The Tourist Development Council is seeking some Gulf County “selfies.”


The Tourist Development Council is seeking some Gulf County “selfies.”



The TDC this week kicked off its spring promotion with a contest aimed at showcasing the county's beauty through the Twitter of photos, Instagram, the fastest growing social media site.



With the word “selfie” now part of the lexicon, the TDC is riding that social media wave to a campaign to broaden the brand.



“It is a really good and simple promotion,” said TDC executive director Jennifer Jenkins. “It is about celebrating the natural beauty of Gulf County.



“It is a nice way for little Gulf County to say we are naturally beautiful and we don’t need, so to speak, to get our hair and nails done to look pretty.”



The contest taps into Instragram, the app for which can be downloaded onto any mobile device.



Simply snap a portrait of Gulf County – a wind-swept beach, a glowing sunset, a fish dancing on the end of a line, what Gulf County means to you – and post it to Instagram at #GCFLnofilter.



And provide information about the photo at @gulfcountyfl.



“Submit a photo and you are automatically entered to win one of four vacation getaways,” Jenkins said. “Anyone can enter on Instagram, visitor or local. Every picture is an entry.”



The four vacation getaways will offer a free three-night stay with a local lodging partner.



TDC partners No Worries Vacation Rentals, Pristine Properties, Crewes Nest and the Haughty Heron/Heron’s Nest as well as Happy Ours and Sunset Coastal Grill have helped the TDC bring the promotion together, Jenkins noted.



The contest started Tuesday and will continue through the end of April, with a group of eight travel industry writers arriving in the county toward the end of the promotion on a trip designed to showcase Gulf County in major media markets.



The TDC is also partnering with the Izea blogging network, fieldandstream.com and Crisp mobile and, a critical component, Outdoor Nation.



Outdoor Nation is a non-profit whose goal is to introduce the so-called millennial generations to the outdoors, to connect youngsters to the outdoors while they disconnect from their mobile devices and phones.



And for Jenkins, that means an opportunity to connect with the county’s next generation of visitors and connect with them long-term.



Outdoor Nation is promoting the area throughout the contest on its website and the TDC has pledged a $1 contribution match for every photo submitted during the spring promotion.



The goal, Jenkins said, is 5,000 photos and $5,000 to a worthy cause.



“We wanted to have a socially-good component and a give-back to the promotion,” Jenkins said. “They want to get youngsters outdoors and we are an outdoor playground. They are really excited about this promotion.”



Jenkins said the TDC does not have the promotional budgets of larger counties – Bay County’s TDC recently determined how it would spend more than $1 million in marketing money – which dictates the need for strategic spending of funds.



The concept for the promotion came from no luggage, the TDC social media strategy agency. Where Jenkins figured she would see three ideas, no luggage offered five.



“Narrowing it down was difficult,” Jenkins said.



The spring push began in January with “Our Idea of a Wild Spring Break” ad campaign that poked a bit of fun at the counties to the west.



The Instragram contest promotes the concept of “prompting visitors to come to Gulf County and get their hands dirty. Be real. Be natural. Be you,” Jenkins said, echoing the verbiage of the campaign.



The TDC advisory council approved a $55,000 budget for the spring promotion and the Instagram contest offers bang for relatively little buck, Jenkins said, as it will feed the social media elements – Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter – the TDC is already employing to marketing success.



“These photos are going to be seen around the world,” Jenkins said. “We know targeted promotions work.



“This is a conversation starter. This is promoting the things we are naturally. It is a strategic alliance, a brand alliance. We are trying to align ourselves through a grassroots effort.”



Jenkins said folks are encouraged to think creatively – maybe a suitable photo for a Birmingham, AL resident is to snap a photo sitting in their living room in the pouring rain dreaming about Gulf County.



And, most of all; get a kick from their pics.



“We want self-inspired photos,” Jenkins said. “My goal is to get to that 5,000 people. We’re going to have some fun with it.”