GUEST COLUMN: How Bonhams uses social media to engage the next generation of jewellery buyers

In a relatively short space of time, social media has dramatically changed the way companies do business, auction houses included. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram allow companies to reach a much broader audience geographically than ever before and to communicate with them directly, in real-time.  

This has proven to be hugely beneficial to auction houses.  In just over two years, Bonhams’ jewellery Instagram account has gained a thriving community of more than 80,000 followers from all around the world, a melting pot of people with one thing in common: an interest in fine jewellery.

As an auction department, this page allows us to share our enthusiasm for special jewels coming up for sale and to engage in conversations with our followers, thereby promoting lots in a way that feels organic and authentic, which people respond to.

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If someone desires a lot that they have seen on our page, they can follow links to take them to Bonhams’ website where they can register to bid online. This immediacy, coupled with the excellent online bidding facilities of today’s auction houses, means that an Instagram picture can translate smoothly and rapidly into a sale. We are also able to promote special campaigns that we are running such as ‘Jewellery in June’ and ‘January Jewels’, whereby we offer free and confidential valuations for those considering selling their jewels at auction or who wish to know the current market value of their collection. These occasionally bring up unexpected treasures.

Social media has also given us new opportunities to collaborate with jewellery bloggers, often with a great following and influence of their own, from whom a single post can create a vast ripple effect.

With the main users of social media being the under-thirties, perhaps one of the most important benefits of our presence there is that it has helped us to connect with the next generation of potential jewellery buyers and consignors.

Along with the art market shift away from traditional sectors to new sectors in the last few years, auction houses have increasingly focused their attention on young collectors, who are tomorrow’s big players. This has involved revamping their brand image to appeal to this younger ‘online’ generation, who appreciate communication that is visual and instant.

While social media has opened up the landscape for auction houses, it has also done the same for buyers. Potential buyers from Russia to China no longer need to receive a printed catalogue at their doorstep to keep abreast of the next rare and beautiful jewels coming up for sale; they are just a click away. Indeed, the registrants and bidders in our auctions are increasingly international with a significant number bidding without having seen the jewel in person.

Via posts about results achieved and record prices set at auction, we are able to share insights into the jewellery market and key trends.  Be it the rise of coloured gemstones or signed period jewellery, we have found that followers and potential buyers are hungry to gain a deeper understanding of what is the new hot category in the jewellery auction market to buy into.

With the global auction market for jewellery accounting for US$1.17 billion in 2017, the international reach of social media will continue to be a draw for auction house departments and its platforms look set to be a crucial means of communication in 2018.

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