Aquaculture Magazine

August- September 2016

Seafood in the social media world

The world is rapidly changing. Just how quickly is our industry, and more importantly your business, moving in order to survive in the ‘new age’?

There was a time when the first thing I did when I woke up was grab the newspaper to see what was going on in the world. Alas those days are long passed and newspapers, if still in existence, are going through massive restructuring and re-aligning in order to survive. A lack of an on-line service effectively puts them out of the ‘game.’

Television came and changed the way we got our news and entertainment. Change in the way the news is delivered has been a constant. Wherever news is happening it is now very active and the live broadcasts put our living rooms right at the scene.

Society is not the same today as it was last year let alone many years ago and one of the main reasons for this is the communication aspect.

Look at the current global political situation with Presidential elections in the US; the vote on whether Great Britain leaves the European Union; the Australian elections and other similar activities which are now so media driven and aim to engage directly through all the social media channels.

Social Media has changed the rules of engagement and some experts say that unless you have a digital media strategy then you are not in business. So where does that leave you?

I read on how the Norwegian Seafood Export Council had blown past rivals in China’s Twitter world, with well over 110,000 followers on the wildly popular Weibo microblogging site. Apparently at the time that was more than double the followers for the second-most followed seafood micro blogs in the country; seafood restaurant chain Aomen Dulou and aquaculture producer/processor Homey. Of course having followers does not always mean success in selling your products. There is more to it than just putting something on social media. The marketing strategy needs to be active.

I recall the Australian Government in their “G’day Australia” promotion managing to get an Australian chef on Good Morning America TV program promoting Shrimp which struck the Government people as a major success. The only problem was communication with the industry was poor so even if people wanted to buy Australian Shrimp there were very few retailers who actually had any stock – hence a wasted opportunity!

Seafood is a global product; in fact the World Trade Organisation says that ‘fish and fishery products now constitute the most highly traded food commodity internationally.’ The figures show that coffee is about one third of seafood, to give you an idea of the volume.

Across the world new technologies are entering the world of fishing to help eliminate one of our major challenges, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU). Smart phone technologies connected to software enable fishing companies to know what is being caught even though the vessels may be far out to sea.

In Norway the world’s first remote pelagic ‘e-auction,’ Norges Sildesalgslag, has shown the way forward. No fish is handled at the market which is on the 5th floor of a city building. The electronic fish-auction and up-to date catch-journal has proven to be a very efficient marketplace for pelagic fish. The fishermen ‘meet’ the buyers in a digital marketplace with all the information the buyers need to put in bids for the catch. The system is open for all buyers who want to participate in the first-hand sale of pelagic fish and both Norwegian and foreign fishing vessels participate in the auction because of the stability, security, efficiency and fairness it provides to all parties.

In China the high use of smart phones has enabled massive access to the country’s media market and made micro-blogging and other social media a key marketing tool for seafood firms in the country and this is slowly happening on our home front. Norway is not the only country to take advantage of this as the Canadian government, using a Chinese language website,, and a Weibo account promotes Canadian imports, including seafood.

In other marketing on social media, global airline KLM Royal Dutch Airlines employs large numbers of people to engage with millions of followers on Facebook and is now giving passengers the option to receive flight updates through Messenger. If they agree while booking a ticket, KLM will then start up a chat thread, where it’ll send booking confirmation, flight status, and any scheduling changes. It’ll also send over a boarding pass, which passengers will be able to use to get through security and onto their flight.

Digital boarding passes aren’t new, but Messenger’s conversational interface is. It’s a familiar way for KLM to get in touch with customers, and a convenient one for the many people who already use Messenger daily to get in touch with friends. KLM goes beyond just sending updates, too — passengers will also be able to chat with KLM support right inside of Messenger.

We are seeing how social media can definitely be a powerful tool and it is one that our industry needs to embrace more as we move into the future.

Traceability will become more and more important and this can be a difficult area for many developing countries as generally there are many ‘middle-men’ within the system. It is easy for product to get mixed and that then eliminates the traceability component. Systems are being viewed which will be able to solve these problems eventually.

Can we sell more fresh seafood using social media? Maybe, but one thing is for certain we can definitely inform and educate the consumers through this medium and that surely will be a good thing. The internet is, of course, open to everyone and we have already seen many scare campaigns started by ignorant operators.

I cannot stress enough that in the social media space we need to think about the consequences of our actions. The industry has enough enemies as it is without sectors of the industry picking on other sectors. The best rule is ‘if you cannot say positive things about all seafood then say nothing at all.’ The worst situation is one industry person ‘mouthing off ‘about another industry person’s product.

Everyone is a critic nowadays when it comes to restaurants. Taking photographs of the meal, posting onto various social media and even critiquing the meal and restaurant –it is all so easy. It impacts on the restaurateur for sure but, if done well, it is a good thing for all as it enables continuous improvement. Mind you the need to understand you will never please everyone is important. It is difficult to think that this trend will change in the short term.

For the retail fish market or the supermarket seafood counter there are great opportunities with social media. The products that we have are the essential ‘get-it-now-while-we-have-it food,’ which is a superb fit for fast-paced, real-time, social media communications. Seafood is always an interesting photo for consumers to take and you can imagine how they could be enticed into uploading images of first-of-the-season wild products and the like.

Building a customer support base using social media is an essential tool in today’s world and just think how you could create interest by posting great photographs and descriptions of arrivals at the store. Add some connectivity to recipe ideas and some basic FAQ’s about each species and you are immediately engaging and enticing the taste buds of your clients. They will be beating down the doors if you do it right…

Happy Fishmongering!

The Fishmonger

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