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Business Insights from Andrea Hill

The future of branding and marketing is content development & sharing. Here's a shout-out to some writers in the jewelry industry leading the way.

Content is the New Branding and #WomenWithPens

01 June 2015

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For the first time in 20 years I had to miss the jewelry shows in Vegas. It gave me an interesting opportunity to observe the shows entirely through social media. At one point, in support of my (almost entirely female) writing brethren covering the shows, I started the hashtag #WomenWithPens. Shortly thereafter, Lorraine DePasque offered the insight that she wished the coverage had more depth than #WomenWithRingsOnTheirFingers, a thought that had already been very much on my mind.

You see, in my attempt to ‘experience’ the shows through social media, I was very disappointed. Oh, I love all the pictures of people and jewelry – and it’s great to see the smiling faces of so many people I care about. But I wanted content. I wanted analysis and insight. And that, I’m afraid, was in short order.

Why does this matter? Because the future of marketing is about content (here's an infographic that includes information on how Content fuels sales). In both B2B and B2C marketing, content is now a requirement, a minimum standard necessary to compete. If we’re not practicing the job of developing content with each other, if industry leaders and writers aren’t modeling this behavior for the brands, designers, and retailers, then we risk becoming irrelevant on the new marketing stage.

What is content? Content is information of interest to consumers – information that educates, entertains, challenges, creates respect and trust, and inspires – information that leads to the desire to engage with the brand. Yes, images are part of that, but alone they are insufficient. The mainstream jewelry industry is consistently out-Instagrammed and out-Twittered by consumers and hobbyists showing jewelry pictures.

I’d like to take a moment to recognize a few of the industry’s top next-wave content-developers and publishers. I am intentionally leaving out the style editors for this article. Don’t get me wrong – journalists Jennifer Heebner, Lorraine DePasque, and Tanya Dukes, PR Mavens Amanda Gizzi, Michelle Orman, Andrea Hansen, and Helena Krodel Wegweiser, and bloggers GemGossip, Katerina Perez, The Jewellery Editor (and quite a few others – these are my go-tos) all have a very important role in the promotion and understanding of jewelry – and their coverage is fantastic.  But I want to talk about the other writers for a moment.

Let’s start with Peggy Jo Donahue. Nobody does more to convey the thoughts and lessons of the jewelry industry via social media than Peggy. She captures the most valuable sound-bites from educational sessions and pushes them out to the rest of us – in fact, she was the only social media publisher doing so at the shows this year. Like the dyed-in-the-wool journalist that she is, Peggy Jo is always on the hunt for something new, something insightful, something of depth to share with the rest of the industry. She is a true industry treasure, and this year, my most dependable eyes on the show I had to miss. She is the reason I started the #WomenWithPens hashtag. Let me make this point one more time: Nobody else provided any significant body of non-stylist jewelry industry content from the shows this year. For the thousands of retailers and brands who did not attend the show, they saw lots and lots of style information, but very little information of business value.

Beyond the show, there are a few journalists and essayists who regularly publish content on social media that meets the definition of interesting, educational, inspirational, challenging, engaging. (Why do I differentiate between journalists and essayists? Both are equally important – but different in significant ways. Journalists sometimes write essays, but essayists rarely employ the disciplines of journalism. Click the links above if you’re curious about the difference.)

Sometimes people forget that Cindy Edelstein is not just the industry’s biggest mensch, but also a trained journalist. Though her day job involves much more than writing, Cindy uses social media platforms all day every day to develop, curate and share industry knowledge to her customer base. Very few days go by without something educational, thought-provoking, or industry-promoting from Cindy. She does this for two reasons: A) to model to the industry what we should all be doing, and B) to ensure that her important content makes it to every potential audience member.

Two relatively new writers, Monica Stephens (iDazzle) and Barbara Palumbo (Adornmentality) are helping take industry content-writing to the next level. They use social media platforms with the ease of the Millennial, and they use their pens to advance causes and thought processes. Late last year Monica published an article that implored the industry to stop differentiating between precious and semiprecious gemstones. It was important work, because it pointed out that the difference is just so much industry navel gazing, not relevant to the next generation of jewelry buyers. She made us think.

When JCK Magazine’s annual Top 50 Industry Powerbase article appeared this year with only 13 women in it, Barbara Palumbo made it a personal mission to correct the imbalance. Her #FiftyWomenOfJewelry series has been recognizing women who have made and continue to make serious contributions to the jewelry industry. As Cindy Edelstein said just last week (before she was ever included, by the way), "Barbara's choices for the series have been well-researched and right on all the way."

Two men, Rob Bates and Matthew Perosi, also regularly develop meaningful industry content and use social media effectively to expand their reach. They get to be honorary #WomenWithPens – but there is nothing ‘honorary’ about including them in this list of writers who are at the forefront of new publishing in the jewelry industry.

And here my list ends.**  No, seriously. It ends here. The industry has many terrific writers (please, acknowledge your favorites in the comments! The writers of industry are the thought leaders, and we need to celebrate them every chance we get), and several excellent magazines.

But as an industry, we aren’t maximizing our use of social media – yet – to get our stories across. For the magazines, having a strong website filled with constantly updated content is a minimum standard necessary to compete. I’m talking about going beyond that standard, for editorial and brand entities alike to proactively engage with readers in all the places they congregate - and with more than just pictures of jewelry.

I am regularly asked – by brands, jewelry designers, and retailers – how they can justify and maximize their use of social media to get business value from it. I tell them all the same thing. Find your story, your perspective, your specific angle on the jewelry business and create content about it. Tell stories, write blogs, publish images with interesting and thought-provoking commentary, engage in social media conversations where you can bring your unique perspective to the audience, and pass along content developed by others that is consistent with and expands upon your viewpoint.

Follow the people mentioned in this article. You will learn a tremendous amount about how to use social media to engage your own audience, and you will experience a constant supply of quality information that is suitable for passing on. And that’s how it’s done.