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The Social Ladder: Olivia Smalley

Imagine rounding up the world’s most respected, talented, media-savvy hairdressers and getting them to share the secrets of their success. Well, we imagined it…and we did it. Introducing the first in a brand-new series of “chats” designed to help you climb the social (media) ladder to the highest rung.

Superstar Olivia Smalley kicks off the column with a very revealing download…

Don’t make this mistake!
I see two things all the time that tend to backfire. The first? Poor-quality photos! Our attention span is now 8 seconds (fun fact: a goldfish is 9 seconds). If a pic doesn’t wow me in 2 seconds, I continue my scroll. If my star child client is coming in that day, I’ll actually book an extra 30 minutes to do a minimum of 2-3 different hairstyles for online content marketing purposes. Second? Half, if not most of your brand is YOU! It would be nice to see a photo of you every once in a while. I’d like to know what my hairstylist looks like when I walk into the salon. It also creates a personal connection.

How do I get started?
Early on, I loved doing photo shoots and collaborating with models with huge followings, and that led to my celebrity clientele. Now? You must prove WHY you are worthy of a follow. Ask yourself: Is my page pretty? Am I you educating you? Am I inspiring someone? I follow this strategy before every post to continue to grow my following.

Comments! I want comments!
I’ve been saying from the beginning of 2017, that if I didn’t gain a single follower but increased my engagement by 25% that I’d be happy. Well, guess what? I’ve increased by 67% and grown so much this year. I can expect an average of 50/150 comments each post and you know how I did it? I COMMENTED BACK! I started conversations. I became the person I wanted to see on my Instagram, and created social relationships between my followers and beyond. I speak to my Instagram stories as if I was sending it to my best friend. It’s a very rare day when you hear me say, “Hey guys!” or “What’s up everyone?” on my stories. I speak to YOU. I speak to my camera singularly, as if it’s a one-on-one conversation. When you speak to all, you speak to none; and what I mean is that no one feels special, all feel general.

How in the world does an “ordinary hairdresser” land a celebrity client?
Believe it or not, it can happen from a free job. I was working with a photographer who also worked at one of the hottest nightclubs in Miami. He was looking for a hair and makeup artist to take care of their “host.” I submitted tons of photos from my portfolio as well as a resume — and out of 60 artists in Miami, I was selected do the “host” (Paris Hilton!) whenever she comes to town. It’s been over 5 times in the past 3 years. Do a lot of networking, and always make friends with PR people — they seem to know everyone.

Hands-down favorite celeb moment. Go.
I was doing the hair for the Britney Spears NYFW show and everyone was dying to meet her; but she was nowhere to be found. After the show was over, the models headed to the back room with Britney for an interview with E Entertainment Live, along with two body guards and… ME, the token hairstylist who looked the part, and had hairspray in my hand and walked in with confidence. The bodyguards kicked out EVERYONE else.

Here’s how NOT to piss off a celebrity…
Besides the obvious don’t-ask-for-a-selfie advice? Treat them like a friend and try not to “surface” speak. They seem to love me for that. And never assume anything — their schedule changes at a moment’s notice and you always have to prepare. If I’m books to do a celebrity, even for just a couple of hours, I block the whole day off.

Dream celeb?
Julianne Hough, who is @riawna’s client. I just LOVE how her spirit, her soul, and energy goes into everything full throttle.

Do I HAVE to have a high-profile client?
My God, it helps! Doors opened much more easily for me once that happened.

I’m about to post a pic. Now what?
I have a formula for every post that has changed the game on my account. I start out with an emoji that is relevant to the subject, then come out with a bang on my intro. I always tell stories. People connect with situational wording that create imagery in their minds, I tend give massive detail and let the reader get to know a little bit about me or maybe the person in the photo. Then, I always sum up the story into a question at the end. From this alone, my engagement grew nearly 67% in just a year. Those are huge numbers! People want to connect, and captions are the biggest real estate that most stylists are under-utilizing.

This is the moment I knew…
I’ve come to realize I never get to celebrate my victories because I’m a serial entrepreneur. But life will pass you by really quickly with that mindset. My “made it” moment was when I was asked by Cosmoprof to be a 2018 Artistic Team Member. I called my husband, who’s a businessman himself, to share the news. We have a beautiful work/life balance because we understand what it’s like to go out and get what you want out of life.

If you weren’t in the hair biz…
I’d be a business consultant. As a stylist I want to know about sales, marketing, business plans, and corporate operations. I like to have my hands in everything and wear all the hats at once. (And I would never want to work for the IRS…I couldn’t handle be hated that much.)

There’s no shame in shampoo
When I was young, my mom was the best damn shampoo-ist around. So I started shampooing hair at the age of 13, getting paid $100 collectively with my tips. By the time I was 16, I bought my first car — a $22,000 Red Scion Tc. Since then, I haven’t slowed down once!

You’re the subject of a book. Quick: What’s the title?
I actually AM writing a book! Details to follow, but it will be called “Social Savvy Stylist.”

What are you eating when no one’s looking?
Oh this is bad. Peanut butter…and I’m drinking wine. My husband and I do this nightly and the combo is divine. Try it!

That hair moment you’d like to forget — but can’t
When I was 16, I thought I’d look great as a brunette. And standing in the shower putting on box dye sounded like a great idea at the time. NOPE. Brown and yellow apparently turn dishwater green. Best part, I had just started dating this guy I was obsessed with, and the first thing he said when he saw me was, “I like blondes.”

Who gives you serious hair envy?
I love @glambytorrielees hair. She’s got these adorable Bang-les (not bangs and not really angles) that I wouldn’t dare do on myself. So gorgeous and full!

