Afishianado™ is an e-bulletin sent out periodically throughout the year that keeps you up-to-date on current industry and consumer trends, new market research and sustainable seafood efforts.
Afishianado, March 2012 - Social Media & Seafood Sustainability
Social Media & Seafood Sustainability
Social media has emerged as a powerful marketing tool for business, but what can it do to help promote sustainable seafood? Restaurants, suppliers and producers can all benefit from harnessing the power to connect directly with their customers and audiences. Modern society is all about being on the move and in the know- consider the 35% and 31% of consumers in the US and UK, respectively, own smartphones. Social media can help your customers find you while they’re out and about.
What are the main platforms?
- Bite sized tidbits of information, only 140 characters to make your point
- Relies on hash tags (#) to track content themes
- Increase your followers to expand your influence
- Predominantly people focused, but "pages" allow companies a space to interact with them
- Good place to share photos and links with your audience
- The people who "like" your page see your updates
- Allows people to 'check in' at their current location, i.e.- your business
- Speak their language – like traditional media and communications, for your social media efforts to be effective you need to understand your audience and speak to them. Social media thrives on sharing; you’ll get the best results with content that is interesting enough to pass along.
- Monitor trends – what are your customers talking about? What issues do they have with your product or your competitors’?
- Be responsive – address any complaints and participate in the conversation. Social media is all about two-way communication.
What to talk about?
- Promote specials – especially good for restaurants and retailers, tell your customers what deals you are offering.
- Seasonal items – when will you get the first soft-shell crabs of the season? Tell everyone who follows you. Seasonality is an important aspect of sustainability; utilize social media to let everyone know when their favorite seasonal items are available.
- Photos – take advantage of your camera phone to post photos of that delicious daily special or familiarize people with underutilized species you might be carrying, when they see what it looks like, it will resonate better.
- Sell the story – customers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from, post photos of the fishermen who supply your fish or a visit you made to the boat to digitally shorten the supply chain.
- Sell yourselves – are you or your employees doing something to improve your sustainability today? Attending a workshop? Visiting fishermen who supply your store? Creating a recipe for an underutilized species? Your followers want to hear about it!
Examples of Social Media & Sustainable Seafood in the 21st century
M&J Seafood is one of the key seafood suppliers to UK restaurants. Recently, M&J started tweeting and a large focus of their content is daily updates telling their audience of customers and potential customers about the when fresh fish comes into the docks.
This type of communication really taps in to the real time nature of twitter as these locally caught fish options are variable in supply due to seasonality and weather conditions. These daily updates mean chefs with flexibility in their menus can be first to access local fish. M&J Seafood regularly uploads pictures to help promote some of the options that are less familiar. In this way, Twitter helps to ‘virtually’ shorten supply chains and create extra transparency & trust. Plus, adding photos of staff makes it more personal and credible.
You can follow M&J Seafood on twitter at www.twitter.com/mjseafood
Walking-Fish, a community supported fishery (CSF) located in Beaufort, North Carolina, USA, directly links fishermen on the North Carolina coast with customers in the Raleigh-Durham area of central NC. Modeled after community supported agriculture (CSA) groups, this cooperative utilizes facebook to bring vital information to shareholders regarding the week’s catch, delivery times, pictures, and share recipes. Outside of their website, facebook is the main conduit for both promoting the cooperative to the public and communicating with their members. To learn more about Walking-Fish, visit their website at www.walking-fish.org or on facebook at www.facebook.com/WalkingFishCSF
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Cheryll Kinsley, Communications & Traffic Director for Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics
Cheryll Kinsley oversees design, marketing, and new product programs at Vital Choice, coordinates strategic planning for outreach, production, and distribution of marketing materials.
Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics is the trusted source for fast home delivery of the world's finest wild seafood, organic fare, and whole-food supplements. We market to customers exclusively over the internet via our website at www.vitalchoice.com.
Vital Choice foods are the purest available, all sustainably harvested from healthy, well-managed wild fisheries and organics farms. Our products are recognized by Vital Choice customers for their superior taste and health benefits, and endorsed by leading health and wellness experts, including physicians specializing in nutrition, pediatrics, and integrative health care.
How would you describe your current use of social media? Which social media platforms are you primarily using?
