- Jennifer Sorentrue Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sharing a photo on social media could earn you prizes from some of Palm Beach County’s trendiest tourism hotspots under a pilot program launched last month by the organization charged with persuading out-of-town visitors to travel here.
More than 400 people have already signed up for the “Palmbassadors” program, which allows residents to share photos and other information about the county on their own Facebook and Twitter accounts. Local tourism leaders hope those social media posts will be shared by others online, ultimately convincing travelers across the world to consider taking a trip to Palm Beach County.
“One of the things that we have learned is the best source of promotion is the people who live here,” said Gerry Marcelo, the senior manager of social media for Discover The Palm Beaches, the non-profit responsible for marketing the county as a tourist destination. “The enthusiasm of the folks who live here and love it here, it is infectious.”
The push comes as Discover continues to boost its presence on social media networks, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. In recent years the organization has increased the amount of marketing and promotion it does online. Those campaigns are relatively inexpensive and have the ability to reach large numbers of travelers very quickly.
Under the pilot program, participants earn points when they share Discover’s social media posts or mention the county in their own status updates. Those points can be used to enter monthly drawings for prizes.
This month’s prizes include dinner for two at 3800 Ocean at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa, a dining certificate to Temple Orange Mediterranean Bistro at the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa, and dinner for two at Bistro Ten Zero One. Residents can sign up to become a palmbassador by visiting thepalmbeaches.socialtoaster.com.
Discover launched the Palmbassador program in November, and so far, Marcelo said the numbers of social media shares and posts has been strong.
“We are seeing double and triple the amount of engagement that we would normally see from one of our regular posts,” he said. “What is most important is that it is coming from people who live here. That really means a lot.”
The new program comes months after Discover launched an advertising campaign that prominently displayed social media photos posted by locals and tourists.
The campaign, dubbed “Friends Trust Friends,” was designed to lure travelers here with real people, not staged models. It has been used in markets across the United States, including New York, Chicago, Miami and Orlando.
Travelers interested in visiting Palm Beach County spend close to two hours a day on social media, according to a study commissioned by Discover. Roughly one-third of those travelers pick a vacation destination based on what they have seen on social media, the study found.
In addition to the social media campaigns, Discover has also been turning to digital “influencers” with large online followings in an effort to drive tourists here.
The tourism group invites — and sometimes pays — bloggers, instagrammers, and other social media influencers to spend time in Palm Beach County.
Discover’s members, which include area resorts, restaurants, and attractions, typically provide the influencers with complementary hotel stays, meals, and tickets to attractions.
In exchange, the influencers take to social media — posting a steady stream of pictures, videos, and other information about Palm Beach County’s tourism hot spots.
The nonprofit agency hopes social media posts by those influencers will also help lure tourists.