Panel discusses social media's role for fisheries

Posted: Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Social media is becoming part of communications for more industries every day, and seafood is no exception. The Marine Conservation Alliance brought together a group of representatives familiar with such social sites in their own industries to address the public on their different perspectives in a panel called "The Media is the Message" during last week's Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle.

The panel was to give insight on what social media can mean for the fishing industry, as it depends on access to public and political resources, and how to use such tools effectively.

The panel included Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times, Monique Elwell of Conversify, Steve Minor Waterfront Associates and Alexandria Gutierrez of Unalaska Community Broadcasting.

Gutierrez said the point of the panel was to introduce members of the fishing industry to social media as it is "the next big thing." She spoke of how she used such interactive websites in her own work as a news director, and how they are relevant to other businesses that serve mass markets.

"Fishing is a public resource, so people need to get used to this," she said.

Bernton, also a journalist, gave the newspaper's perspective on reaching out with social media plus issues facing newspapers about using social media at a time when the print side is in decline.

Minor, who is also executive director of the North Pacific Crab Association, said social media is important to Alaska's fisheries to maintain them as a role model for sustainable management.

"About a year and a half ago at the Marine Conservation, we decided it was time to start reaching out to public this way," said Minor. "We realized the ground was shifting under our feet."

Waterfront Associates also developed the graphics, video and other creative materials for the Sealliance social media campaign. Minor said he showed examples of the new YouTube, Facebook and Twitter outlets and what the response has meant for the fisheries. He also said the Marine Conservation Alliance's website was reworked to include a Sealliance channel and new interactive e-mails for imbedded links.

"We're trying to find the best channels to talk to people," he said.

Conversify is responsible for the development of the Sealliance Internet infrastructure. Elwell, its chief executive officer, pointed put relevant statistics to the public and to explain how such sites are commonly used by all demographics, and so it is best for the fisheries to embrace them.

She said research shows that social media is now the full option for business users, just as in the mid to late 1990s when the Internet and e-mail started hitting the mass market. She said the average age of the social media user is 37 and that is also the average American age, according to Conversify's statistics.

"My point was that with any kind of marketing, you look at what is your objective in engaging in social media, what is you brand personality, what are the messages you're trying to get out," she said.

She said this is all relevant because it shows that such websites like Facebook and Twitter are used by everyone and not just certain groups, thus making them relevant to the fisheries as a public business.

"People are concerned about the industry and sustainable food, like a restaurant owner or fishing crew, so we were reaching out to our target," she said.

Elwell said Conversify worked on Sealliance's Twitter and YouTube accounts, as well as its Facebook, which she said received more than 2,000 fans in the first four months.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at

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