times per day, but it will probably take some trial and error to strike the perfect balance for your account.

Whatever schedule you choose, the most important thing is to be consistent. If you see your audience is most active around 10 a.m. every day, that’s when you should be posting. But don’t post just for the sake of posting. Your new social media mantra: post quality content over quantity.

The idea of posting at the exact same time every day probably sounds daunting—and, to be honest, a bit unrealistic. Luckily, there are now scheduling tools to help you pre-plan your images, videos and even stories. While you can’t do this directly in the Instagram app, third-party websites such as Hootsuite and Later offer visual content calendars that allow you to upload photos, write captions, add your hashtags and schedule posts in batches.

Use Insights to find out when your followers are most engaged.

9. Engage with followers and other businesses

While using a scheduling program can be helpful for consistency, you shouldn’t have the “set it and forget it” mentality when it comes to Instagram. As much as you want users to like, comment and share your posts, you should be doing the same for other businesses to increase engagement.

Hit the magnifying glass on the bottom of the app to search Instagram’s suggested content based on your interests. Or use some of the hashtags discussed earlier to search for salons and individual beauty pros to follow. Then take a few minutes every day to engage with their accounts: like their photos, leave comments and even tag them in posts when it makes sense.

When someone leaves a comment or sends a direct message in response to one of your images or videos, respond as soon as possible. Not only is this good customer service, but the more interactions you have, the more Instagram “rewards” you by pushing your posts higher on followers’ feeds.

Put what you’ve learned into practice. Set up your Instagram account, start adding pics and see what it can do for your business. Happy posting!

Do you think TopKnott might fit into your salon marketing plan? Join the #TKBeauty community.

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