Our first foray into social media was to join Facebook several years ago, and we maintain an active presence there, at www.facebook.com/vitalchoice. Our co-founder and president, Randy Hartnell, is also active at www.facebook.com/randyhartnell. We are on Twitter as well (@vitalchoice).
So our Facebook posts and Twitter notes are often mere repostings of newsletter articles and interesting factoids that come our way, and occasional contests organized by others. We have participated in several Twitter events organized by blog networks, and we’ve noticed some immediate results – jumps in traffic to our site, for example – when someone of influence makes a positive post about us. But at this point, we’re not driving the process in any cohesive way. That’s among our goals for 2012.
We posted our first video on YouTube in 2009, and since then YouTube has become an important outlet for us – although, again, we’ve not realized its full potential. Our channel can be found at www.youtube.com/user/Vitalred; and by searching on > vital choice < you can find many of our videos. This year we began producing our own videos in significant numbers – posting those taken by employees plus those crafted by professional filmmakers – and we post them widely on our site. We’ve found them to be a compelling way to tell our story and – even more powerful – to let others share their opinions of Vital Choice and our products.
What are some of the challenges Vital Choices has faced when trying to utilize social media?
Just one, really, and that’s the lack of time to make the best use of these obviously effective channels.
What are some of the advantages you have observed? Successes?
We’ve noticed that there is an obvious and immediate uptick in traffic when particular Twitter or Facebook postings catch the fancy of our audience. Mostly, however, this process at this point is still driven by others.
How would you describe your social media content? What do you try to focus on?
We’ve educated ourselves about what experts recommend, in terms of content. We’re prepared to do it, but to this point (as noted above) we’ve lacked the personnel time. Again, this is a goal for 2012!
Has the use of multimedia (photos, videos, etc) been a part of your social media strategy? If so, how has your audience responded to the use of this?
Yes; as noted above, we’ve found great value in posting videos on YouTube and on our site. It’s an effective way to reach customers and assure them of our trustworthiness, when they see people they respect, recommending us – often in very enthusiastic terms. We’ve had nothing but positive responses to our videos. They really do help spread the word about Vital Choice!
Do you feel that using social media is important for the growth of your business? In your opinion, does it make a difference that you almost exclusively sell online?
We see quite clearly that while social media may not be the primary channel for our customers right now, it surely will be in the next few years. The idea of creating “buzz” is enticing, but we well know that “buzz” has a way of creating itself. That’s most often beyond anyone’s control. But being positioned to benefit when the buzz does happen, and to be able to move lithely across several social media platforms to reap the benefits, is more than a goal. We see it as a necessity to doing business effectively in the coming years.
Certainly we’ve seen the effectiveness of “traditional” media decrease.
Vital Choice also distributes a newsletter; how would you say your experience with the newsletter differs from that of social media? Do you see future opportunities for integration?
Our newsletter is our primary channel to reach our customers. It’s important both because of the quality of our content and the frequency – and regularity – of touch. It’s more substantial than transitory social media, and it can be archived so information stays available for reference forever. The information we provide to our subscribers is researched and substantiated and thus perceived as trustworthy. It shines a spotlight on the quality of our company and our products. People searching for health information on the Internet are likely to find links to archived copies. Newsletter subscribers are likely to share the newsletter with others, and anyone who reads our newsletter is more likely to become a customer. And when someone tries Vital Choice products, we find that they tend to return to purchase from us again. This repeat has less to do with the quality of our information or the effectiveness of our social media. It has everything to do with the quality of our products and our customer service.
As we become more able to use social media effectively, we expect there will be several areas of exchange between the newsletter and social media platforms. Right now, as noted above, our newsletter articles are reposted to both Twitter and Facebook. That’s certainly a minimal level of integration, but it’s a start.
How do you feel you are engaging your audience in issues that are important to the company and making them a part of the conversation? How do you make it interesting for them?
The first guideline of engagement is providing people with information that’s useful to them and responsive to their needs. We try to do that, as part of our ongoing commitment to customer satisfaction and good business practices. We find that people engage enthusiastically in conversations about real food that tastes great and contributes to a healthy lifestyle. They care deeply about sustainability as well. We strive to give them the information they need to make healthy choices for themselves and our world.
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