We talk often about the millennial consumer here at JCK, and it’s little surprise—reaching the generation is one of retailers’ greatest challenges today. For the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), their work is cut out for them: They must talk to millennials about diamonds in a way that is fresh and approachable, without compromising the value—both monetary and aspirational—of a real diamond. But they’re doing it with this phrase: “Real is Rare. Real is a Diamond.” DPA launched a social channel in October 2016, and @realisadiamond has been dazzling its followers with a mix of diamond jewelry, celebrity stylings, and informative imagery ever since. We asked Deborah Marquardt, chief marketing officer of DPA and woman behind the channel, about strategy, challenges, and (obviously), cocktails.
JCK: First, describe the mission of Real is Rare.
Deborah Marquardt: The Diamond Producers Association launched “Real is Rare. Real is a Diamond.” in October 2016 as the diamond industry’s first category marketing initiative in a decade. Nurturing the consumer relationship with diamonds is central to our mission, and this marketing and communications platform aims to connect with new generations of consumers in a more personal, relevant, and emotionally resonant way.
We know from our research that Gen Y values authenticity in their relationships and their products—whether that’s denim or diamonds. And they respond positively to the idea that for life’s most important moments only something real, rare, and precious will do. What better product than diamonds, then, to symbolize our most important moments and genuine emotions?
JCK: How do you seek to communicate that mission via your social media channels?
Marquardt: Each channel serves a different communications role. Facebook and Twitter are primary channels for sharing news, trends, and other timely, informational content. Facebook can’t be beaten for sharing video. Instagram, by contrast, is for visual storytelling, which—when you have the world’s most beautiful product—is incredibly important. Across all of our platforms, @realisadiamond looks to educate, inspire, and delight our communities as we cultivate a new diamond dialogue. Also important is that we ourselves engage outside our own feeds, talking with consumers and industry players—designers, jewelers, bloggers, brands—and being a cheerleader for all things diamond.
JCK: Which channel do you find to be the most successful (or most apt) for conveying your message?
Marquardt: As social platforms go, Instagram was made for diamonds. It’s visually immersive, aesthetically beautiful, its audience is very female, relatively young, and it is an ever-changing lookbook of themes related to diamonds: jewelry, fashion, design, art, travel, beauty, history, celebrity, etc. We launched our Instagram channel in October 2016 and have seen consistent growth, in both followers and engagement, ever since.
With Instagram, we approach diamonds through a pop culture lens, with a focus on timely, relevant diamond content that speaks to the zeitgeist. What’s fortunate is that Instagram has made diamonds social media stars in their own right. Based on hashtag counts alone (#engagement 6.5M, #engagementring 1.8M, #finejewelry 1.1M, #bling 5.7M, etc.), millions of diamond conversations are already happening on the platform. Every day we aim to earn a place in the daily flow of diamond conversation and to harness and amplify the diamond affection and enthusiasm that consumers are demonstrating. The big picture objective is to nurture consumers’ (particularly those under 40) long-term relationship with diamonds, to reinforce the emotional significance of diamonds, and to deepen their appreciation of the value, rarity, and preciousness of diamonds.
@Realisadiamond aims to make diamonds, in all their forms and variety, approachable and current, while never compromising their aspirational value. Keeping them special, but not relegated to only special occasions.
The feed is really a celebration of diamonds. It’s a way to convey how vast, fascinating, fun, and beautifully complex the world of diamonds really is. And a place where we can tell visual stories that disrupt the expectations of an audience that already thinks it knows everything there is to know about diamonds.
JCK: With a target audience comprised of mostly millennials, your choice of content is fun, while still managing to convey the aspirational aspect of diamonds (read: these products don’t come cheap). How do you walk that fine line?
Marquardt: We curate content to tell a story about diamonds, to create an emotional connection with diamonds, and to explore every day a different aspect of what diamonds symbolize and what they mean to us. In doing so we connect with our audience on why diamonds are special versus what a particular diamond costs. That is not to say that some posts that feature a beautiful piece of diamond jewelry don’t also get sales inquiries—we love that!—but as a category versus a brand, our mission is to celebrate diamonds as a whole and create favorability and affinity for the entire sector. It’s a very particular challenge that our team enjoys tackling every day.
JCK: There are so many fantastic diamond jewelers out there—how do you decide whose product to share on any given day?
Marquardt: There is so much incredible diamond content to share on Instagram that the options are daunting. First and foremost we aim to be seasonal and topical so the feed is fresh and in tune with what is happening on Instagram that day. We use numerous filters to sort images and try to balance between content types and sources to keep the feed varied and fresh. What is important is that we create a balance in product type (rings, earrings, necklaces, etc.), content sources (designers, retailers, brands, influencers, celebrities), diamond types (rough, polished, fancy shapes and colors, loose, mounted, big, small), and content types (product shots, product on body shots, quotes, lifestyle shots, etc.). We try not to favor any one source or type of content and we do our best to represent the depth and breadth of the diamond community. But yes, sometimes we fall in love with an image that feels so perfect for that moment that we just go for it.
Beyond the content we publish, @realisadiamond is an active social cheerleader, via our likes, shares, and comments. We support diamond content from consumers, designers, and retailers because we’re committed to amplifying the voice diamonds have in the cultural conversation.
