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Samuel Gordon Jewelers: A Small Business That Gets Social Media

Daniel Gordon loves to chat.

As President of Oklahoma City-based Samuel Gordon Jewelers -- and the 4th generation of his family to run the 106-year-old company -- you might figure that being social comes with the territory, since he is the face of his company.

These days, though, you're as likely to find him chatting online as you are inside his store.

Marrying Gordon's early (since the mid-90s) fascination with all things Web to his natural gift of the gab made for a natural plunge into social media -- and resulted in big bucks for this high-end jewelry store.

The company's marketing spend now averages $50,000 annually, which still includes some traditional advertising. But that's down from a high of $500,000 in 2004 when pricey TV and magazine spots made up the bulk of the ad spend. Gordon says revenues have increased over the past six years by approximately 30 percent. He won't reveal specific figures, but for the past few years the company has appeared on the National Jewelers' "Eight-Figure Independents" list of US jewelers who bring in $10 million or more in annual sales. Gordon credits the increase in no small part to building community through social media.

"We've also seen foot traffic to the store increase 20 to 40 percent over the last two years," he says, citing a per day foot traffic high of 280 during the 2009 holiday season as compared to a high of 200 for the 2008 holiday season. "This is about the time that I started getting really into social media."

How it began:
A devotee of crowd sourcing to generate excitement, Gordon's first foray into engaging customers via the Web was when he spearheaded A Wedding to Remember in 2004 as part of SGJ's 100th anniversary celebrations.

He created a contest, modeled after the Today show's popular wedding contest, and persuaded local high-end businesses to donate services to one lucky couple about to get hitched. From voting for the winning couple, to selecting the bride's gown, groom's tuxedo, and even where the honeymoon would be, the entire contest focused on drawing Oklahomans to, and engaging them on, the company's contest Website, to score a dream wedding valued at approximately $25,000.

It was a hit: Over the course of the nine-month promotion, traffic to the company's website averaged 7,500 visitors per month -- up from 2,500 monthly hits. Though the company did spend some money on advertising, Gordon says the visibility and word-of-mouth promotion the contest generated was invaluable.

Keeping the community going:
The contest was just the beginning. Now SGJ has a multi-pronged approach to engaging with customers online. Here are four things that have made the company's social media strategy a success:

  • A highly interactive website and company blog: The home page puts the products right in front of you, and integrates Facebook commenting capabilities, as do several other pages on the website. Customer engagement is front and center. The company demonstrates its commitment to two-way conversation though the blog, the liberal use of video, slidecasts, visuals, and a conversational tone when sharing new products, promotions, and news to current and potential customers.
  • Willingness to experiment on different channels: SGJ is on Facebook and Twitter, it runs specials on Foursquare, and the company recently launched an iPhone and Android app. With Foursquare, it's not enough for customers to "check in" to get the special; they must become the mayor and ask for Gordon himself to receive a "special jewelry surprise," ($75-$250 value). At one go, SGJ achieves both a new customer as well as one with whom a personal connection has been created, increasing the likelihood of them converting to higher-value and long-term customers.
  • Smart lead generation: SGJ increases its reach through mobile marketing -- and, ultimately, lead generation. In the month since its launch, the iPhone app averages about 100 downloads a week. The goal of the app is to encourage users to share, like, and comment on SGJ content, all activities that will be broadcast to their friends. When they do, they win virtual points, which Gordon sees as an unique way to reach jewelry enthusiasts active in social media. "The people downloading your app are the people you're looking for," says Gordon. "Instead of spending hours and hours on lead generation, your leads just found and 'picked' you."
  • The CEO gets involved: Gordon not only maintains the company's Facebook and Twitter accounts, he also blogs and tweets on his own. This puts a human face on business, as Holley Mangham, who works for the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, would agree. Before connecting with Gordon on Twitter and Facebook, it never occurred to her to actually visit the store, which she'd seen many times before. Because of his interaction with her, she now recommends his store to her circle of friends. Mangham has yet to purchase anything but she did win an emerald necklace. "I know when the time comes [to shop for jewelry] that will be my first stop" she says.
Images © Daniel Gordon, used with permission
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