Saturday, 11 February 2012

All that glitters is not gold

The ease and low cost of setting up a Facebook page for selling products direct to the public has seen a massive increase in the online retail of all sorts of products, particularly those smaller items which crafters and artists can make at home. The popularity of jewellery making means that this sector is one where new businesses are appearing on Facebook daily, each trying to carve a niche for themselves, attract new fans and sell their wares.

Within any competitive market, there will be the stars – the talented artisans who design and create with care and love; and the starstruck – those makers who think they can make a quick buck with items thrown together with little thought or imagination.

In this post I am going to look at what I think distinguishes the stars from the starstruck. If you are a potential customer, this article should help you to spot quality items from the tat. If you are a jewellery maker with a Facebook page, then perhaps there will be some useful ideas here for improving the impression you give your potential customers.

Who is the person behind the page?

Facebook can actually be a very ‘faceless’ place when it comes to business pages. If the seller hasn’t taken the trouble to complete the Info tab properly or has elected to hide the person/profile responsible for page admin, you really have no idea who you are buying from and may not be able to communicate with a seller aside from posting publicly on their wall. Personally, I would not buy from a page where I cannot easily find out the following:
• The individual(s) behind the business
• How to contact them outside of Facebook including a physical location and address
• Background about the business and the products they create
• Their policy on returning faulty or unsatisfactory goods

It is set down in distance selling legislation that any online business selling goods must provide a returns policy and address. Facebook is no exception.

Does the page have a good reputation?

Have a think about how you found a page in the first place. Were you drawn there by a recommendation from a friend or did you visit on a ‘Silent tagging’ mission or based on a ‘Shout-out’ by another business? Personal referral is obviously the best way to find a seller of quality items but if you stumble on a page through other means, there are numerous ways you can assess their credibility.
Firstly, don’t be won over by a high Fan number. This is not an indication of the number of happy customers. In fact, a page can have a fantastically high Fan count but never have sold a single item! The ‘Talking about’ figure shown beneath the number of ‘Likers’ is a slightly better indicator but even this does not tell you whether the fan interaction with the page has been positive.
So, before you gauge the popularity of a page based on these statistics, look instead for testimonials from previous customers. The page may have a Reviews or Ratings application where you can browse comments from customers or it may, like my page, have a photo album containing customer comments. Ask them how many repeat customers they have – that will tell you a lot about the quality of their work!

Look too at the information about the seller and follow any links to blogs, external websites or online shops. These are places where you may be able to gather more feedback on the products being sold and check the seller’s credibility. Also check here for any professional memberships. They are not required to sell jewellery but may give you some buying confidence.

Other things to note are that jewellery made for children or comprising components resembling food are bound by stringent safety regulations. If the seller cannot confirm that all Trading Standard requirements for these items have been met, you should not buy them. Similarly, if you are arranging a jewellery party with a Facebook seller or inviting them to have a stall at a craft fair, they will almost certainly need their own Public Liability Insurance and must be able to provide evidence that they are adequately covered.

Does the product look the part?

Ok, so you’re happy that the Facebook seller is trustworthy but are their products going to meet your expectations? An easy way to distinguish the stars from the starstruck is to look at how the jewellery items are presented to you.
In my opinion, a slap-dash approach to photographing and describing items indicates a slap-dash approach to making them. I would never buy something where I couldn’t see the item in close quarters or where there was little or no description of the piece. There should always be at least one close-up (preferably several) where you can see the quality of the components and the craftsmanship and view the item from different angles. The photographs must therefore be well lit and in good focus. No fancy equipment or special skills are required to take decent pictures, so there really is no excuse for poor photographs. A white background, good daylight and a point-and-shoot camera is all you need.

Read the description of the piece (if there is one). Is it written clearly and has the maker taken the trouble to explain the design to you? Are the components used described in sufficient detail? Does it look like Swarovski quality if it’s described as such? Is it a genuine One of A Kind (OOAK) item? Is it really handmade? I have seen examples of items being resold as handmade that simply aren’t! What does the seller mean by ‘vintage’? A real antique piece, some vintage components or simply ‘vintage inspired’?

Dimensions for jewellery items should always be provided and an indication as to whether a piece can be altered to fit. How frustrating to buy a bracelet that is simply too big and have it slip off your wrist the first time you wear it out shopping!

If in doubt, ask?

If you are not sure about placing an order on a page, contact them with your concerns. A trustworthy and quality page will respond quickly to any questions and will do what they can to allay your fears.


  1. Really interesting read, Helen, so many things I would never have thought about. Also just noticed the bracelet you are wearing in your pic. Very nice, Meg

  2. Very sound advice here (I don't have any crafts that I sell) and will follow it when I'm checking out sellers in future.

  3. Love your blog, so very interesting and learning lots. I also do not have any products to sell, but I sure do like to buy them. :)

  4. I loved reading this blog. I found it very informative and a real help to anyone wishing to set up their own business. I love turning my hand to craft but more for personal pleasure than to sell. Thank you and I look forward to the other blogs. Kind regards Emma Leftly xx

  5. very interesting to read for anyone thinking of selling the jewellery they have made online. thank you for the information

  6. Very useful and informative Helen; thanks for taking the time to write this. I am just about to start selling my own handmade jewellery so all of the things you point out are very relevant to me. Look forward to reading more, best wishes, Tracey
    P.S. sorry not sure how to get my name appearing so comes up as anonymous!

  7. Hi Helen,
    Thank you for your very honest blog - I make jewllery as a hobby & blog about it too - sometimes I wonder whether I should sell online too but my work & motherhood keep me too busy.
    Love the work you do. Best,