The Facebook Phenomenon

A few years ago this page discussed “digital creep,” referring to those of us over a certain age who didn’t grow up with mouse in hand but have gradually grown more dependent on technology till we can’t conceive of life without Internet, iPod, and BlackBerry. Heck, even President Obama’s first major battle was over his BlackBerry. The man who harnessed the power of the Internet to get elected wasn’t about to give up his gizmo without a fight.

The next phase of this technological dependence is online social networking. In our industry, the site of choice is Facebook (where you can visit the JCK Publishing Group page and become a fan). I’ve gone from “no way am I getting on one of those sites” to semi-addicted, especially now that I’ve discovered Facebook can be useful for curing writer’s block. First step, kill some time checking out your friends’ news feeds. Next step, post your own news feed expressing frustration that your editorial is due tomorrow but you have no idea what to write about, so does anyone have any ideas?

Yes, people have ideas! I joked to my friends who answered that maybe I should just cut and paste their comments and, voila, there would be my editorial.

Then I thought, hey, that’s not a bad idea. Especially since the suggestions followed a similar theme, which is how to cope with challenging times in a positive way. So here, courtesy of some of my Facebook pals, are ideas for surviving tough times and emerging stronger than ever:

JCK senior editor Jennifer Heebner: “[Write about] the resourcefulness of industry. Bad economy, no money? No problem! Sell high-end costume jewels, vermeil, charms, new silver lines, or how about non-jewelry but jewelry-themed merchandise, such as gemstone/diamond notecards, T-shirts, key rings. Put these online to sell as well as a tasteful store display. Have them custom made by a promotional products company. Put pics of your store’s custom designs on the items, or show loose goods and add a funny tag line like ‘I’m on a carat diet’ under a picture of a big diamond.”

Retailer Gary Gordon, of Samuel Gordon Jewelers, Oklahoma City, Okla., echoed Jennifer’s sentiment that even if you’re a high-end store, it’s important to have merchandise in the price range that customers will accept right now. His idea: “How about writing about the ‘life-saving’ effects of concentrating on selling engagement rings. A different slant on this subject could be that jewelers should refocus on smaller center diamonds, or even ‘cluster illusions’ (the old seven-stone cluster) to create lower price points than ever before. My grandfather, Samuel, used to say that he survived the Great Depression by selling engagement rings (and watches)!”

Author (and former JCK West Coast editor) Suzy Spencer: “I remember when I was with JCK and the economy was terrible. The jewelers who survived were the ones who ramped up their marketing. The ones who went out of business were the ones who pulled back. So market, market, market, promote, promote, promote, advertise, e-mail, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blog, whatever it takes to get your name before the public and let them know you’re here for them in good times and bad.”

Jacques Vorhees, the founder of Polygon and now the CEO of VeriChannel: “Write about how this time the industry finally is realizing that business models must evolve. There was fear in Tucson, but in far greater quantity there was fierce determination and even an eagerness to embrace coming challenges. Waiting for my plane at the airport, I ran into an AGS jeweler from the Midwest who said, ‘Just talked to my wife back home. She just sold a two-carater. Things are already getting better.’ Most people I met in Tucson said, ‘It’s not as bad as I expected. We’ll get through this.’ My sense is that few are heading for the unemployment line. They’re finding new ways to add value, new ways to attract customers, and new ways to compete. Not to overstate, but maybe it’s like Americans after Pearl Harbor: Shaken, yes. But they’ve just begun to fight.”

Michael Schechter, Honora: “Glad to see I am not the only one left who believes in this industry of ours. I agree with Jacques that people are acknowledging that things need to change. Hopefully, we can work as an industry to find that new direction. Whatever you write, hopefully, it will keep conversations like this alive!”

Ronni Klein, of Displays and More, Albertson, N.Y., said she’s seen big turnouts at WJA Metro Chapter networking events, which suggests that people are not crawling into a hole but taking action to improve their businesses and careers. It also shows that face-to-face relationships are still the bedrock upon which this industry was built and thrives.

As for social media, I do love keeping up with my friends, and I’m all for anything that gets my editorial written!

To add your own comments, visit JCK‘s Facebook page or “Talkback” on www.jckonline.com, or e-mail me at hschupak@reedbusiness.com.