I die for this product
Blonde Life Masque! It saves my life and my hair!!

You’re the president of a fan club. Whose is it?
I love KL @mermicorn. She’s just so witty and a boss babe. She’s opened so many salons, and started with her fluid-painting techniques that skyrocketed the industry. She kills it on education. Totally my idol.

You want me to do WHAT????
I had a Staten Island mom beg me to do airbrush makeup on her son for his wedding. I thought, okay, young guy, I guess. Turns out it was a 52-year-old man! It was borderline humiliating for the both of us. I tried to the lighten the mood, but it was awful.

And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate…
I have a love/hate stance on negative online comments. Hate for obvious reasons, but love for the engagement! So, haters are welcome…and the best part is when I don’t have to say anything because my friend attacks them for me! It really grows relationships, I swear!

What gets your creative motor running?
Signing contracts with companies to do content creation. I love working with a brand’s vision to showcase how they want to speak to their stylist or consumers through my messages. It gives me an insight into their business, as well as creative ideas to use for my personal brand through their experiences and expertise.

I laugh when I’m around friends who know how to loosen up and don’t take things too seriously. I love talking about old times and ragging on current ones.

Hey, any advice for us folks in small towns?
I feel like this is a perfect question for me because my town is only 5 miles long. Yes, I am in Florida, but much more suburbs than what I portray on social media. But I collaborated with incredible photographers and models in the area, and came up with concept shoots. I built my online presences by doing tons of free work in the beginning!

Do NOT ask me to do this
I HATE unpacking. At this point I’ve bought two of everything in my toiletries bag just so I don’t need to unpack and repack. Oh, and forget about making me wake up early. I need at least 10-12 hours of sleep a night.

Say cheese!
I love photography and videography. I travel with my husband on his work trips as well as on leisure vacations, and every time I explore a new destination, I learn more about my camera.

On your phone AGAIN??
I’m online about 4 – 6 hours a day. No lie. I’m engaging, posting, editing, or even networking in person. The trick is to NOT aimlessly scroll on Instagram — if I catch myself, I go directly to my to-do list.

It’s 2028. What are you doing?
My five-year plan is to have three books written on Social Media, Hair Styling and Basic Blonding. My 10-year-plan to be a social consultant for big wig companies. I’d like to be hired by large brands on how to build their digital marketing, including their social and online presence.

Speak to a young Olivia…
Don’t stop. Consistency, collaboration, and content is everything. Instead of trying to make things perfect, just keep shooting at the bull’s-eye. Landing among the target is better progression then still in your hands.

Can I just skip this career moment, please?
I used to waste time doing hair and makeup with a photographer who shot very sexy models; and came to realize, yes I’m getting paid, but I will never post these photos.. so what am I really doing here?

Sooo glad I did this.
Getting out of a dead-beat salon and renting my own space at an amazing salon was the best move I ever made. This was right around the time I was gaining popularity on Instagram and YouTube, and was feeling repercussions and envy from colleagues about my success, even though I didn’t speak of it. Leaving and starting a new really re-energized my path is is why I am where I am today.

Hashtags. Good, bad, overused?
Good, but with tact and strategy. Put at least 4 – 5 relevant ones in a caption, and put 10 -15 other ones in the comments. Some popular and some not so popular. DO NOT copy and paste. Instagram will penalize you. I’ve seen better results with the less popular hashtags (between the 3,000 – 10,000 range rather than the 100k – 1m range).

Set the scene, please
I plan a lot of my content shoots, trying to get at least 5 different styles of hair or 5 different outfits. Every other photo has a white-ish background, and I alternate from far away photos to close-up ones. Every photo has a rose-tinted filter — hence my tag line “Beauty through #rosetintedfilters.” And I use a fade on vsco cam of 6.

You’re online. What’s the site?
Instagram by far; but I think a lot of stylist are sleeping on YouTube. Instagram is popular for now, but YouTube will ALWAYS be popular. IG has the power for brands to want to work with you or even celebs to call you. Popular on YouTube? You could be looking at your own TV show or even your own product line. YouTube takes careers to a whole other level.

Can we not see any more of this, please?
Ring lights, white wall. I do it, too, but I save it for stories, not posts. Mark my words: In 3 years, we will be look at those photos in the same way we look at glamour shots.

Letting it all hang out — not.
I’m personable without getting too personal. I tell stories, situations, or education, and I do let people into my life. But I only show them what I want them to see. You’ll never see me drinking on camera and hardly ever cussing. Yes, limits are good and so is a happy medium of sharing without airing out too much.

If I never see these words again, I’ll be happy
Stay Tuned! Can’t stand it.

Enough already!
I am so over people using axes, swords, or even burning hair to gain popularity on Instagram. Its crazy what people come up with!

Bucket-list hair client
Desi Perkins — it would be Christmas in January if I could do this online star’s hair.

My all-time favorite app…
VSCO! This is the only app I use for all the “recipes.” Recipes are formulas that I do for every single one of my photos to create a cohesive, magazine-like finish to my layout. My recipe on VSCO is 1 exposure, 2 contrast, -2 temperature, 2 rose tint, and 6 fade. FOR EVERY POST.

UNUM! I can organize all my photos and move them around to see what to post next. I can also hide certain photos that are currently posted to reorganize my layout. That’s not the best part: It also tells you what’s the best day and times to post your photos. SUCH a lifesaver!! And Boomerang is super fun! I feel like it’s an “in the moment of movement” app, and for some reason, just seeing it over and over is so entertaining.

Show us the money
It’s not a set plan, but I would say I invest at least $100 – $500 a month in social media. It could be for hair accessories, clothing, apps, paying models, paying videographers. But in 2018, I plan on upping that number.