As published in Beauty Launchpad Magazine

Everywhere you look, people are wired: surfing the internet at the market, updating Facebook status while standing in line for coffee, heads bowed in  "BlackBerry prayer" at the bus stop.

These days, "online" isn't just a place to get information –  it's where people spend their time, chat with friends and form opinions. For any business, that means an online presence is no longer an option, it's a necessity.

If the idea of taking your business into the digital realm give you cold sweats, you're not alone. "Business and marketing people are still reeling from all of this", says Valorie Reavis, founder of Linkup Marketing, a service that helps salons build their online presence. "So imagine how small business owners, like those who own salons, are dealing with it."

The good news? Bringing your salon marketing into the 21st century doesn't mean you have to become a computer geek. It just means coupling your understanding of your business and your market with a willingness to learn about how the many options in cyberspace can support your vision.

The centerpiece is your salons website. User-friendly software makes building one easier than ever, but driving traffic to it is a little trickier. Frequent updates are crucial to bringing people back to the site, and incorporating a blog is a great way to keep it fresh.

Christopher Box, owner of The Beauty Box Salon in Dallas, is a disciple for the power of blogging. Every stylist in his salon is required to post one new blog per week. Box says it's their No. 1 source of new clients outside of word of mouth.

"Blogging is at first a huge task at first," he notes, explaining that it takes time and perseverance to build a following online. But it pays off: His salon blogs have picked up by other beauty sites, and forwarded to friends (and friends of friends) via Facebook and Twitter.

Added benefits: His stylists no longer waste their downtime – they've been inspired to step up their game, they're retailing more and the salon is attracting a better caliber of clientele. "The clients who read the blogs are better informed; they're more willing to spend money, "smiles Box.

What to blog on? Provided it's interesting and honest, just bout anything you write about will carry an air of of authority. "Rule No. 1 is setting yourself up as an expert in the field," Box agrees.

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