This article originally ran in the June 2009 issue of JCK Magazine.
Even if you’re not on Facebook, chances are you know someone who is. You may even know someone who, in spite of themselves, got sucked in and is now an addict.
The site has become an Internet phenomenon, growing at an astronomical rate, with over 5 million people joining each week. And while it was originally meant for college students, its 175 million active users now include grandmothers, celebrities, and a growing number of jewelry companies—including big names like Zale and Tiffany. The “Facebook Jewelers’ Group” and JCK fan pages each have more than 250 members.
The number of independent jewelers on Facebook is small, and many that are active also use other forms of online communication, like blogs and Twitter, the other fast-growing social networking site. Yet there is a growing awareness among jewelers that Facebook can be a boon for business. If the best advertising is word of mouth, Facebook can be looked at as one big referral.
“You have the credibility that comes with having 1,000-plus friends,” says Daniel Gordon, of Samuel Gordon Jewelers in Oklahoma City. “When I friend-connect with someone, it sprawls out into this huge crowd and enhances the trust factor.”
This trust factor has allowed jewelers like Stacy Koffel, president of J. Loggins Jewelers in Sugarland, Texas, to gain new customers. “One man contacted me because he was a friend of one of the store’s fans,” says Koffel. “He had a ring he needed resized and said, ‘If you are a friend of Margie’s, you must be OK.’”
But using Facebook isn’t as simple as putting a fan page up and seeing if anyone stops by. It requires effort and diligence. Here are retailers’ top tips for getting the most out of Facebook:
* Use it to meet new people. Facebook is online social networking, but if done correctly, it’s not so different from offline social networking. Ron Samuelson, of Samuelson Jewelers in Baltimore, likens it “to being at a party but at a computer. It’s just like people have networking clubs. It’s the same kind of thing, just a new way to do it. It’s getting yourself out there.”
As with a real-life party, you don’t want to be a wallflower. Facebook lets you introduce yourself to new connections, become friends with them, and give them the cyber equivalent of your business card. Koffel is often strategic about who she wants to “friend.” (Editor’s note: In the world of Facebook, “to friend” is a verb.)
“When I become friends with somebody, I look at their list and see who I can ask to be a friend,” she says. “I’ll see if I recognize the name, or if it’s someone I’ve seen in local society pages. It could be people who I’ve met briefly or I’ve seen in social situations, or they could be at a company I know, like a PR firm I know or a store. I have local politicians as my friends, and I always look to see who they know.”
When she asks someone she doesn’t know to be her friend, she always writes them a note, to the effect of: “I’ve been in your store. It’s so great.” Or: “This is Stacy from J. Loggins Jewelers. Isn’t Facebook fun? We should be Facebook friends.”
Facebook can also connect you with people from your past—old friends from school or camp or people you’ve simply lost touch with. All are potential customers.
*Use your page to promote products or events. Jennifer Gandia, of Greenwich Jewelers in New York City, recently posted a magazine article that featured her rings. Shortly afterward, she recalls, “Somebody sent me a message and said: ‘I want those earrings. Can you send them to me?’”
She considers Facebook just as effective as traditional advertising. “People are on your page because they want to be,” she explains. “It allows you as a brand to put information out there that is accepted as communication from a friend.”
Gordon agrees: “The people who become a fan of me and my blog become crusaders for my store. As opposed to just an eyeball looking at a Doritos commercial.” Lee Krombholz, owner of Krombholz Jewelers in Cincinnati, uses his page to post new store videos and to promote the parties his store throws on the first Friday of the month. “It’s a way of enhancing your connection with people,” he says.
* Keep your tone light. Even though Facebook can promote jewelry, most people are on it for fun and don’t want to be drowning in sales pitches.
“It isn’t about pushing product,” says Samuelson. “We haven’t sent out e-mails that say, ‘Buy this bracelet.’ That’s not what it’s about. It’s more about being the authority on diamonds.”
For example, Gordon sometimes uses it to post interesting things he comes across on his travels. “I recently went to New York and talked to one of our biggest dealers,” he says. “I am in front of a tray of 75 rings, and I just snapped a photo with my phone and uploaded it onto my Facebook page. It’s something most people don’t get to see, and it totally wowed them. Women in this community were commenting left and right.”
