By Brecken Branstrator
New York--Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites can provide unique ways for jewelers to interact with their customers and potential clients as well as help build a store’s brand.

But opening the business up to social engagement also opens it up to safety risks if not done carefully, from people who might be “following” for the wrong reasons to divulging sensitive information to the wrong crowd.

Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co. and Jewelers UnBlocked shared with National Jeweler their top tips for helping retailers stay safe as they tackle the social media world.

1. Monitor followers. It’s not uncommon for criminals to hide among followers, taking a specific interest in the store and even the owner’s or employees’ personal activities. If someone has a bad feeling about a follower or “friend” on a social network, they should trust their instincts. Most social networks give the option of blocking individuals from accessing the store’s profile or page so consider that if need be, and be selective about who is accepted as a friend on any social networking site.

2. Avoid oversharing. Be thoughtful of what information is shared, especially when it comes to product and if there is a new shipment arriving. Don’t let people know exactly when an employee is out of town--especially if that means one person is at the store by themselves--and keep employee travel schedules private. Consider not posting photos until everyone has returned from a trade show or vacation.

3. Pictures say a thousand words. Be sure that posted photos don’t show too much, such as the location of the high-end watches or the store’s safe in the background. Also, panoramic images that provide a 360-degree view of the store can help criminals case the store with just the click of a mouse.

4. Keep one’s private life private. For jewelers and their employees, it is recommended they set their personal social media profiles to private. When it comes to personal information shared or posted about the store’s owner, its employees and their families on the company accounts, use good judgement. Assume every caption and photo posted is permanent. 

5. Require approval. On the store’s Facebook account, require that all photos of the store or anyone from it be approved before tagging and making them public.

6. Take conversations offline. Detailed conversations with customers on the sections of social media sites that are visible to all can put both the store and the customer at risk.

7. Keep private events private. If there is a private event coming up, avoid drawing attention to it on public pages beforehand and contact just the people who need to know about the event. Anyone could target the store or its customers as they leave with a new piece.

8. Engagement ring selfies may be risky. Public posts and photos with identifying landmarks and a valuable new ring can put customers at risk. If the store posts about newly engaged couples, avoid sharing last names and cities.

9. Re-think passwords. Be sure to use random combinations that do not include any personally identifiable information.

10. Utilize the experts. IT security experts are available and cost effective. Use them for employee safety and to protect the business.

11. No scanning allowed. Do not allow social networking services to scan email address books; it can grant access to contacts’ personal information.

12. Protect your assets. Work with an expert to ensure the business has the proper insurance coverage and to get ahead of any limitations that might arise in basic cyber insurance coverage.

13. Stay discerning. Cyber criminals often hack into computers by reeling users in with a link in a tweet, post on Facebook, or in an email. If the link looks suspicious, even though the source may be known, it’s best to ignore the post or either delete the email altogether or mark as junk mail, if appropriate. 

14. Establish a social policy for staff. Share these tips with anyone who posts on behalf of the store, whether they post for the business or their personal accounts.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.