How antiques and vintage dealers can use Facebook to build trust without alienating customers

This article was originally published in Antique Trader
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wayne jordanWalking down Main Street in Mt. Airy, N.C., I feel like I’ve stepped into a 1960s sitcom. Mt. Airy, the boyhood home of Andy Griffith, was the inspiration for his television home town of Mayberry. As I stroll by Floyd’s Barber Shop, I peek inside and notice that all the chairs are full. Not the barber chairs, but the waiting chairs against the wall. Those seated are engaged in animated conversation, and a crowd has gathered to listen to the dialogue.

This is a common sight here in the Blue Ridge Mountains: Residents gathered in a local store to visit and gossip. Sociologists call such gathering spots a “Third Place.” A Third Place is a social venue which is separate from Home and Work that fosters broader communication between participants and builds a sense of belonging and community.

In his 1989 book “The Great Good Place,” author Ray Oldenburg asserts that a good Third Place is accessible, comfortable, nearby, involves regulars, and is open to both new and old friends.

Sounds like Facebook to me.

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Facebook’s growth has been explosive, and it’s no wonder. Social meeting places are vital to all communities. Americans lead “too-busy” lives. We spend more time at work than citizens of other developed countries, take fewer vacations, and try to cram every minute of “family time” with sports teams, scouts, karate lessons, music lessons, swimming lessons — well, you get the picture. Facebook is as near as our computer, open to new and old friends, and we don’t have to leave the comfort of our home to participate. It’s an ideal Third Place.

Absent from the description of a Third Place is “exchanging advertising messages.” Imagine that you’re with a group that’s chatting at Floyd’s Barber Shop when a man walks in, interrupts your conversation, hands you a business card that says “Insurance R Us” and attempts to sell you life insurance. Would you stay to listen or would you politely excuse yourself? How about your friends? Would they stay? Of course not; commercial activity, when done to excess, spoils a Third Place. No one likes it, and participants develop an aversion to the offending member.

Yet, the above scenario is repeated regularly on Facebook. Marketing Gurus everywhere insist that businesses MUST get involved in Social Media Marketing. Many business owners hear the word “marketing” but not the word “social.” So, they slap up a Facebook fan page, fanatically market their wares, and soon discover that that they aren’t driving traffic to their websites or getting new customers. The reason is that they’ve alienated their readers.

Winston Churchill aptly described such attempts at social marketing when he said: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

Facebook is not an eBay store; it’s a Third Place.

“That’s why they call it social media,” says Leslie Coty, Social Media Strategist and President of Coty Connections (http://www.cotyconnections.com). “Social Media is a game-changer; it’s changed the way we communicate, and it’s changed the way that we do business.” Coty should know about the “changing game”; she spent more than two decades in traditional media sales: print, radio, and television. “The marketplace has become overcrowded with competing advertising messages,” she says. “Consumers have developed a resistance to traditional advertising, and sales messages aren’t getting through.”

What consumers want, according to Coty, is to trust the person they will be buying from. Trust implies a relationship; consumers want to buy from people, not faceless corporations. Where corporations are involved in commercial transactions, consumers want to deal face-to-face with someone they have built a relationship with. Relationships are built one at a time, not mass produced.

How then, can an antiques dealer use social media to build relationships with new customers? Coty offers dealers five tips on how this can be accomplished:

Become a follower. Read other’s posts and join in the conversation. Stay on-topic, and avoid controversy. As threads develop, you’ll learn the names of people who actively participate in conversational threads. Friend them, and then participate in their conversations. Your network of friends and potential customers will grow.
Provide content that your friends will want to read and then forward to other friends. Be a source of expert information and/or entertainment for your friends. Post links to articles that you found interesting or videos that you found funny. Your friends will come to value your expertise and your friendship, and as they learn to trust you they will approach you for advice.
Link your website to your Facebook page. Put a Facebook “Like” icon (or something similar) on your website, and post links to your website from your Facebook page.
Limit product links from Facebook to your website; no more than 15 percent of your posts should be product-related.
Use Facebook ads. Facebook can target an audience better than traditional media ever could. Advertisers can target by age, interests, location, education, connections, and more. Would you like your ad to appear on the home page of thirty-somethings who live in your city, and have an interest in model trains? Facebook can do that.

I’d like to add two more items to Ms. Coty’s list:

Use the new Facebook “Questions” application. Gather customer intelligence and then use that information to help determine what you will post on your page. (The “Questions” application is the one in which your friends respond to a poll, and the results are posted in a bar graph). For example, suppose you posted the question “What do you enjoy collecting the most?” and you listed three possible responses: furniture, glassware, or memorabilia. If you found that the largest percentage of your friends favored collecting memorabilia, you could increase your readership by posting more “memorabilia” links.
Be genuine. Don’t think for a minute that you can fake sincerity over the long haul. If you fake sincerity for economic gain, you’re a con man, not a merchant.

If there’s a key to Social Media Marketing, it’s this: Relationships are first, selling is second.


Wayne Jordan is a Virginia licensed auctioneer, certified personal property appraiser, and accredited business broker. He specializes in the valuation and liquidation of estate and business assets. Learn more at his website http://www.waynejordanauctions.com, at 276-730-5197 or auctioneer.wayne@yahoo.com.

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