Up until two years ago, my custom jewelry business had a modest social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and Reddit, with occasional posts of videos of me cutting gemstones at my workbench.
It was something my two sons and I would do when we found the time, but by no means was it a big focus. That changed when the pandemic hit.
With our store shuttered for months, we decided to forge ahead with a social media strategy we had long talked about but never implemented: a live online show and sales event. Suddenly, people were home with plenty of time on their hands—and they were looking to shop online.
Lights, camera, action
We streamed our first show on Facebook and YouTube in April 2020 using a couple of iPhones and a few PCs outfitted with video software. It wasn’t our best moment: The lighting and sound weren’t that good. But the show got 1,000 views and produced $5,000 in sales.
Over the rest of 2020, we streamed shows every two weeks and upgraded our equipment to include a digital single-lens reflex camera with a macro lens, two webcams and a couple of high-quality microphones. Total capital outlay? $2,300.
You wouldn’t think people would be buying luxury jewelry in a pandemic lockdown, but they were. Our online sales in 2020 jumped 200% over the previous year. The shows definitely helped keep our business afloat. With so many people at home and watching videos, Moriarty’s Gem Art was publicized in a way it never had been. Best yet, a lot of viewers have become repeat customers who’ve pushed our videos out to their friends.
Starting in 2021, we migrated to a monthly format. One recent show attracted 2,500 views and generated $30,000 in sales. Online revenue last year was up another 30% over 2020. It’s a nice trajectory.
“One recent show attracted 2,500 views and generated $30,000 in sales.”
Carving a new path
We knew nothing about doing live videos when we started. But what we discovered is people don’t need “fancy.” What they want is an interesting topic. So long as it’s interesting and offers something different, people are going to watch.
Here’s how our process works: During a show, I introduce the viewer to different gems, like opals or tanzanite, that I’m working on. My son Jeffrey, our marketing manager, moderates the video chatroom and my son Michael, one of our jewelers, handles the technical aspects, such as the filming.
We do a show on the first Wednesday morning of every month—and that’s absolutely by design. We researched when most people watch our YouTube videos and it’s Wednesdays at 11 a.m. And here’s some happy math: At the end of 2021, we had 75,000 followers on YouTube, up from 25,000 in 2020.
A week in advance of an event, we email our 2,500 engaged subscribers and promote the show on Facebook and Instagram. Depending on the topic, we’ll target certain demographics with Facebook ads, an investment of about $300 per month. As an example, when I did a show on sapphire that we mined in Montana, we targeted jewelry lovers, gem cutters and Montanans.
The shows last two to three hours. At any given time, according to the YouTube Studio database, 100 people are watching, staying online for 15 to 20 minutes. The videos are archived on our YouTube channel (free to set up, by the way) and are posted across our other social media platforms, where they are also getting traction. We now have 12,000 followers on Facebook, a four-fold increase since early 2020.
It takes my two sons and me roughly 10 hours in total to prepare for a show, not a whole lot of time when you consider the benefits.
The past couple of years have been among the most challenging I have faced in 40 years as a small business owner. But it’s also redefined what Moriarty’s Gem Art is going to look like going forward—and that’s all for the better.Print this article