Is It Time to Try TikTok?

Low engagement numbers and a distinct learning curve have made jewelers hesitant to embrace the popular app.

April 3, 2023  |  Jodie Marie Smith

TikTok has become a cultural behemoth that’s part of every conversation about reaching younger consumers. By 2021, the video-sharing app had surpassed 1 billion active monthly users. Nonetheless, giant brands like Tiffany & Co., Blue Nile and Kay Jewelers have seen poor engagement on this platform.

As of press time, the last 10 Tiffany videos that weren’t collaborations or celebrity endorsements had received an average of only 523 likes and eight comments; Blue Nile and Kay each averaged fewer than 50 likes for theirs. All of this was despite what were likely enormous expenses for the companies, such as the cost of dedicated social media teams and sponsored advertisements.

Results like these can be discouraging for jewelry brands, especially those used to higher engagement rates on other social media. While most agree that TikTok is an important marketing tool, they’re finding it entails some growing pains.

Measuring up to Instagram

Many of the brands now experimenting with TikTok already have an established presence on Instagram. Jeweler Marla Aaron has seen huge success on the latter app, boasting 123,000 followers and a highly engaged audience. With the help of her team — including social media interns who occasionally star in videos — the brand has started creating TikTok content, too. Aaron’s jewelry is well-suited to video, which lets the brand demonstrate its signature kinetic design elements, such as rolling diamond spheres.

Why did Aaron want to join TikTok? “I could see the groundswell and understood that we had to be there,” she says. While she was aware that she didn’t understand the platform, she also understood that her lack of expertise didn’t matter. “That’s how [things start] on every social outlet.”

She’s not the only one riding the wave. Bridal-focused media channel Engagement 101 has been “posting less on Instagram, because you can’t get as much organic engagement as you used to,” says editor in chief Severine Ferrari. “It pales in comparison to TikTok.”

Not everyone feels the same, however. Jewelry blogger Danielle Miele of Gem Gossip prefers Instagram, citing “one simple reason: community. I have a deeper connection with my audience on Instagram, and my posts there perform better.”

Indeed, the type of content that does well on Instagram doesn’t necessarily get much traction on TikTok. Diamond manufacturer Dayagi Diamonds’ TikTok account shared a screenshot to that effect, with the caption “When you get around 300,000 views on your Instagram Reels, but barely a hundred on TikTok. What the f***?”

That said, it’s not necessarily fair to compare the two platforms, since they use different algorithms for pushing content.

Down on diamonds

Besides the usual challenges of TikTok, posts that promote diamonds are often met with negative comments, as Ligal Dervish of equipment manufacturer Sarine Technologies can attest.

“As diamonds have become a highly controversial topic, what truly surprised us were the reactions our videos elicit,” relates Dervish, the company’s content and social media manager. “But rather than shy away from this, we embrace it. All engagement is good engagement in the eyes of the TikTok algorithm, and greater engagement means greater exposure.”

To that end, she says, “Sarine’s social media managers carefully monitor negative comments related to diamonds and respond with information that sheds light on the industry’s current alignment with sustainability issues.”

Top tactics

So what does work on TikTok? Miele offers a few tips: “Create content that is shareable — what is going to make another person, especially someone who knows nothing about jewelry, want to save or share your video. ‘How to’ videos are great, and educational videos perform well, too.”

Shares are the most highly valued data metric on social media like Instagram and TikTok; the algorithm values 100 shares much more highly than 100 likes or comments. And information-led content creates a strong value proposition that can draw in followers. Ferrari particularly appreciates “how salespeople at retail stores have embraced education through humor [on TikTok] with the help of their younger staff members. I wish more designers/manufacturers were doing this, too.”

As a whole, “TikTok’s culture rewards creativity and originality,” explains Dervish. “The most effective TikToks typically have a captivating hook that draws the viewer in from the outset.”

And it’s not always planned. “Sometimes the posts that you put the least effort into creating can be the most viral,” observes Yoran Dayagi, executive manager of Dayagi Diamonds.

Aaron’s advice to any jewelry companies starting out on TikTok is simple: “Open your phone. Set up the account. Watch. Listen. Make mistakes. Have fun. Everyone should embrace what is new.”

An uncertain future

Despite their best efforts, US-based companies may soon face a different kind of hurdle in their TikTok marketing: legislation.

On March 8, the US government introduced the Restrict Act, which would give the Department of Commerce new powers to ban Chinese apps that pose security threats — including TikTok. If the bill passes, it will make accessing TikTok much more difficult for the 150 million Americans who use the platform.

Implementing such a ban will be complex, and it may yet be avoidable; as of press time, the bill had yet to reach a vote, and discussions were reportedly underway to find alternate solutions. But the move is one that companies should take into account when considering TikTok’s role in their marketing strategies.

This article is from the March-April 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.

Image: Tiffany & Co. on TikTok (TikTok)

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Is It Time to Try TikTok?

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