Social Media: The Dark Side

Last week’s post about social media drew some great comments, with most promoting the good side of social networking for jewelers. To give a fully rounded picture, I wanted to address some of the pitfalls as well:

– The first is something that is not always talked about, but regrettably remains a big concern for people in this business: security.

In a 2011 article, Jewelers Security Alliance president John Kennedy warned jewelers away from location-based services like Foursquare, arguing that even if they aren’t carrying goods, advertising their location could increase their vulnerability to crimes like home invasions. He also cautions…

…jewelry retailers should never reveal their home address on any social network (these typically aren’t requested), show pictures of their home, or announce that they are on vacation or about to leave for one.

On top of that, he thinks store owners shouldn’t publicly post images of their children or any family members who aren’t in the business. This may strike some as overkill, since family photos are mainstays of these sites, and privacy settings can limit who sees certain pictures. But Kennedy feels no system is foolproof, and snapshots are best distributed by email. “Maybe it’s an excess of caution, but I just don’t like putting photos on there,” he says.

Now, I’ve certainly seen jewelers post family pictures. In the end, it’s a matter of what you are comfortable with. 

– Secondly, if you are looking at Facebook as a way to increase business, don’t include communications that could potentially alienate customers. Politics and religion are obvious topics to shy away from—but one can also imagine customers objecting to certain jokes, photos, what have you. As Peggy Jo Donahue noted in a comment on last week’s post:

My rule of thumb is to keep my page a Big Tent, including all, but to consider how the following readers might react before posting anything:  

* my mother

* my boss

* my kids

* my industry friends AND business acquaintances

* my friends outside industry

For an example of how things on Facebook can seep out into the public sphere, take a look at this story, about a jeweler’s post that inadvertently broke word of Justin Timberlake’s engagement.

Now, if you really want to keep things private, you can do it. When I started on Facebook, I posted pretty freely, and put up several comments meant to be funny. (At least I thought so.) I soon found, to my amazement, not everyone in the industry and among my relatives shared my sense of humor. So now I have two lists. One, for social acquaintances; the other, for industry people. This also spares personal friends from having to read three or four jewelry posts a week.

Setting up these lists takes a little time on Facebook; it’s much easier on Google Plus, but regrettably that site doesn’t draw much of an audience.  But I recommend it as a way to avoid worlds colliding. 

– Third, while social media can empower your customers, that isn’t always a good thing.  We saw this in the jewelry biz when one of the most respected retailers in our industry faced a brushfire on its Facebook page over an ad that some thought made light of suicide. A first attempt at saying sorry struck complainers as half-hearted; the store then delivered an unequivocal apology and the issue died. One customer even wrote in response: “It’s rare to have a business that truly cares and takes the time to explain the situation. I’ve been a customer for 20 years and your honesty only strengthens my support.”

In this month’s JCK, Michael Schechter writes that, while you may not be able to stop these issues bubbling up, it’s how you handle them that counts

If you or any member of your staff is accurately called out for doing something wrong, respond as quickly as possible and apologize. Offer to make it right and do what you can to take the conversation with your customer offline. Learn from the experience and ensure that you do not make the same mistake twice. Be careful not to censor what your customers say online in these cases. With profanity being the obvious exception, deleting unfavorable posts on your Facebook page can do more to stoke the fire than extinguish it.

Along those lines, many retailers have issues with Yelp, the review service that arguably fits under the umbrella of social media. Unlike Facebook, Yelp compiles its listings from the phone book, so chances are your customers can sound off on your store whether you have signed up or not. Now, Yelp can be a blessing, as one commenter wrote last week:

I strongly believe [Yelp] is the most important tool to grow an independent jewelry business. Get great reviews and they will come … I worked for a few months with one independent as their webmaster, and Yelp was and still is their number 1 source of business. 5-star reviews are, dare I say, like gold.

Maybe it’s human nature, but jewelers I’ve talked to seem to fixate more on any negative reviews they receive than the positive ones. Again, it’s how you respond that makes a difference:

…  RatePoint’s Neal Creighton has found that in 90 percent of the instances “the [angry reviews] can be resolved. A vast majority of consumers are rational human beings,” he says. “Some of your best advocates are people who had a negative experience and then it was resolved. They sometimes feel stronger about the business because they know that if there is a problem it will be addressed.”

There are further tips on dealing with Yelp at the end of this article.

Of course, most of the suggestions here are just common sense and good customer service. But they are issues jewelers need to consider. Clearly, we are entering a new, far more public world, and the rules are still being written.

Any thoughts? Pitfalls I’ve missed?

JCK News Director