By Brecken Branstrator
New York—Despite ever-evolving algorithms and slowing organic engagements, it’s clear brands and companies still turn to social media for marketing.

Social channels are, after all, key for product research and finding consumers early on in their path to purchase.

But knowing what they’re looking for and what they best respond to plays a huge part in how a brand structures its messaging and posts across channels.

Research firm Gartner took insights gleaned from its Digital IQ Index—its annual report ranking the online effectiveness of the world’s most well-known brands—and put them together in the “Watches & Jewelry Global: Optimizing Social Media Content” report, outlining how digitally savvy brands maximize engagement.

Here are six findings and takeaways from which jewelry retailers and brands can learn.

Finding: Watch brands garner higher interactions from posts featuring flat-lay product images.

Product flat-lays and on-model shots comprised 95 percent of the posts Gartner analyzed, making them the two prevalent content types on jewelry and watch accounts alike.

But for watches, engagement is higher when it comes to static product images, Gartner said, noting that consumers tend to be most receptive to product details on timepieces, with tight, close-up shots of watch faces seeing 15 percent higher engagement than other flat-lays.

It’s also worth noting posts about watch production, including design, brought the largest dip in engagement, decreasing it by 23 percent compared product shots.

Takeaway: Watch brands should prioritize close-up and full-display flat-lay shots over shots of product on models to see incremental increases in engagement, Gartner said. Production content should be saved for short video posts or Instagram and Facebook Stories.

Finding: When it comes to ring posts in general, customers engage most with product images displayed as tight close-ups on a model’s hand, as opposed to product flat-lays.

Across other jewelry categories, though, flat-lay product shots outperformed other image types.

Interestingly, bracelets drive the second-highest engagement overall, Gartner said. For bracelets, a flat product shot achieved a 12 percent engagement lift relative to close-ups on a model.

Takeaway: Focus on close-up model shots with rings, but don’t forget that bracelets provide brands with a “white-space opportunity” to differentiate themselves on Instagram as ring shot competition increases.

Finding: Gartner said bridal jewelry is one of the few categories that shows similar levels of success across different image types—on-model close-up shots and product flat-lay shots receive similar engagement rates.

The examples the firm used were David Yurman and Hearts On Fire; the two use different strategies on their social channels, but both brands lead engagement in bridal.

David Yurman adds another dimension to its posts by giving detailed ring product descriptions in the caption.

Takeaway: Bridal shoppers, especially when it comes to rings, appreciate detailed product information, and respond to both on-model close-up shots and flat-lay product shots. Consider supplementing product-focused imagery with a product’s details in captions to stand out in the crowd.

Finding: Watch and jewelry brands trail their luxury fashion counterparts in followers and interactions on Instagram, Gartner found.

Using ambassadors and sponsored events can provide opportunities to increase reach and engagement.

Legacy brands, for example, often focus on sponsorships with high-profile users, while those considered digital leaders find ways to translate events and sponsorships into “social media earnings.”

Chopard maximized its celebrity ambassador partnerships using hashtags during Cannes 2018, flooding its accounts with posts of stars on the red carpet, tagging their handles and using #Cannes2018 in post captions.

This resulted in the Chopard Instagram account gaining more than 54,000 followers during the two-week film festival.

Takeaway: Brands should be strategic with the timing of their posts to align with offline events, tag influencers and events in posts, and create content across their own handles and influencer handles to capitalize on partnerships.
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They also must understand that content that performs well on an influencer’s handle may not see the same engagement numbers on brand-owned handles, or vice versa.

Finding: Luxury consumers are increasingly demanding ethically sourced and manufactured products, with Google searches for “sustainable jewelry” quintupling over the last three years, Gartner said.

Many brands are now trying to make it a part of their DNA by launching sustainable lines and embedding it into the conversation on their social channels.

The number of Digital IQ Index brand Instagram posts about sustainability and ethical sourcing rose 620 percent throughout 2018, accounting for 3.6 percent of all analyzed jewelry posts in December 2018, compared with 0.5 percent in January 2018.

But Gartner said messaging about these efforts has mixed results as it takes time for them to resonate with consumers and become an authentic part of brand identities.

Takeaway: To see success in this area, Gartner said brands must be ready to play the long game—be consistent with messaging efforts across digital properties, including owned sites and social channels.

Finding: Forty-two percent of consumers use social media to conduct product research, making the channels second only to search engines.

Reddit and YouTube reign in this arena, according to Gartner, with users looking to these two platforms for crowd-sourced product recommendations and reviews.

Watch enthusiasts, for example, engage on Reddit more than any other social platform, using the website to find buying guides and consult with other watch buyers.

Mentions of Rolex on the Reddit /r/watches thread center on comparing product types and discussing product details and price.

Rolex carries this type of information over to Instagram by including product model, watch dial and bracelet details in post captions.

Jewelry consumers, meanwhile, are more likely to turn to YouTube for research at the top of the purchasing funnel, Gartner found, especially in bridal.

Many of the search terms on the video site related to engagement rings in 2018 were education based, such as “how to buy an engagement ring.”

James Allen is an example of a brand that has acted to meet consumer needs—not only does it promote educational content through Google search and display advertising but also works with YouTube influencers for sponsored content related to bridal education to capture shoppers early in their journey.

Takeaway: Brands should monitor these two channels closely to better understand what types of content consumers are seeking out and craft their strategy accordingly.

Additionally, brands should think about what a partnership with an influencer or celebrity can offer, not only to boost content visibility but also to guide consumers further down their path to purchase.

After all, consumers conducting product research on social media prefer posts from other consumers over brand-created content, finding them more authentic and trustworthy.

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