Although I'd like nothing more than for every jeweler to manage their own social media accounts, the truth is that many business owners don't, or can't do it. I'm told many reasons why they can't, like not having enough time, or not knowing where to start, or how to do it, or even which social network they should be using.
And which social network should you be using? At the top of the list you have Facebook then Twitter. The 3rd on my list for the retail jeweler is Pinterest because of the fantastic tie-in to the wedding industry.
Then in 4th place, in my opinion, there's a tie between the importance of Instagram and Google+. It really depends on what your goals are. Instagram will be good if you are directly engaging your audience and building desire for future purchases. On the other hand, Google+ has a lot of organic power and SEO clout that will help future customers (those who don't know who you are today) find you.
Of course, you have YouTube as a social network, but also as a search tool. YouTube is a unique animal because some people uses it as their home entertainment instead of other paid TV services; some people use it to access free educational content, some use it to find movie clips to support their real world conversations with others. Of course, you also find YouTube used when you need background music and/or music videos. Let's not forget the SEO value in YouTube; YouTube might be the most diverse social network there is.
Throw in LinkedIn, Tumblr, Flickr, and dozens of other social networks and what you have is a recipe to make your head spin!
So what is a small business owner to do with all these social networks? Realistically, there's no way that one person can keep up with all the nuances of each network, and the best way to use them. I often find myself perplexed by them, especially Facebook, YouTube, and Google+ because they evolve almost daily. A retail jeweler could assign the task of social media management to one employee, but that employee will probably concentrate on the network they know and enjoy using.
Is it okay to concentrate on a single network? According to all the data I collect the answer to that question is, unequivocally, no. However, if you only have the time and resources for a single network, then concentrate on becoming a master within that one. If you have the resources, but not the time, then you should hire a social media agency to help you out.
I have a love/hate relationship with most social media management companies. The love is for the amount of time they can save you, and the higher level skills that those agencies have. The hate is for agencies that have created a formulaic approach to everything they do, and then apply that exact same formula to every customer. And I really hate it when the agency shares the exact same content across all their customers.
The typical expectations when hiring an agency are to build business through social media. But there's more to it than that, because social media doesn't drive people to your door like you might assume it does. Social media is like all other long term online marketing strategies, in that, it builds the long term awareness and relationship. Social doesn't usually sell.
Here's a list of some social media marketing agencies that provide similar services, listed in no particular order:
- Driven Local, http://drivenlocal.com/
- Reach Local, http://www.reachlocal.com/
- Digital Sherpa, http://www.digitalsherpa.com/
- Main Street Hub, http://www.mainstreethub.com/
- Sapphire Collaborative, http://www.sapphirecollaborative.com/
I chose that list based on my experience with those companies. The first 4 are companies that my own clients have used, and the last one, well, that's my company... so there's a plug for my own services.
Although the methods each of these companies use are all different, there is one aspect that they all have in common: Your input.
Each of these companies provides a quality service that uses a similar strategy for all their customers, but the content they produce is unique for each customer. All that unique content is labor intensive and it gets expensive every month.
You might think that hiring an expensive agency will remove all your social media worries and completely free you of all your time. You might even think that your only responsibility every month is to write a check to pay their bill, but you'd be completely wrong.
You see, the more expensive an agency is, the harder they usually want to work for you. The one caveat to that is if you are paying them for pay per click ads, in which case your monthly payments might go through the roof even though they are doing little or no work.
Excluding paid advertising campaigns, it still takes a long time to correctly develop and maintain a social media campaign on several networks, but you already know this since you are hiring them to save you time. But it's only a partial time saver, so don't hire these agencies while you're blindfolded.
They will do all the social posting and monitor your accounts. They will usually create the content that is shared socially, if they can, but most of the time they need your feedback, and a lot of it.
Let me look at Driven Local as an example of the money spent, but the time not saved. Driven Local is a large agency that will assign a team of people to manage your account. Someone gathers information for your content, someone scripts your videos, someone creates your content, and someone schedules the posts to go out on predetermined days over the course of a month.
That's a lot of people, but they all need one thing from you: Your continual feedback.
The team assigned to you won't know about the jewelry industry. If you throw E-FVS1RB at them, they will think they are looking at an eye chart. They won't know how fashion ties into your sales, and they won't understand how visual your customers are.
Large, non industry specific agencies usually work on one underlying method: Keyword phrases.
Driven Local, like the others, will start by sharing the content you've already created and published to your website. Then they will ask you for photos and product information that they can write blogs about or create videos about. They will ask for, and you should be approving their work.
You're going to suddenly feel like a school teacher that has to grade and correct homework! You will have to correct everything you don't like; after all, this is your business they are trying to promote. Do you want to portray the wrong information online?
Another very true point about all of these agencies is that you are still writing that monthly check. You pay them even if their work is completely stalled because you don't have time to provide the needed feedback. They don't care if you took a vacation, or went to a trade show, remodeled your store, or if someone in your family got sick. Their work will be at a complete stand still.
The bottom line here is that many jewelers don't realize the new demand they are putting on themselves when hiring a social media management company. These large companies want to do a good job for you, but they also need your help to do it.
Now, let me quickly touch on the services provided by industry specific agencies. There are several jewelry specific agencies, like my own, that have learned the jewelry industry inside and out. I hope they all understand what the jumbled letters E-FVS1RB refer to, and yeah, I left out a few spaces between those letters to keep everyone reading this on their toes.
In my agency, we do try to create content and share it without any involvement from the jeweler. We ask for input from jewelers who have the time to be involved, but most of the time we follow industry trends and build content specifically matched to the product lines carried in each store. That content can vary for everyone from simple blogs, to photos, emails, and videos. It's really no different than what Driven Local and the others do, and it all gets expensive.
On the other hand, there are several jewelry industry agencies that will build social content and share it across dozens, if not hundreds of jewelry stores. They don't ask for your input and the entire process is on autopilot, making it extremely affordable. These are the services where you write the check every month and don't worry about a thing.
The only worry, or question you might have at the end of the year is if there was any longterm value in the type of social work that these companies were doing for you, or if it was just a temporary approach that needs to lead to something better.
You have to start somewhere and eventually grow. You can't just sit around and expect that you can ignore social networks for now. You can't. Customers expect a social presence, just like they expect an online catalog, and a mobile website. These are all components in the overall normal way a business operates in the internet world we live in.
You have to start somewhere, and if that means hiring a company that runs on autopilot, then so be it. But realize that they are only a stepping stone to the next level when you are ready to spend time and provide feedback.