Guest Column: In the Internet age, it’s all about word-of-mouth

First published in Landings, July, 2015.

Matt Jacobson is the Executive Director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. Photo courtesy of MLMC.
Matt Jacobson is the Executive Director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. Photo courtesy of MLMC.

In 1984, when a small government agency called DARPA was sponsoring development of the Internet, there were about 1,000 devices connected to it. Today there are more than ten billion Internet-connected devices – and that number will explode in the next few years as the “Internet of things” becomes more prevalent. It won’t be long before your refrigerator texts the supermarket and tells them what you just ran out of. The supermarket will send you an email coupon that you’ll accept and then they’ll deliver your groceries via drone. Soon.

There are nearly 6 billion Google searches made every day. At any one time, more than 175 million people are logged in to Facebook. In fact, more than half of all Internet traffic in the United Kingdom is Facebook traffic. Last year more than one out of every six couples married in the United States met online. It is probably too early to make a final judgment, but it looks like this Internet stuff is going to catch on…!

So why is this important to someone involved in the lobster industry in Maine? Because the use of the Internet has fundamentally altered the way we get information and make buying decisions.

Not too long ago, newspaper, magazine and TV ads were the only way to reach potential customers. The problem with this style of one-way communication in a digital age is that it does not engage potential customers. People want to be involved in a conversation. If all we do is put out a message, with no mechanism for feedback, we will fail. We will never learn what customers actually like about lobster and how they consume it. We will fail because we won’t know what our customers really want, and so we won’t be able to give it to them.

Traditional media has lost its effectiveness for another fundamental reason. Simply put, brands have been so dishonest for so long that we just don’t believe them anymore.

These days, word-of-mouth is far more effective than traditional advertising. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe word-of-mouth information more than traditional advertising. And that is the whole point behind social media and marketing lobster. To encourage that word-of-mouth discussion between lobster lovers and those we haven’t convinced yet.

The world has shifted; we need to be involved online if we are to be successful at creating more demand for Maine lobster. But it is not enough simply to be there, we have to be smart about where we are, what we say, and to whom we say it.

Content is the key. Brands are all looking for that content that will be shared by more people, the great video or picture that everyone shares with their friends. In 2012, time spent on the picture-sharing social media site Pinterest grew 4,225%! Mobile use on the site grew more than 6,000%! The reasons are simple: web sites with strong images are easier to digest than heavy text.

Another picture-sharing site, Instagram, has 26% of all adults in the U.S. as users. What’s more, more than 50% of people ages 18 to 29 years old are on Instagram. That statistic should be very interesting to you as a lobster industry professional. The 18-to-29-year-olds in this country eat out at restaurants more often than any other demographic. And since about 90% of Maine lobster is consumed in a restaurant, those people matter to us. A lot.

With the help of our partner, Weber Shandwick, the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative has completely reinvented all our social media platforms. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. We have a consistent look and feel across all the platforms and have specific target markets and actions in mind with all our posts. We are monitoring all the sites around the clock and can respond in real time if we need to. In fact, in the short time we’ve been up and running, we’ve had online conversations with the food editor of the New York Times and with a major Fox News anchor. We are getting our message out.

On June 15, we re-launched the Web site. Please visit! On the site we focus on the things that make Maine lobster special – the stories about the men and women who lobster, about the clear, cold water, about new-shell lobster and how you can only get it from a Maine lobsterman. It is loaded with visual content that we will use across all the platforms. The site is a great reflection of the Maine industry and will help us drive that word-of-mouth conversation. It will help us continue to learn about what our customers like and how we can give it to them.

We are going to continue to learn, to find our customers and learn some more. As we go forward, I’m reminded of a quote by American author Eric Hoffer. “In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

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