What I Learned from the Island Connoisseur Contest

Last updated on March 21st, 2021 at 09:22 am

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


Obviously, that’s a wide net. Where 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 get a better understanding of 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
Megan Shier159773108267
Gariele Braaksma n/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 In his video, Christopher links to his Facebook profile with 1,684 friends.

4 Links to a Facebook profile with an indeterminate amount of friends.

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 to capacity combined.
BMO Field Capacity Screenshot
Nadine still wouldn’t have enough room for all her YouTube subscribers, FYI.

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 get a better idea of what it was that really made these ten stand apart. This is what I found (again, compared to myself as a control):

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.

Starting to understand the stories behind the numbers, while not the case for all the finalists, you could definitely see that there were those who 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’s nothing to write home about. With more time, I could’ve cleaned the sound in my video submission a little more. While my head’s full of “coulda, shoulda, wouldas”, it quickly became clear that there’s an entire breed of content creator out there who lives 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 been a reminder that your world is only as small as you 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:

For me, 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 there is at what I do when plenty of others are out there 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 obviously 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 all along.

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 —


Until the next post,

The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad

By Casey E. Palmer

Husband. Father. Storyteller.

Calling the Great White North his home, Casey Palmer the Canadian Dad spend his free time in pursuit of the greatest content possible.

Thousand-word blog posts? Snapshots from life? Sketches and podcasts and more—he's more than just a dad blogger; he's working to change what's expected of the parenting creators of the world.

It's about so much more than just our kids.

When Casey's not creating, he's busy parenting, adventuring, trying to be a good husband and making the most of his life!

Casey lives in Toronto, Ontario.

31 replies on “What I Learned from the Island Connoisseur Contest”

Casey you are all sorts of awesome! I *think* we are about the same age – haha at least we are close to it 😉 and I’ve learned to accept disappointment over the years for sure! I failed my first DL too hahaha! This was a such a great post. Never mind just this contest (in which, by the way I TOTALLY thought you had it in the bag….) but blogging in general. I’ve sat there and questioned “why that person and not me” and tried to make excuses for it but then stepped back and looked all the great things I already had going on in my life and all the opportunities I DID have! And that’s helped me to keep on going. Life is full of disappointments and rejection and it’s all about how you deal with it and take those lessons learned and move on 🙂 As much as I try to be aware of everything going on around me social media wise I think it’s important to take it back a notch and just concentrate on REAL engagement. After all, it’s those relationships I want to cultivate further anyway 🙂

So…I have never in my life been called a comedian but I’ll take it – hahahaha! Thanks for the support Casey, you’re truly a class act! So glad we FINALLY got to meet this year!


On this day, the day of your birth, it occurred to me that I had not yet replied to your comment. So in lieu of a real present — for, admittedly, I did not get you one — I will reply to your comment with candor, letting you in on my inmost thoughts and insights in response to what you left me 🙂

  • I think we’re likely around the same age 🙂 I celebrated my Dirtiest of Thirties last year, as I like to call it, and often tell people that 30’s been the greatest year of my life so far 🙂 I’m pretty sure all birthdays from now on won’t be as crazy as I’ve made them, but that’s okay. Life isn’t all about acting a fool.
  • Now that I am driving, it’s hard to believe I found it so difficult in the first place. I have my G test this summer, and there’s not one iota of dread in me. I’m just going to go do it up and I’m certain everything will turn out the way it’s supposed to!
  • There was a time I used to look at fellow bloggers with envy, wondering why I couldn’t get the access that they had. Years down the road, I better appreciate how much work it takes to keep the content fresh and flowing, and find that I only have so much time to keep up the momentum myself. Envy problem solved. Now I cheer when things work out, but if someone has more time and energy to do something amazing in their lives, more power to them 🙂 I do what I can!
  • And you’re right. At the end of the day, it’s really about the genuine interactions we have with people. There’s people I know I can rely on for things, and in return, they know they can rely on me. These relationships don’t form overnight, but I try not to take them for granted, because you can shatter them so easily with one wrong move.

In conclusion, my dear Elaine, I’m happy we’ve met IRL, and I hope we get to work together on some cool things in the months and years to come 🙂 I don’t plan to go anywhere, so I’m sure it’ll become a thing! Good luck in the rest of the competition — I expect it’s going to be a fierce one!

This was far more in depth than I realized you were going for. I loved the break down in follower counts. It really put into perspective how specialization is integral to expansion rather than attempting to be a solid Jack Of All Trades.

If you’re going to stay up ’til 3 in the morning working on content, it’d better be good, am I right?

