Facebook Game Promotes Product Knowledge

Like most jewelers, Brian Alter, owner of Alter’s Gem Jewelry, is doing his best to get a handle on this whole social media thing, starting with Facebook and dabbling with Twitter. In the spirit of rugged individualism, most of his lessons are self-taught by virtue of trial and error. His latest Facebook foray is helping the jeweler determine the content his fans best respond to and how often he should post content and comments.

In arriving at this conclusion, the Beaumont, TX-based jeweler is currently hosting a colored gemstone legend and lore guessing game on Facebook. At a cursory glance, Alter isn’t the only jeweler conducting such low impact contests via Facebook. But even in the vastness of cyberspace, it’s a safe bet Alter is most likely the only jeweler with a unique story and reference material behind his contest.

Alter is the kind of jeweler who stresses product knowledge with his staffers and his customers. He’s been trying to expand his color inventory incrementally and wants to make sure his staff knows more than just the gemological basics, such as a gem’s species, country of origin, Moh’s hardness scale rating and perhaps even crystal structure.

To make learning fun — and competitive — Alter created a legend and lore contest for his staff on the top-12 commonly purchased colored gemstones. Eventually these 12 contest questions for his staff were repurposed into Alter’s current Facebook contest for his fans.

“The legend and lore behind gemstones make them mysterious to people,” says Alter. “Sharing this information with customers in a sales presentation can only add to the intrigue as well as the in-store experience.”

But Alter had more than just a test of product knowledge in mind for his staff. Given the amount of information available to the average person, he also wanted to prepare his staff for customers sourcing gemological data from various reference materials – no matter how obscure.

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And, no source is more humble than “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader” series. “My wife and I have some of these books at home,” says Alter. “One day I was thumbing through a recent addition to our ‘Uncle John’s’ series when I discovered a chapter dedicated to the lore and legend of gems. That’s how I got the idea to test my staff from a source that most would consider to be non-traditional when researching colored gems.”

Alter started his Facebook gemstone contest last Friday. In the first week Alter tested his Facebook fans on sapphire, topaz, garnet, amethyst, aquamarine and opal. For fear of running out steam too quickly, he’ll post three gemstone guessing games next week, with the final three to be posted the following week. Additional gem legend and lore clues beyond the first 12 will be posted in the near future as time permits.

Even without the contest; “More than 50 friends comment on my postings each day and hundreds read my Facebook postings daily,” says Alter. Not bad for a self-starter.

But, the contest has helped. Since he started the gem contest, Alter has added a modest number of 10-12 new fans to his corporate page and added 32 new fans to his personal page. “I have linked my fan page to my personal page so that it posts to both,” says Alter.

So, what has the jeweler learned about social media websites?

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First, Alter purposely did not offer a prize or prize money for correct guesses. “I didn’t want to commercialize it,” says Alter. He may consider such contest prizes in the future, but for now the contests are about getting Alter’s corporate Facebook profile fans tuning in to see what new content is being posted, getting them to learn more about product knowledge and to garner more fans.

And, in terms of Facebook etiquette, he doesn’t want the contest to come off as SPAM. This would take away from any impact of future social media website-based contests where more is at stake than just the benefit of knowing the correct answer to a gemstone question.

Alter has also learned that many people are returning participants to the gemstone game as new gemstones are introduced. More active participants are even posting more than one guess once a fan discovers an incorrect answer was posted. Knowing the same people are viewing his corporate profile page several times in a single day may change Alter’s self-imposed rule of only posting once a day.

Thirdly, Alter seems to be on a roll with his guessing games. As the author of two cookbooks, the jeweler is now posting recipes from his latest “Gems to Savor,” the follow-up to his first cookbook “Gems to Enjoy.” Recipes from the second cookbook are currently being posted on Alter’s Facebook page this week as part of a new guessing game. The jeweler is asking fans to guess the celebrity chef who contributed the recipe to Alter’s second book based solely on an uploaded recipe.

The second book is 100 pages longer (nearly 400 pages) than the first cookbook and includes recipes from 40 governors, jewelry designers such as Sybil and David Yurman, and celebrities like Joan van Ark, René Auberjonois and James Earl Jones. (All the profits go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which helps during hurricanes like Katrina, Rita and Ike, as well as assisting earthquake victims in Haiti and Chile.)

“It’s a good way to not only draw attention to my corporate Facebook page, but also the cookbook,” says Alter.

Pleased with his new idea, Alter will continue to test the tolerances and tastes of his Facebook fans to determine the best mix and frequency of content.