Even when Gandia writes about what her store is doing, she keeps it conversational. (See box for examples.) “Facebook is all about communicating and connecting,” she says. “It’s more casual. That’s the beauty of Web 2.0. It’s meant to be a conversation.”
Facebook’s personal nature is one of the things that draw people to it. Samuelson feels it’s important for a page to have personality. “One customer who friend-requested me said, ‘That’s so cool. You are just a regular guy who plays guitar,” notes Samuelson. “And that is what sales is—you find something in common with somebody.”
* Let people know your page exists. As with an e-mail list, people won’t know your Facebook page is there if you don’t tell them. Sometimes customers who don’t want to be overwhelmed with e-mail are more receptive to adding you as a Facebook friend. And, since Facebook is so hot, it stamps you as a forward-thinking jeweler.
“A lot of jewelers fight the image that they’re old and stuffy,” says Robert S. Mullen, manager of Mullen Bros. Jewelers in Swansea, Mass., who has been on Facebook since college. “So this certainly can’t hurt with younger consumers.”
*Use Facebook to keep up with your industry contacts. “It lets you connect with people you usually only see once in a while at a trade show,” says Caroline Hill, co-owner of Van Scoy Jewelers in Wyomissing, Pa. “With some people, you may want to stay in touch but never get a chance to call. But with Facebook, you can log on just for a few minutes and see what people are up to. And if you want to send them a quick message, it’s somewhat easier than e-mail.”
* Devote time to it. Facebook has one advantage over traditional media: Fan pages are free and will likely stay that way. But it does cost one thing: time. Some jewelers say they spend an hour a day on Facebook—or more. “You have to be active to have any kind of presence on it,” says Krombholz. “You can’t just let it sit.” He spends about 20 minutes a day on it, but admits “you can spend your whole life on it if you want to.”
Koffel believes it’s worth it. “I’m trying to get over the guilty pleasure of it,” she adds. “’Cause it’s really fun.”
What To Be Careful About
Dan Gordon, of Samuel Gordon Jewelers, recently took his wife to Las Vegas for a weekend getaway. Normally that kind of trip would be perfect for a Facebook update. But because he’s a jeweler, he decided not to write anything about it.
“I didn’t want people to know I was out of town,” he says. “I generally never put my whereabouts on Facebook or on the Internet.”
That was the right thing to do, says John Kennedy, president of Jewelers’ Security Alliance. “You can use Facebook for promotional purposes, but you don’t want to give out too much information,” he warns.
Kennedy says jewelers should be careful about letting people know too much about their location, their family, or where they live. (Facebook does not ask for home addresses.) “I know that you have to promote yourself, but you have to draw the line at things that are too personal,” he says.
Likewise, shy away from controversy. Facebook has a space for political and religious views, but being too outspoken can turn people off. “I’ve seen people who just spout off about this and that,” Gordon says. “You need to keep it high-road. It’s very easy to post things, but you need to think about what you say.”
Though Samuelson argues that you can be too careful. “I have Grateful Dead YouTubes on my page,” he says. “Has that turned some customers off if they hate the Grateful Dead? Maybe. But not too many.”
Facebook Updates from Jewelers
* “It’s pretty cool that three items we carry are featured in this month’s Marie Claire! And can we talk about how gorgeous the cover girls are?! Sigh …”—Greenwich Jewelers
* “Interesting engagement ring stories always make me smile. I saw where a couple was getting engaged on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday, and the guy dropped the ring, which coincidentally landed on the lower level, so instead of walking to the end of the bridge and taking the stairs, the future groom decides to climb down the bridge tower to retrieve the ring!! As they say on TV, ‘Do Not Try This At Home.’”—Shenoa Diamonds
* “Planning on having fun at the Krombholz “First Friday” party! Click the link for the details!”—Krombholz Jewelers
Ron Samuelson, Samuelson’s Jewelers, Baltimore, M.D.
The staff of Krombholz Jewelers, Cincinnati, OH