JCK: Organic growth is a big deal these days. Is it true that no amount of your budget goes towards paid social efforts?
Marquardt: Since the launch, there has been significant, organic growth. Because we were launching as a category and not a brand, we wanted time to experiment with our content, our voice, our cadence, and so on. It was a highly iterative process, learning what worked and what didn’t as we went along. Earlier this year we started to really see a pickup in followers and engagement and defined a content formula that drives our growth: beautiful imagery plus a distinct voice plus emotional truth equal a winning diamond post.
This year, January through May/June, organic follower growth was 62% and 120% for engagement. Based on our momentum we started boosting in July in order to grow our reach and align with our paid media activity in the marketplace.
In addition, we are starting to partner with the right storytellers as another way to expand our reach and grow our audience on Instagram.
JCK: Can you offer some tips to those looking to grow their following without a budget (or perhaps, a desire) for paid social media?
Marquardt: While we continue to experiment and learn, here are a few things to keep in mind for building audience and engagement on Instagram.
First and foremost is visual impact. To win attention your photos need stopping power. The best images are clear, sharp, and impossible to scroll past. Next, it takes a distinct voice to stand out and sustain interest. There is only one of you so let your personality and your unique point-of-view come through. Generic equals forgettable.
And finally, don’t shy away from sharing your thoughts and feelings. Emotional honesty is a magnet. Our dreams and desires tend to be shared. The more you tap into them the more quickly you’ll build a loyal following.
JCK: You have an array of beautiful photos on Instagram, from product shots to lifestyle, styled images, quotes, and memes. What do you find performs the best, and why do you think that is?
Marquardt: Well, what resonates is often surprising. Sometimes the simplest imagery performs best, and an image we think is extraordinary falls flat. “Diamonds + Love” posts of all kinds—wedding and engagement rings, proposals, quotes, honeymoons—tend to be the one reliable image type that consistently overperforms. We try to challenge ourselves to find beautiful and unexpected ways to showcase love, commitment, and connection to support the diamond promise of “Real is Rare.” In addition, quotes that tap into a diamond’s representation of strength, resilience, beauty under pressure—vis-à-vis women —do really well. Then there are the fail-proof image types. Add diamonds to great shots of cupcakes or cocktails, puppies or kittens, or the right celebrity, and they tend to overperform.
JCK: Everyone has a different definition of success when it comes to social media: What is yours?
Marquardt: Surprisingly, there is so much about diamonds that people do not know: how they are formed, where they are found, how they are cut and polished, what makes them rare, precious and unique, how varied diamonds actually are, how many millions of livelihoods worldwide are supported by the modern diamond industry, what the industry does to support habitats, educate, and train tens of thousands of professionals in diamond-producing nations, etc. Not to mention how many innovative and varied diamond designs there are today and the vast range of styles, cuts, colors and price points available. And of course the emotional significance of diamonds as an authentic symbol of love, commitment, and life’s most precious and important moments. Social media success for us is being able to educate, inform, inspire, and fully dimensionalize for our followers the many layers of the diamond story.
JCK: What is your favorite social media platform and why?
Marquardt: As I mentioned, each of our social channels is important for different reasons. However, the visual storytelling Instagram facilitates is unequaled. Furthermore, Instagram enables us to connect seamlessly with consumers and the industry, and instantly take the pulse of what’s trending in popular culture and captivating our audiences. My team and I have the unique privilege of being marketers for the most beautiful product on earth, billions of years old yet timeless, rare, and each unique and extraordinary. Instagram allows us most easily to plug into the emotional territory of diamonds, create a dialogue with our community, and support designers, retailers, and other diamond industry members—which has been a priority since day one.
JCK: First site you check in the morning?
Marquardt: Instagram to see how our posts performed overnight. And then Facebook or Flipboard to scan the news.
JCK: Your feelings on Pinterest: Do you use it? If yes, in what capacity?
Marquardt: We are just about to launch a Pinterest page. Pinterest is a natural social extension for us, particularly for bridal jewelry. It’s the platform most brides turn to as a source of inspiration and time spent on Pinterest is already high and continues to grow.
JCK: Snapchat or Instagram Stories?
Marquardt: Instagram Stories.
JCK: What are your five favorite Instagram accounts to follow (these can be jewelry or other)?
Marquardt: @jewelsbygrace for the beautiful vintage diamonds and the fascinating diamond history. @jessicaseinfeld because she is real, she is honest, and she is hilarious. All moms need to follow her. @natgeo for a daily dose of natural awe and inspiration. @shaymitchell, a young celebrity who has a beautifully curated, thoughtful, authentic, and inspiring feed. @vamuseum, the world’s leading museum of art and design and an endless source of fascinating stories about exquisite treasures, including diamonds.
JCK: Social media pet peeve?
Marquardt: If you are going to regram, don’t forget to credit the source or sources. It’s the Instagram Golden Rule.
JCK: And finally, for a virtual “cheers:” Your favorite cocktail?
Marquardt: Well, pink beverages look especially pretty alongside diamonds, so our vote is a cosmopolitan or a glass of rosé.