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What I Learned from the Island Connoisseur Contest

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Last updated on February 22nd, 2024 at 11:43 pm


What up, world? I know—it’s been a while, and the world hasn’t stopped turning in my absence, but to put it simply, this boy’s been busy.

But losing in a contest with such an attractive prize, especially when you’ve convinced yourself that you must stand a good chance with a killer music video, heartwarming bio; and plenty of interaction about the contest while the judges made their decision—it can take a toll. Once upon a time, I’d sulk it out. I still remember to this day what it felt like to get 8th in the 8th Annual Ontario Spelling Bee finals, tripped up on a word as simple as “perusal” (which I swear was pronounced by a man with a heavy Southern twang, making it sound like “puh-rooz-e-ul”). Or when I flunked my driver’s test in 2003, getting me so down that I wouldn’t try again until my 30th birthday.

This is a different me, though.

I live a semi-charmed life, winning more than I lose with luck, knowledge, stringent work ethic and the strength of the friends I’ve made over time. It’s no secret that my life’s forever different because of the time I’ve invested in social media, and it’s largely due to an attitude where I won’t accept defeat. You can be sour grapes about a loss, seeing what happened and thinking on how the world’s unfair with everything stacked against you… or you can learn from your experience, taking that knowledge to do better the next time an opportunity arises.

This is my attempt to take the better path.

Deconstructing the Island Connoisseur

  • SOMEONE WHO LOVES THE WATER…
  • SOMEONE WHO LIVES FOR ADVENTURE, ABOVE THE LAND AND UNDER…
  • …BUT ALSO LIKES TO CHILL…
  • SOMEONE WHO LOVES TO CAPTURE, WRITE ABOUT, SHARE, AND EAT GOOD FOOD…
  • SOMEONE WHO’S SOCIAL, BOTH ONLINE AND OFFLINE…

Obviously, that’s a wide net. What were the judges really looking for? The best presentation? The strongest metrics with social media views and site hits? Someone proving their willingness to do anything to get the gig?

To better understand what I needed to do better the next time something like this came along, I did a little analysis.

Numbers Can Lie

Over-reliance on metrics can be your downfall. If we look at the numbers for the Top 10 across the major social media channels (with my own inserted for comparison), they look like this:

ContestantFacebook FansTwitter FollowersYouTube SubscribersInstagram Followers
Casey Palmer1,63313,37986650
Kristi Keller3,5801,53133364
Maxwell Moulsonn/a83642,987
Shannon Boodram2,038 7,021 422,728
Maxwel Hohn22,0163,28190335
Cailin O’Neil3,95714,2002,0501,489
Nadine Sykora16,62724,400159,5118,432
Christopher Evans n/a314,000258932
Elaine Atkins1,105
4,05501,234
Megan Shier159773108267
Gariele Braaksman/a41276714
1 Used my Facebook profile’s figure of 1600+ friends rather than my Facebook page’s figure of 320+ for the competition. No shame.
2 Maxwel’s bio must be invisible if it even exists. I’m convinced he just posted a link to his homepage—he is a scuba instructor, after all!
3 Christopher links to his Facebook profile with 1,684 friends in his video.
4 Links to a Facebook profile with an indeterminate amount of friends.

Findings:

What’s immediately clear is this:

  1. Pretty much everyone specializes in one social media channel. Even when you have heavy hitters like Nadine Sykora with her 160K YouTube subscribers, or Shannon Boodram, Cailin O’Neil and Christopher Evans with their stats in the tens of thousands, there’s a strong leaning toward expertise in one channel above the others, with following on the other channels stemming from that. LESSON: Find one avenue that you use best and focus on it. Trying to be everywhere and do everything isn’t to your advantage.
  2. I’m a small fish in a massive sea. Looking at these numbers, I can’t even kid myself. I’ve come a long way in my social media journey so far, but nowhere near the point where my followers on one given channel could fill the Rogers Centre, Air Canada Centre and BMO Field combined.

If I didn’t realize it before, it’s damn sure sunk in now—stagnating is not an option, and if I want to open the door to better opportunities, I need to shell out the kind of content that’ll appeal to larger audiences—Toronto is not the sum total of everything that’s out there!

  • IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE NUMBERS. While true that there’re some scary numbers in here, you have finalists who don’t have any figures over 1,000 for any channel, which only yields one conclusion — the decision wasn’t just about the numbers.

Quantifiable data can only tell you so much. You need to read between the lines for the qualitative data to understand the solutions that satisfy both sides of the equation—in this case, the 60 Days in Paradise contestants putting compelling applications together on one side, and convincing Tobago’s Division of Tourism & Transportation and their Canadian PR liaison of the best pick for an Island Connoisseur on the other.

Reading Between the Tweets

If numbers don’t tell the entire story, I needed to look at the videos and bios (where possible) to understand better what made these ten stand apart. This is what I found (again, compared to myself as a control):

ContestantLocationStoryNickname1
Casey PalmerToronto, ONn/a
Kristi KellerCalgary, AB
  • award-winning travel blogger
  • travel writer
  • travel agent
  • lived in Jamaica for several years
“The Jamaican”
Maxwell MoulsonMississauga, ON
  • travels a lot
  • went to Tobago when he was 4
  • very energetic
“The Chatterbox”
Shannon BoodramPickering, ON
  • TV personality
  • wedding photographer
  • been to Tobago twice (for 1 day each time)
“The TV Host”
Maxwel HohnKelowna, BC
  • scuba instructor for 8 years
  • GoPro enthusiast
  • contributor to Scuba Blog (23K+ Facebook fans)
“The Scuba Instructor”
Cailin O’NeilHalifax, NS
  • travel/food vlogger
  • sommelier in training
  • loves water
“The Maritimer”
Nadine SykoraVancouver, BC
  • travel videographer
  • 33 MILLION+ video views
“The Vlogger”
Christopher EvansLondon, ON
  • filmmaker
“The Filmmaker”
Elaine AtkinsToronto, ON
  • beauty/fashion blogger
  • adventures/travels often
“The Comedian”
Megan ShierToronto, ON
  • travel blogger
  • adventurous
“The Underdog”
Gariele BraaksmaVictoria, BC
  • born in Trinidad, raised in Canada
  • marketing/communications student
“The Native”
1 These are nicknames I came up with per finalist that I felt best captured either their approach to the competition, one of the key reasons why I thought they made the Top 10, or simply something distinguishing them from the rest of the pack.


Findings:

Starting to understand the stories behind the numbers, while not the case for all the finalists, you could see that some seemed pre-destined for an opportunity like this, and while I’m an adventurous, energetic guy who loves talking to people, I might not have been the perfect fit they were looking for. My blog focuses on happenings around Toronto. While not camera-shy, my YouTube is nothing to write home about. I could’ve cleaned the sound in my video submission a little more with more time. While my head’s full of “coulda, shoulda, woulda”, it quickly became clear that there’s an entire breed of content creators out there who live for travel—not just travelling for vacation’s sake!

If you’re entering a competition at this scale, it’s best to know the lay of the land. Justin’s been egging me on for ages to get more knowledgeable about video and all it has to offer in Toronto’s community, and he’s totally right. Before this contest, I’d never even heard of Nadine Sykora—now, I’m shocked that I hadn’t! This contest has reminded me that the world is only as small as I allow it to be, and our growth is only limited to the scale of our imagination and efforts.

This contest reminded me that I need to dream bigger.

Onward and Upward

This isn’t a post to whine over how I didn’t make the Top 10 and how I should’ve got in—there’s already plenty of salt on Twitter about the contest from the contestants who didn’t make it:

I’m looking at who got chosen to figure out what I can learn from the experience. With social media as my side hustle, I’d be a fool to think I’m the best at what I do when plenty of others are putting more time, effort and dedication to their craft than I do every single day.

But I’m not a quitter. I don’t get bitter. I was disappointed at first, but the best reaction to news like this isn’t to sulk, but to show the judging panel what they’re missing out on, and find a future opportunity that may be exactly what you were looking for.

So in the end, I thank the 60 Days in Paradise selection committee. This might not have been the conclusion I was looking for, but it gave me the kick I needed to get back to doing what I should be doing —

PUTTING THE BEST DAMN CONTENT TOGETHER THAT I POSSIBLY CAN.

Until the next post,

The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad

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