Ten years ago, you never dreamed of putting a picture of your breakfast on the Internet, or sharing your musings while you sit in traffic. And you couldn't show the world videos of the funny tricks performed by your children or your dog.
Now you can, courtesy of social media outlets such as Facebook (founded in February 2004), YouTube (February 2005) and Twitter (March 2006), to name a few.
It didn't take long for the social media phenomenon to sweep around the world, and while it is a global tool, it has local applications, making it ideal for an organization like the U.S. Meat Export Federation that supports U.S. beef, pork and lamb exports around the world, but tailors the message to each individual market.
"Social media is insanely popular and is incredibly powerful – and cost-effective – if used properly," notes Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president of global marketing and communications. "USMEF's marketing team around the world has adopted many of these tools for our use, timing our rollout of these tactics to keep us in step with the local conditions and, ideally, a step ahead of our competitors."
Consider these facts about just a few of the leading social media channels:
•Facebook has 1.23 billion monthly active users – up 16% over last year
•4.5 billion "likes" are generated daily
•Twitter reports it has an estimated 1 billion registered users
•184 million active monthly Twitter users
•YouTube has more than 1 billion unique users each month
•More than 6 billion hours of videos are watched on YouTube monthly – almost an hour for every person on Earth
•80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the U.S.
USMEF has followed the launch of the key social media channels closely, often using them as an efficient method for attracting the attention of the youthful early adopters who also have an interest in high-quality red meat products. USMEF offices also have relied on social media when traditional channels were either too expensive or unwilling to carry positive messages about American products.
Strategy in South Korea
In one of the most tech-savvy countries on earth, USMEF-South Korea led the way for the organization's social media engagement in late 2007. Faced with 100,000 protesters in the streets of Seoul angry about the government's decision to readmit U.S. beef after a BSE-related absence, the USMEF marketing team began cultivating independent food bloggers to write about the products when other media outlets wouldn't even accept paid advertisements for fear of inspiring consumer boycotts.
"We had to communicate with consumers through a different channel than conventional media to turn around negative consumer sentiment," says Min Park, USMEF-Korea public relations manager."
To ensure that it did not arouse the potentially volatile Korean consumer base, USMEF waited until spring of 2013 before launching its Facebook presence. The most active social media site in Korea, Facebook is popular among consumers in the 20 to 29 age demographic, where 93.5% of consumers use a smart phone.
Twitter, on the other hand, is more of a news communications tool in Korea with postings on politics, religion and social issues, so it has not been a focus for the USMEF-Korea team.