The hairdresser's dilemma. Can too much Facebook engagement disrupt business?

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I had an interesting chat about social media with my hairdresser this week. She said they were thinking about setting up a Facebook Page for the business. I said that would be a great idea, it's just the sort of business that could use it effectively.

I suggested a few ideas. They could:

  • create photo albums featuring pictures of their team and the interior of the salon (which is lovely)
  • showcase their best cuts
  • create a professional yet fun and approachable persona through their status updates
  • offer tips on styling and looking after your hair between cuts
  • embed video, perhaps an interview with the director or the team
  • ask users to upload pictures of their fabulous new haircut
  • run an accompanying ad campaign targeted at women by age and location, telling them about offers and promotions
  • increase engagement with current and potential customers

And it's this last one that's the problem. The main thing that's holding them back from setting up the page is that people will use it to cancel appointments.

Too much engagement!

This is the situation a local dentist found with their Facebook page, she told me. Getting back in touch with people to rearrange the appointment was time-consuming, messages were missed and wires were crossed. It caused so many problems that they eventually took the page down.

So what to do?

While you can write in the info page that customers should always phone if they need to cancel or rearrange, you can't expect everyone to read this. Or to do what they're told. Maybe they have a crisis at 11pm which means they can't make their appointment the next day and just want to be polite and let you know. Or they're on holiday, the flight is delayed and while a phone call is expensive they can still access Facebook through their iPhone.

Another option is to mention regularly in your status updates that customers aren't able to cancel through Facebook. But that makes you look heavy-handed and negative. And will give the impression that lots of people are cancelling their appointments, making other customers suspicious.

The solution lies in something that they're also concerned about; monitoring Facebook all the time to see if people are getting in touch. However, hairdressers have their hands busy all day and they can't keep breaking off to check the computer. It would all have to be done out of sight too; no standing there staring at your smartphone while the phone is ringing.

So I'm going to throw this out to the group. What would you suggest? How can they run a successful Facebook page without it screwing up their trouble-free appointments system?