Examining the stats was a huge insight for me — when I saw the numbers from some of the heavy hitters from Toronto and surrounding area, it put a lot in perspective for me, making me want to work harder at what I do. And yeah — you know my story. You’ve seen the tweetups, the discussions on Facebook, the time I spend on my blog. I think the time’s long overdue for me to streamline how I operate and focus my efforts on one solid thing at a time! I’m hoping to remember that lesson through the rest of 2014, when I try to take a better swing at this Torontonian life of mine 🙂

Expect more thought-out stuff like this in the future. I like how it comes together 🙂

I love the positive vibe this post has. Even when things don’t work out in your favour, you gotta know how to take away something positive and learn how to continue in the right direction. Good luck with whatever is next up for you!

And thanks for making me “The Underdog”. That made me giggle since I have the tendency to always root for the underdogs in general. But I think it could be an accurate label. I feel like a bit of an underdog running against people who seem so well established.

Thanks, Megan — I think Operation: Don’t Be Sour Grapes is a success 😉 One thing I can say is that I’ve been blown away with the response this post’s been getting today, and it’s helped me to believe in pushing my content even further, so the next time I find myself in a competition, maybe I’ll have some more to bring to the table 😀

As for the underdogs — well. Even the smallest dogs know how to bite, right? I look forward to seeing what you pull off in the coming month 🙂 Good luck!

I loved this post and how you did so much research and organizing to put it together. Thank you for that!
I’m also glad that you took part in the contest regardless of what you thought your chances at winning would be. It’s been a HUGE learning experience all around! And as a fellow Brandgasm-er we know that learning can never be a FAIL.
I’ve also noticed the naysayers that started popping up instantly. Being the contender with the longest video at 35 seconds I know I’m their target BUT not once throughout this entire process and campaign have I focused on my competition and what they are doing/saying. I’m too busy focusing on my OWN campaign and I guess it’s working. I wish the best of luck to all my fellow competitors! And Casey, I wish YOU the best of luck in your future endeavors! I’m about to share this post with a lot of people I know that will love how you put this together.

Much respect!!

Ugh. Kristi, I’m linking it in my comment, but can I tell you that actually getting through Brandgasm 101 is on my list of 100 to-dos this year? I was working on a design for a good while, but it eventually fell to the wayside and I never picked it back up. I might need to share my sketches with the world to see whether anyone can help me figure out some way to take them from an idea to a kick-ass design!


Any time you put a pot of money out for the offering, people are going to hate when they’re denied it. At the end of the day, you’re in the Top 10 and I know you’re going to do everything possible to end up on top 🙂 The fact you can do that without focusing on the competition just speaks to how determined you are to get the best out of your efforts! So rock, rock on!

Thanks for the well wishes — this post doing well has helped me reaffirm the views I have about my work, and I look forward to plenty more in the future as I continue to do my best 🙂

Good luck, Kristi! I know you’re going to make this next month memorable!

(And the fact you’ve already got CTV on this? Damn, girl!)

The CTV thing surprised me a little bit too because it came before NOON on the first day! I was still naked out of the shower when they called baahahaha! Calgarians are famous for rallying around our own – it’s really neat what goes on in this city.
Anyway thanks for the well-wishes……now get off the internet and go finish Brandgasm lol!

Casey, LOVE this!! Kristi and I discussed hours and hours and hours lol about what they were looking for and we couldn’t figure it out! Like you said, it wasn’t very clear to exactly what they wanted. We thought you would make it for sure! I do like that the contestants are all diverse and different! I agree with your whole post here and thank you for taking time to break it down! Good luck with everything you do!
PS: Any thoughts on the actual voting process 🙂

Thanks for this, Dyana 🙂

I thought I came in with a strong application, but in the end I guess it wasn’t what I needed 🙂 I’m thinking on writing a bit more about my creative process for a future post, but when it all boils down to it, there were so many approaches I could’ve taken — who knows if they would’ve had a different result?

The voting process will be an interesting one. Without any of the Top 10 being able to see how they rank, they’re all going to have to work their butts off to try and stay on top, without having any idea of how they’re doing. In some ways, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that, because I’m unsure whether my mind could take it!

I’d been poking around the site the night before the Top 10 were announced to see if I could get some early news and sate my curiosity — I’d come across this link: http://www.60daysinparadise.com/vote

I’d imagine if someone could figure out the password, they might be able to see some standings, but that’s just me 🙂

Wow Casey, you do need to start blogging more! Your insites are great. I also agree with you, without knowing the standings of the votes it will be hard to know where you are in the process. Hmmm about figuring out pw lol 🙂 And I also need to take the brandism course! Time, time where are you??

