Social networking is supposed to be, well, social, but many retail jewelers spend a lot of time posting to Facebook and Twitter without ever trying to start a real conversation. Many of the posts I see are photos of jewelry and current store specials with a question at the end that's supposed to help start a conversation.
Common questions I've seen include:
"What do you think of this?"
"Would you wear this?"
"Which of these do you like?"
With this type of post you are hoping that your fans will see the post, read it, and respond to it. This is the typical posting method, and it does work, but it relies on a trifecta of getting people to see/read/respond to what you post. Getting that to work can be as difficult as getting the stars to align, especially on Facebook.
Twitter is a fast social network with a lot of churning information. Any tweet you send out easily fades into cyberspace within an hour after your send it. Unlike Facebook and Google+,you can tweet the same exact message 3 times, 8 hours apart to attempt to reach your readers.
Don't post the same message on Google+ that you posted on Facebook. Elaborate on your message to better fit the audience on that network. So far Google doesn't seem to be controlling which messages you see and which you don't. They seem to be allowing you to throttle control how many messages you see in your Stream and from whom you see them. This is completely different than Facebook's EdgeRank approach which shows you messages from people you have closer ties to.
As I said, it's a trifecta that you need to time perfectly in order to get your message in front of the right people, at the right time of day, and get them to respond. That trifecta works differently on every social network.
However, there is one method of social engagement that will work on every social network if you have the time to make it happen... You could go looking for existing conversations and participate in them as a subject matter expert.
Let's say you are an expert in jewelry. You could search for the ring hashtag ( that's #ring ) on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter and look through what people are currently saying. You could then comment on any of the social posts you find.
I searched for #ring on Facebook and found this example:
Look at the second comment on that photo; it says "Tell us about the stones and such, and who made it!" That's one possible question you could post yourself, or you could make some guesses and ask "Are those garnets or rubies on the side? And what is the center stone?"
My personal point of view is to always try to ask a question so someone could answer in a higher, or more positive perspective, rather than a lower, or negative prospective. For example, if you had the chance to comment on the photo above you should NOT ask "How many carats is that diamond? Are those rubies?"
I read through the rest of the comments on that post and found out that the center stone is a white sapphire and the side stones are garnets. If you had asked the diamonds/rubies question I suggested above, you would make the person feel socially inferior by forcing them to answer something like "no, that's only a sapphire in the center and garnets on the outside."
You will have to be judicial in which posts you attempt to participate in. Ideally you would want to engage people who could become real customers. It's also important to realize that your comments and questions will be seen by other people who also comment on that post, and one of them could turn into a customer.
Local brick and mortar retailers may want to limit their engagement to people who are within driving distance of the store, while e-commerce website owners can engage anyone anywhere they are willing to ship. Strictly local conversations will be more difficult to find, but they are out there.
The idea here is that people who post to social networks are expecting some kind of response from others. If appropriate, you can provide those responses. Your responses should never be intrusive or arrogant and should always be helpful in some way.
You should give this a try for yourself, search for #ring, #engagementring, #jewelry, or any other single word that might make sense for the type of service you offer. To ease yourself into this type of social engagement, you can start by searching for posts from fans of yours.
One final important point about this process: only engage in recent conversations, perhaps no more than a few days old. Anything older than that will make it seem like you are intentionally trolling for conversations, which is true, but you don't want them to know that. You want to be perceived as someone who was paying attention to current happenings in your fan's lives.
Get started today and your fans will appreciate the value you add to their conversations.