It has been said that "word of mouth" is the best form of advertising. In the digital age, interactive media is the voice being heard above the rest.
That's one reason the Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC) and Panama City Convention and Visitors Bureau is planning to spend a third of its budget on interactive media next year. At Tuesday's combined board meeting, members selected an interactive marketing agency to take those efforts to the next level.
Traditional media -- television, radio, print and billboards -- are still in the mix, but technology has led to a major shift in the way the Panama City Beach is promoted. Although the "World's Most Beautiful Beaches" have a way of selling themselves, there's high-tech help these days.
An official website (www.visitpanamacitybeach.com) was introduced four years ago. Since then, a mobile phone application and Facebook page have joined the interactive marketing revolution. The beauty is that the visitors themselves get involved through what's called "user generated content."
"They're sending photos, they're sending text messages," said Dan Rowe, TDC Executive Director. "They're really telling their friends their story and Panama City Beach is a great backdrop to tell that story."
The official beach Facebook page has more than 360,000 "likes" and a mobile app is rapidly gaining popularity. The website receives thousands of hits, but Rowe said it's not as useful once visitors arrive.
"The likelihood of somebody going out to our website on their home computer when they're actually in the market is slim and none," said Rowe. "They're going to be using their iPads or their smart phones."
According to Rowe, a revised strategy will focus on the back end of the process, where content is managed. "Whether it's our mobile app, whether it's our mobile website, whether it's our regular website or our partner website... all of those websites really need to interface well together," he said.
No matter how the message is delivered, though, the bottom line measurement remains the same: satisfied customers. "Their happiness about Panama City Beach as a tourist destination will go up and their likelihood to return will also continue to grow," said Rowe.
Simpleview, a Tucson, Arizona based destination marketing firm was chosen to implement the TDC's interactive marketing program. According to the agency's website, its clients include more than 200 U.S. and international destinations.