Mario Tricoci Hair Salons & Day Spas
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois
Senior VP & Chief Operating Officer: Larry Silvestri
Senior VP & Chief Marketing Officer: Megan Bueschel
Digital Director: Evoke Brand Strategies launched by Kelly Ehlers

With 15 locations throughout Illinois, you might imagine the leadership team at Mario Tricoci Salons & Day Spas would be wary of encouraging their 1,200 professionals to develop social media relationships with the salon’s clients—but nothing could be further from the truth. The man at the helm, Chief Operating Officer Larry Silvestri decided to tke a business approach to social media by empowering employees as brand ambassadors and coaching them in best social media practices.

Digital Directors: Megan Bueschel and Kelly Ehlers

“Many fellow salon owners challenged me on the decision, asking if it was a conflict of interest to encourage service providers to develop social communities with their clients,” Silvestri says. “But we have a low staff turnover rate compared to the industry, plus it’s rather naïve to think they aren’t already doing this through their personal social media channels. Instead, we took a business approach to leverage the relationships staff have with their guests to build a strong marketing program—and we decided to help them do it correctly and effectively.”

Along with Megan Bueschel, Mario Tricoci’s chief marketing officer, Silvestri started meeting with Kelly Ehlers, founder of the social media consulting firm Evoke Brand Strategies early last year, and the team spend six months designing a corporate social media program before rolling it out to the salon’s employees.

Digital Directors: Megan Bueschel and Kelly Ehlers Then Silvestri and Bueschel picked 100 or more of the most social-savvy team members to be act as social media ambassadors, rented out a 300-seat theater and brought Ehlers in to train the ambassadors how to develop their own professional Instagram accounts. “Kelly taught them what makes a good post and what makes a great post, as well as etiquette for posting, and how often and when are the best times to post,” Silvestri says. “She’s terrific. She took us through a journey of what it means to create a community and participate in the social conversation that’s already going on.”

The ambassadors, in turn, went back into their own salons and helped any other interested professionals develop their own professional Instagram accounts and shared what they learned about best practices from Ehler. In the meantime, Ehlers worked with Bueschel to develop a corporate Instragram account for professionals to interact with clients, as well as a corporate account for the salon’s schools to help them interact with students and prospective students. Then, Ehlers worked to make sure the efforts were duplicated on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter accounts.

“Kelly also helped us establish a corporate voice for both brands,” Bueschel says.“ For Mario Tricoci, the voice is businesslike, yet whimsical, creative and fun. For Tricoci Careers, the voice is more inspirational—more likely to ask more thought-provoking questions that get students excited about their careers.”

Ehlers worked with Bueschel to develop different series of posts, such as Stylist Spotlight, Campaigns and Promotions, Pick of the Week, What's New, Tips from Tricoci, Styles from the Salons and Service Spotlight. “ We also pepper in Trendspotting and Throwback Thursday,” Bueschel says.

Ehlers also helped the salon chain develop a hashtag strategy (#byMario and #TricociCareers) that helps funnel in the images and posts from all the professionals’ pages (and identifies the posts as belonging to a certain individual) , then Ehlers selects to best of the best to feature on the corporate pages, while at the same time policing the posts of the Tricoci students and staff.

“When each salon huddles, social media is part of the conversation,” Bueschel reports. “We’ll always discuss if Mario Tricoci is in the media and share what was the leading Instagram page and how many likes it got. And, our professionals and students get really excited when one of the posts is selected to be featured on one of the corporate pages.”

Digital Directors: Megan Bueschel and Kelly Ehlers Through the process, Ehlers, Silvestri and Bueschel developed a number of best practices revolving social media. For example, staff members are asked to sign an agreement that they won’t use phones on cutting room floor unless they are snapping a quick picture of their work. They strive to keep industry nomenclature that clients wouldn’t understand (like double-processed or even hombre) out of the posts. And, pictures with staff members in them must always be professional.

The company even worked out a policy for securing guests’ permission to use their images if they are recognizable. “’Basically, if you can see the client’s face above the bridge of the nose, we require that professionals get the guest to sign a photo release form,” Ehlers says. “And we won’t post one of the professional’s images on the corporate site if the client is recognizable unless we have a copy of the release.”

In addition, staff members are not allowed to follow clients using their professional Instagram accounts, nor can they follow anyone who espouses controversial political or religious views. And, they sign waivers that should they leave the organization for any reason, they will either surrender their professional Instagram account or remove any Mario Tricoci branding from it.

The salon company is in the process of developing a strategy that engages clients to play too with a #LoveMario tag that will be posted on mirrors. “Through the mirror cling, we are encouraging clients to take a selfie once their service is completed that includes their stylist in the background, then promote it and share it with their own friends,” Bueschel says.

While the campaign has been hugely successful visually marketing and growing the brand and the resulting corporate Facebook page now reaches 30,000 friends, Ehlers is quick to stress that this strategy isn’t good for every salon organization. “If a salon organization doesn’t have the manpower or the wherewithal to properly manage the professional pages, it could quickly spin out of control.”

“For the most part, we’ve witnessed that it’s a great way for even our veterans to show the clients their creativity and the investment they’ve put into their careers,” Silvestri says. “We think it’s the new referral card. Today we live in a visual society, and the days of passing out paper business cards to clients is waning. Social media is today’s business card.”

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