Spas are all about touch and its power to heal, nurture, and relax. But in the last few years, the word "touch" has taken on a new meaning, as in "stay in touch." Today, one of the most current ways to stay in touch is still through the fingertips, but using a keyboard. Yes, the internet has infiltrated the spa world, too, and we now have more ways to stay in touch with our clients than ever before. Here's an update on some of the latest trends in social networking and how to leverage the power of the internet to market your spa.
PHOTOGRAPHY: SHUTTERSTOCK (WOMAN AT COMPUTER)
Wow Them With Your Website
It's a given that your spa has a website, but just having a website does not make for a robust marketing plan. How are you using that website to drive business to your spa? It needs to do more than just provide your spa's address, phone number, and hours of operation. If you have been collecting email addresses from all of your clients, entering them into your database, and sending them regular communication via email marketing tools, you're on the right track. According to a recent International Spa Association (ISPA) survey, 86 percent of surveyed spas were using email marketing to communicate with clients. But email blasts are a one-way conversation—they don't provide a platform for dialogue.
Discover the Benefits of Blogs
A great website and email marketing program are just the beginning. Once you've got your site up and running, consider adding a blog. Blog is shorthand for weblog, and it's basically like a diary or journal in that the content is typically posted chronologically and written in the first person. There are several popular blog creation sites that make blogging easy; once your spa's blog is set up, you write your content and click on the "publish" button. Since blogs are easier to publish and update than regular websites, you'll probably update it more often. This helps your spa get picked up by search engines like Google, and blogging about spa topics that are of interest to clients will help your site move higher in search rankings. A blog can also be a way to communicate what's new to clients in a more informal manner. Clients can subscribe to your blog so that they stay current.
PHOTOGRAPHY: SHUTTERSTOCK (HAND WITH PHONE)
Glen Ivy, a chain of spas in Southern California, recently introduced a blog. Communications director Jennifer Steinhart and a co-worker both post regularly, which gives the blog new ideas in differing voices. "The blog extends the Glen Ivy spa experience to our readers in between their visits to the spa," says Steinhart. "It's a new way for us to connect to guests and for them to share their memories with others." She typically posts to the blog at least once a week, and sometimes more, as it's important to keep content fresh and keeps people coming back to visit. Glen Ivy's blog has had almost 800 hits in its first two months. As Steinhart says, "Having a blog is a benefit to Glen Ivy, because it allows us to quickly share new content with the public and gives a personal voice to the company."
Have you Yelp-ed?
If you've planned a trip in the last few years, it's likely you may have used a travel review website to get firsthand feedback on specific destinations from people who have been there. Now, prospective customers can visit Yelp.com for the same kind of information on spas and numerous other consumer-oriented businesses like restaurants, stores, and professional services. Yelp started in San Francisco but has since spread to many other cities throughout the U.S. and currently averages about 16 million visitors per month. If you are interested in finding out anything about a particular store, art museum, restaurant, or spa, you can use the site to do your pre-visit fact-finding. There are numerous spas and beauty salons on the site—yours may be one of them. Yelp uses a 5-star rating system, but 85 percent or more of all reviews were 3-stars or higher, indicating that this is a site that attracts people who like to spread positive information.
Find us on facebook
Business owners can sign up for their own account, which will allow them to add pictures or a slideshow and contact reviewers directly. You can't write a review of your own spa, but you can certainly read what customers are saying about it. Of course, there are the occasional poor reviews, but they are generally offset by positive comments. Yelp enables your loyal and happy clientele to share their positive feedback with others and potentially influence your future customers.
Start Social Networking
What started out as a way for teens and college students to stay in touch has matured into a forum for businesses to extend their brand reach by fostering two-way communication with clients, posting events and photos, and creating fan groups. The two most well-known social networking sites are MySpace.com and Facebook.com. The demographics of MySpace skew somewhat younger and more music-oriented, while Facebook's tend to be college age and older. You can go onto Facebook and set up a page for your business, add photos and information, and then let your clients know about it. They can then choose to "friend" your business, and the site becomes a way for you to communicate with clients and for clients to communicate with each other. You can list events and promotions and include links back to your spa's website.
PHOTOGRAPHY: SHUTTERSTOCK (WOMAN WITH PHONE)
Dana Stallings, principal at Spa Velia in San Diego, recently started a Facebook page for her spa. "Initially, I had a personal Facebook page, and in learning more about how social networking worked and how easily it brought people together, I realized that there were some strong branding and marketing opportunities that Spa Velia could capitalize on," she says. "The concept of our spa 'fans' (guests and staff, past and present) being able to share their experiences, get up-to-date information about events and specials, and stay in touch resonated with me."
Stallings says that Spa Velia's Facebook page started with general information, but she quickly began to capitalize on its business-building potential. "I saw the Facebook community exploding with people visiting the site daily for updates, connecting with others and getting information, and I realized that using it for marketing, events, wellness tips, and education was the perfect fit for our technologically savvy demographics," she says. "Our first endeavor using Facebook specifically for marketing was for this past Valentine's Day, and we had phenomenal results."
Clients can visit your Facebook page to leave comments, see photos of themselves at events, and see other "friends" of your spa. Having a Facebook page is like having a web page that allows two-way communication between you and your clients.
It's Time to Twitter
Twitter is a relative newcomer to the internet world, but it is quickly gaining popularity. It is another form of social networking that works by creating a buzz around events, activities, and people. Twitterers have 140 characters to answer the question, "What are you doing?" The forced brevity creates some fun and interesting responses. To use it as a business builder, you would add a "follow us on Twitter" link to your website, and then post, or "tweet," regularly. Your followers will be able to see and hear about what you are doing and can even receive tweets on their mobile devices. The more followers you have, the more buzz is created by your tweets. Twitter is being used increasingly by many large brands, such as Pepsi, Starbucks, and JetBlue, as a way to provide clients with timely and relevant information. Whole Foods used Twitter to dispense information about their plans for Earth Day and new store openings to more than 200,000 people who are following them. Spas can use Twitter to send messages about available appointments or weekly specials, anything that is time-sensitive. Glen Ivy's Steinhart reports that using Twitter allows the spas to communicate with clients in real time and enables them to dispense news about upcoming promotions or offers, daily treatment specials, contests, or advice and tips to those who have indicated an interest by signing up.
Unless you live in a vacuum, you've likely heard of YouTube.com. This site officially launched in December 2005 and has since become the world leader in online video delivery. YouTube allows people to easily upload and share video clips of a wide array of content, including accounts of current events and "how-to" videos. Businesses are discovering that YouTube is a powerful and innovative way to reach their target audiences. YouTube currently estimates that every minute, 10 hours of video are uploaded, and hundreds of millions of videos are watched every day by users from 18 to 55 years of age. YouTube is an ideal platform on which to run an ad, show spa segments produced by travel professionals, and even show virtual tours of spas and services. You may already have these kinds of video tools posted on your website, but putting them on YouTube exponentially increases the number of people they can reach, and creates buzz about your brand. Don't be shy, join the online party!
Lisa M. Starr has more than 28 years of experience in the beauty industry. She is the senior east coast business consultant to new and existing spas and salons for Wynne Business. Her expertise includes business operations and finances, marketing and advertising, inventory management, human resource development, sales, and public relations. Email her at [email protected].