I’ve developed a bit of an addiction to Instagram. I uploaded my first photo to the app in November 2012, when I was in Panama for the inaugural LUXURY Privé Panama show. And in the nearly two years since, I’ve posted 815 additional photos. I don’t have a huge number of followers (630 as of this writing), which is fine because followers are not my primary goal. Mostly, what I like about Instagram is the way it allows me to enhance my photos and to document funny little moments that might otherwise be forgotten.
This past week, however, I got a few lessons on how jewelers can use the app to its full advantage. The first came from Benjamin G. Guttery, aka @thirdcoastgems (a reference to his home state of Texas). I can’t recall when I first came across Guttery’s Instagram feed, but I do know that he followed me first, and I was struck by how often he liked my photos.
Soon enough, I started following him back. Guttery is an active poster so I see his images quite a bit in my feed, and here’s what I love about them: Most of the time he focuses on jewels, using well-framed shots to showcase the gems in their best light. He spotlights all kinds of designers—not just those sold in the jewelry store he manages, Richard’s Custom Jewelers in Fort Worth, Texas—and he has a great eye for talent. I’ve stumbled on quite a few awesome designers thanks to his feed, including the mesmerizing wood-and-mineral bangles by @freestonepeach and the Deco-tribal gold-and-silver designs of L.A.-based @kaurajewels, a Rising Star at this year’s JCK Las Vegas.
But Guttery is no jewelry robot. He also drops in the occasional photo of himself and his loved ones, which I like—it’s great to put a face to a feed.
I reached out to Guttery last week to ask him a few questions about his use of Instagram and what lessons he can impart to other jewelers. I learned that he served in the Army as a combat medic before getting a medical discharge in 2007 and that his fascination with gems and jewels stems from his mom, whom he described as a rock hound. He’s 28 years old and he worked at Kay’s Jewelers and Jared The Galleria of Jewelry in Fort Worth before joining the staff at Richard’s nearly two years ago. I was surprised to hear that Guttery started using Instagram only last November; already, he’s up to 1,853 followers.
“I was just telling somebody that I’ve never felt more connected to the jewelry industry than I am now,” he says.
Here are some of Guttery’s key takeaways about Instagram:
1. Be generous.
“If you look back on my page, sometimes I’d feature several designers for almost a whole week, like Kaura Jewels,” Guttery says. “I’d post one of her pics and then one of my own. It’s great to give people that little push. I think Freestone Peach got over 700 followers after I featured him. He had 400 when I started.”
@Thirdcoastgems turned me on to the killer bangles by @freestonepeach.
2. Do your research.
“Sometimes I use a reposting app,” he says, citing PhotoRepost as “the best and most used. I personally use it because it looks cleaner and I ALWAYS give photo/designer credit with repost…. Lots of photos are direct messaged to me from designers. Sometimes I’ll tag the stores where the designer is sold. I try to do more research than your average user.”
3. Strike a good balance between sharing work-related images vs. personal ones.
“In the past month, about 20 to 30 percent [of my feed] are photos I’m taking myself. Usually those are on a rock or mineral specimen. Richard has cool slabs of turquoise and chalcedony [that I use as a background].”
A recent @thirdcoastgems shot of a custom aquamarine pendant by Richard’s Custom Jewelers
4. Gain followers organically.
“Over the past month, I’ve gone up at least 300 followers. Some people have a lot of followers, but they’re also following the same amount of people. Or they have 13,000 followers, but their likes are very low. That’s how I’m measuring my success: Am I getting the same amount of likes as others with 15,000 followers? I’m not doing it for a popularity contest. I’m doing it to get the word out about designers.”
5. Recognize Instagram’s power as a sales tool.
“I’ve sold three really nice estate pieces off my personal Instagram,” Guttery says. “And only one customer was a friend. Several customers follow me. We have so much jewelry so if you spotlight something, they tend to want to see it in person.”
6. Make content the hero.
“The best thing I can say is to come up with good content,” he says. “Take your time, make sure the photos are clear.”
7. Embrace hashtags.
“Hashtags are amazing because they link everyone,” Guttery says. “Sometimes I’ll post in several different languages: French, Portuguese, and you get people from all over the world. That’s how [@freestonepeach] found me… Come up with your own catchy hashtags. I started #stacksarethenewblack. And all these people are using it now, even Todd Reed. But you don’t want to overload it.”
@Thirdcoastgems is a fan of the Netflix show Orange Is the New Black, which inspired his catchy hashtag #stacksarethenewblack. It’s since caught on among jewelers.
Last week, I also had the pleasure of meeting another active Instagrammer, @paneraicentral. His name is Khalil, and we met at a Panerai event in Beverly Hills, Calif. Apparently, he’s a Panerai lover and started snapping pics of the Swiss brand as a hobby. As a professional online business consultant, he used his expertise to grow his base of followers organically, which means he favors hashtags and great content over artificial means like paying for bulk lists of followers. He now has a staggering 51,000 followers—a number persuasive enough to have earned attention from the brand, which invited him to its event.
When I asked Khalil for his No. 1 piece of advice for jewelers looking to do well on Instagram, he echoed Guttery: “Content is king,” he said.
After looking through his feed, I realize what he means by that. His photos and reposts of other people’s photos show plenty of watches, but they’re not straight-up watch shots, which can get mighty boring, especially if you’re not that into the brand or watches. He juxtaposes his images against interesting backgrounds that play against the watch and give viewers a taste of the personality behind the pic. It helps that he has an active base of fans, like the Paneristi, the name for the worldwide base of enthusiasts obsessed with Panerai.
A typically stylish (reposted) pic by @paneraicentral
I got a taste of their social-media sway after @paneraicentral followed me and liked one of the pics I snapped at the Panerai event. It’s now my most-liked Instagram shot to date.
I snapped this photo of a Panerai display at last week’s Panerai event in Beverly Hills, and after @paneraicentral liked it, his swarm of followers flooded my feed.