Ha, thanks :)dire

One thing I’ve learned from all this is that while I’ve blogger a lot, I’d like to start blogging a little differently. There’s a lot of thinking and analysis I usually don’t find time to include in my work, and I might start leaning more in that direction to really give a detailed look at different subject matter 🙂 The urge to do it comes and goes – just gotta harness it when I feel inspired, right?

There’s never enough time for everything – just something I’ve come to accept 😉 I try to do the best I can every day and keep building all the ideas I’m working on. I’m in no rush 😛

Hey Casey!
Thanks for tagging me in this, an interesting perspective for sure. Also thanks for the nickname too! 😉
It’s a hard run to the finish line from here. I personally HATE voting contests. 🙁 I would much rather be judge than win because I have the most friends… Haha
Good thing this has inspired you to do bigger and better things. 🙂 it has for me too. You never know what the outcome might be. Thanks again 🙂

I just realized I worded that wrong haha I was meaning to say “I would much rather be judged than possibly win because you have the most friends.” hope that makes more sense now.
Hopefully we will connect in person in the future. 🙂

Thanks for dropping a line, Cailin 🙂

Voting contests aren’t all bad though, are they? One could argue that conversely, the people with the most “friends” have them for a reason, whether it’s because they put out valuable content, know the right people, or — and it’s unfortunately true — maybe they just look really good in spandex.

With that said, sometimes the smallest creatures have the strongest bite, and you can have hundreds upon thousands of friends, but if you have a core group dedicated enough to really push the envelope and get you that win, even voting contests rarely stand a chance.

But good luck! I’m sure it’ll be fierce, but you’ve made it this far already, right?

Look forward to eventually crossing paths!

Now that you’re not in the running anymore, please can you vote for Kristi “The Jamaican” Keller?

Kinda cold-blooded, no? I mean, sure — I’m no longer in the running and I’ve come to peace with my defeat, but how is this the place to make that kind of request? Twitter, sure. Facebook, yeah. But someone’s personal blog? That just ain’t right.

Just sayin’.

It was just a joke but maybe you took your defeat a little heavier than I thought….. I don’t subscribe to any of your other links and only visited this site because Krist “The Jamaican” Keller thought I would like it…..

Also just sayin…..

Winky faces go a long way on the Internet since text doesn’t really convey any tonality 😉

Nah, I’m fine with the way things are — I just follow a certain decorum when it comes to where messages get conveyed, is all. I can agree to disagree 🙂

All said, I consider Kristi a very serious contender in this competition, and will be very interested to see how everything turns out 🙂

Feel free to come back anytime 😀

This is an awesome post, Casey, and obviously took a lot of time and effort. For me, one of the best parts about this contest has been getting to know you and becoming friends.

60 days was an incredible opportunity, and even though we didn’t make the Top Ten, we put ourselves out there and did our best. How can that be any less than a win?

Best of luck to all the finalists! I’m excited to see who will be Tobago’s Island Connoisseur.

Thanks, Holli 🙂 I’m very glad that we’ve been able to chat since the contest’s moved to its next stage, and look forward to chatting with you further over time 🙂

The tiredness finally hit me this evening after I spent a good chunk of my night putting this together, but it was worth it 🙂 It’s one of my better pieces of work lately!

I’m sure all of the finalists will get creative with their approach to self-promotion in the coming month — I know a couple are already working with CTV to get the news out! I wonder what we’ll see next….

Hey Casey,

I read your post with great interest and would like to thank you for sharing your analyses and opinions. I was and continue to be pleasantly surprised that I made it into the top 10. Seeing my numbers compared to my fellow top 10’ers, I completely agree with your thoughts that quantitative data was not most important for this competition.

My competitive advantage in this competition is that I know Tobago, love Tobago, and would do anything to help Tobago, regardless of if I become the Island Connoisseur or not.

Take care, and I wish you well in every future venture! And if it’s any condolence, I’m 25 and still don’t have my Learner’s permit for driving 😛

Gariele “The Native”

P.S. I am from Victoria, BC …not Toronto 🙂

Ha! Thanks for catching that, Gariele — when you have a post of this size, you’re bound to make mistakes 🙂

In your case, I feel like you represent someone who’s already immersed in the culture — if I were in charge of marketing your 60 Days in Paradise, I’d see it as a “return to Tobago”, the quest of a young woman rediscovering her roots and sharing her stories with the world 🙂 Though numbers play a role in the voting, I think anyone who can charm an audience with the right approach need not fear large audiences, for that’s the kind of story that can go viral on its own!

I still don’t like driving, but I’ll admit that it’s made my life a lot more convenient!

Good luck in the competition!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: