Since our recent Social Platforms Intelligence Report brought to light just how ineffective Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and other social sites and apps are at driving traffic to brand sites, brands have been determined to better balance the cost of digital presence with smart ROI practices. For a vertical like Watches & Jewelry, traditionally one of the slowest to adopt and least engaged among those we track–yet also one of the most in need of building a new generation of young, loyal shoppers–social strategy is especially important. In our  third-annual Digital IQ Index: Watches & Jewelry report, released today, one of the most significant findings in the social media portion of the methodology was the power and reach of Instagram. Though Facebook still dominates in community size and Pinterest in overall growth, the average engagement for a Watch & Jewelry brand is 9x higher on Instagram than on either platform. And on Google+ and Twitter, Instagram sees 17x and 26x greater engagement than each, respectively.

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It’s no surprise that Tiffany & Co., Index leader and digital ‘Genius’ three years running, has by far the largest Instagram community with more than 872,000 followers–approximately 630,000 more than second place watch brand Nixon. Another small brand punching above its weight class is digitally ‘Gifted’ Alex and Ani, a nine-year-old U.S. based jewelry brand, whose third-largest Twitter following and outstanding Twitter customer service puts it among the best in the industry, socially.

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Recently, a survey of Swiss watchmakers revealed that although the vast majority (88 percent) believe social media is “important,” almost half (47 percent) cite presence on social platforms as their brand’s “biggest online risk”–even more so than revenue loss to grey market retailers. Concern over reputational risk and the fact that social updates direct very little traffic to site make for a strong case against investing in social growth. But the truth is, as social latecomer Rolex might attest, not being in the game–or playing on the sidelines–isn’t really a long-term option. Iconic brands with strong name recognition can abstain longer than most, but ultimately, social is one of the most effective channels for building brand loyalty with young people. And those young people, 43 percent of whom now use Instagram, according to Pew, are tomorrow’s customers.

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