By Mark Godfrey, SeafoodSource contributing editor reporting from Beijing, China
Published on 05 February, 2013
The Norwegian Seafood Export Council (NSEC) has blown past rivals in China’s Twitter world, with 110,000 followers on the wildly popular Weibo microblogging site. That’s more than double the followers for second-most followed seafood micro blogs in the country: 50,000 and 30,000 followers respectively for seafood restaurant chain Aomen Dulou and aquaculture producer/processor Homey.
A high use of smartphones in China has revolutionized the country’s media market and made microblogging and other social media a key marketing tool for seafood firms in the country. Recipes, sales promotions and even job ads indicate China’s smartphone generation are the focus of marketing efforts by seafood companies, both local and international. Among them the NSEC, which promotes the “Norge” brand name in China through an elaborate account on Weibo which includes nutritional information as well as detailed information about Norway’s “clean and cold” waters.
Leading Chinese firms have also been using Weibo, among them the Homey Group, which uses a microblog to promote the company to would-be investors. The firm’s Weibo site features comments by company VP Li Junfeng.
“Every franchised retail outlet is our potential partner,” said Li, whose firm is keen to promote its farmed sea cucumber in particular.
Chinese shellfish producer Zhangzidao Co., meanwhile uses its Weibo to promote awareness about the industry, posting information about various species marketed by the firm. Recruitment and seafood recipes are both the focus of the Weibo posts of Guolian, another aquaculture company. A recent post advises how to prepare fried shrimp with egg. The firm recently posted an ad seeking two e-commerce specialists to work in its Zhanjiang headquarters, handling its store on the eBay-like Taobao.com while also promoting the firm on the Internet.
Likewise Homey uses Weibo to drive customers to its store on Tmall.com, a more upmarket division of Taobao.com. The firm offered 150 gram sea cucumbers for “only CNY 1,699 by group buy…100 pieces have already been sold…don’t miss this precious chance, it won’t come again.”
Weibo is also a networking platform for the industry. Guo Wenliang, secretary to the chairman of Guolian, Wen Liang, for instance sets up appointments with seafood industry figures on trips from Zhanjiang to Beijing. He also chats with Ms. Hu Ming, secretary to the chairperson of the Huayi Bros. Media Group, asking “what is the incentive stock right system for foreign employees in your company?”
While offering the chance for firms to post ads and publicity, China’s hugely popular social media and video sharing sites also add to the scrutiny of seafood companies. Video sharing website Youku.com, similar to Youtube.com, for instance features numerous news reports and interviews with the leading executives of Guolian and Zhangzidao. Comments posted by investors and stock analysts questioned the strategy of the Guolian management and future development plans.
Fast-expanding seafood restaurant chains like Aomen Dulou have been using Weibo to engage customers, particularly in cities where the chain has recently opened outlets. Posts by customers visiting a Chengdu outlet praise Aomen’s “frog and fish” hotpot offering. “It’s so delicious that I almost forgot I am allergic to seafood,” wrote one Chengdu Weibo user.
Other firms keen to use social media include the Canadian government, which uses a Chinese language website, www.canadafood.cn, and a Weibo account to promote Canadian imports, including seafood.