Clockwise from top left: USMEF-Korea Director Jihae Yang, Rachel Chou, senior manager for consumer communications for the Texas Beef Council, Tazuko Hijikata, USMEF-Japan's senior manager of consumer affairs and Japanese blogger and cookbook author Rika Yukimasa
A panel of leading social media communicators, including a popular Tokyo-based blogger, provided insights into global trends in social media during Thursday's general session of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Board of Directors Meeting in Kansas City. Japanese blogger and cookbook author Rika Yukimasa, who averages more than 14,000 daily visitors to her food-oriented blog, was joined on a panel by Rachel Chou, senior manager for consumer communications for the Texas Beef Council; USMEF-Korea Director Jihae Yang and Tazuko Hijikata, USMEF-Japan's senior manager of consumer affairs. "People today do not want to read," said Yukimasa. "If they don't like your photos, they won't read your blog." Yukimasa, who posted photos and commentary to her readers in Japan about her steak dinner the previous night in Kansas City, noted that social media marketers must remain conscious of both the short attention span of their audience as well as the readers' sensitivity to the feeling that they are being given a commercial message. "I write about food and family, and am careful to always change my (blog) content," Yukimasa said. The panelists noted the dramatic growth of social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, evidenced by the following statistics:
- Facebook followers "like" an average of 4.5 billion items each and every day.
- More than 1 billion Twitter users post an estimated 500 million tweets daily.
- On average, people around the world watch 6 billion hours of video on YouTube every month, equaling nearly one hour for every person on Earth.
"The Millennials represent tomorrow's consumer," said Chou. "There are 80 million consumers in that group – which is bigger than the Boomer generation, and 97 percent own computers and 94 percent carry cell phones. They live on their phones. They are more likely to look online for information on food and food preparation than they are to call their own mothers for help in cooking." Chou noted that older Millennials with children will have a collective spending power of $1.4 trillion per year by 2020, and they are twice as likely as older Americans to purchase online and twice as likely to click on links shared by friends. USMEF staff shared their experiences with social media. Yang noted that USMEF-Korea became involved with bloggers in December of 2007 after public protests against U.S. beef prevented any advertising or promotion through traditional media channels. Since that time, USMEF-Korea has developed relationships with more than 130 influential bloggers who continue to post positive news about U.S. red meat products, both about recipes and the meat's safety and quality. Hijikata discussed USMEF-Japan's experiences with Facebook and Twitter, including a cost-effective "Tweet While You Eat U.S. Meat" campaign that encouraged diners to send tweets to their friends and family when they were dining out at a restaurant that served U.S. red meat. The campaign generated 11,244 tweets that reached an estimated 3.5 million readers, frequently resulting in meals by those individuals at the participating restaurants. Working with Yukimasa, Hijikata also produced a 30-second video on preparation styles for thick-cut U.S. pork that was viewed by an estimated 250,000 Japanese consumers through YouTube. Later on Thursday, USMEF members participated in committee meetings broken down by the organization's various member sectors, and USMEF hosted a Product Showcase that brought together 120 international meat buyers with 21 U.S.-based meat exporters to help establish new customer relationships. The USMEF meeting closes Friday with the organization's business session.