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Rules of Engagement October 17, 2010 (0 comments)


Merrick, NY--Say “engagement” in this industry, and the associative word is “ring.” But let’s step away from the bridal counter and talk about another kind of engagement, between you and your customers. More and more, that’s being done online. Every day, more marketing dollars are shifting from traditional to digital media, but how many business owners still are unsure about how to create a successful social media strategy?

In a two-part series,The Centurion will analyze the why, the how, and who’s doing it best. This week, we ask three jewelry-industry experts to give some tips on how to get started. In our next edition, we’ll highlight peers who are doing a great job with it.

The “why” is a no-brainer: digital media is cost effective, far-reaching, and, increasingly, where the customers are. Traditional print newspaper readership is declining, TiVo et al lets viewers zap commercials, and satellite radio keeps drive-time chatter free. Meanwhile, Forrester Research predicts social media marketing will grow at a compound rate of 34%, reaching 3.1 billion users by 2014.

Carrie Soucy, president of Miamore Communications, a luxury boutique PR agency in Providence, RI, joked that one of the biggest trends of the recent ready-to-wear shows at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York wasn’t on the runway, it was under the thumbs of the press and visitors as they blogged and posted social media updates right from the shows.

“The versatility of social media left its marks, and it will be interesting to see the evolution of social media in the fashion and luxury market from this point forward,” she says.

Most jewelers are convinced enough of the why, though as Cindy Edelstein, president of Pelham, NY-based Jewelers’ Resource Bureau, warns holdouts, “There’s no going back. If you don’t do it, your competitors will.”

It’s the “how” that perplexes jewelers who’ve always been told, “advertise, advertise, advertise;” now suddenly the message is “get on Facebook and Twitter but selling (e.g. advertising) turns off more people than it turns on.”

ExactTarget, a firm that provides digital marketing services to small and large businesses, recently held a focus group of Gen-Y consumers as part of its “Subscribers, Fans, and Followers” research series. In the words of one participant, “There’s a fine line between being informative and being spammy. If a single brand becomes really trigger-happy with status updates, I get annoyed.” And the brand gets hidden, or even un-friended.

But it’s not just about frequency, or Gen-Y’s preferences. Customers of any age don’t want to be spammed. Your posts need to be both relevant and come at the right pace, and not surprisingly there’s a directly proportional relationship between the two. The more interesting and relevant, the more often you can post.

“The whole point of social media is not to sell, it’s to engage. It’s personal,” says Edelstein.She says picture yourself in line for coffee, and one of your regular customers is in front of you. You’d chat, you wouldn’t just launch in and announce new product and price.    

High-end jewelers who "tweet" or use Facebook most effectively engage their followers by focusing on what has always set their store apart from others: involvement in the local community, expertise in fine jewelry, understanding of fashion trends in the region, and their interest in the lives of their customers, says Soucy.

Edelstein suggests it’s also good to show that you’re tapped into the zeitgeist and paying attention to popular culture. So the morning after a Jersey Shore episode, you could post a humorous comment about your pearls being a must-have for the anti-Snooki.

It’s certainly ok to post new product or event announcements, but the more frequently you post, the more you’re going to need other news to intersperse. Be honest: no retailer gets in gee-whiz merchandise every single day, and no manufacturer has a new collection to launch every week. So how can you ensure your product news has the right balance between your need to, well, advertise, vs. crossing over into that dreaded spam zone?

Ellen Fruchtman, president of Toledo, OH-based Fruchtman Marketing, advises jewelers to put social media into perspective. The most important part of any social media strategy, she says, is to remember that it’s only part of an effective overall marketing strategy, not the whole of it.

“Should you have a presence? Yes. Should you think it’s the next coming? Not yet.” Realize that it’s a tool that’s only as good as the effort behind it, she says. Do it well, or don’t bother.

“Most jewelers hardly have time to run their stores properly. And now, they’re placing so much effort into this one medium they begin to neglect the rest of the marketing universe,” she says. While it is the fastest growing marketing medium, she says it’s still not relevant to all a jeweler’s customers at this point, so don’t put all your marketing efforts into this one basket.

Getting started. If you’re new to social media, Fruchtman advises starting with Facebook. It has the largest footprint of any social media, so focus on doing that well before starting on another. Edelstein suggests beginning as an observer. Follow a few people, find more people to follow from their friend lists, and just watch what others post and how often to get an idea of what can work for you.

People want to interact with your brand, says Fruchtman. Ask questions. Post Facebook-only promotions and offers. Provide interesting—not self-promotional—content. In a word, engage.

“You also need to make sure you have a person inside (or external) that you trust with your postings and content,” adds Fruchtman.One caveat, cautions Edelstein: if you’re going to use an external provider, find out who else is a client and if they’re going to be auto-tweeting or customizing posts for each. If they’re auto-tweeting, your posts may be identical to someone else’s.  

“Four jewelers I’m following obviously use the same service, because their posts are identical,” she says. All are single-store independents in different regions of the country, so it’s not likely their customers will overlap, but it’s better to ask first than be embarrassed later.

Edelstein also points out the value of social media for addressing consumer gripes. Retailers are terrified of Yelp (an online public review site), she says. But if people are going to complain about you, better to have it out in the open so you have a chance to join the conversation and say, “Sometimes we do get it wrong but let us make it right.”

By Hedda Schupak, Editor, TheCenturion

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