Marty Douglas: A social media contest just in time


Marty Douglas 2008 - web“Just in time delivery” was a phrase I first came across in one of management guru Tom Peters’ books on excellence. It referred to the streamlining of the supply side so that manufacturers did not have warehouses filled with, for example, car parts, resulting in large storage demands and accounts payable. So the bumper was delivered to be attached to the frame on the day the frame was ready. Hence “Just in time delivery”.

Fascinating, Marty.  I know.

 Here’s another application. We decided to run a contest for the public in conjunction with a renovation and grand re-opening of our office. We were out of our comfort zones for about four months and to keep ourselves amused we decided to engage the community, challenging them to name their favourite thing about our community. We called our contest “Why the Comox Valley Rocks” and procured a domain name on Facebook. We wanted to experiment with social media so we connected with Twitter, Linked In and Yelp. We issued a couple of press releases, blogged a bit, put a few things out on radio and planted some signs in the windows of our office. We offered a prize package of gift certificates, gift baskets and event tickets.

Then the fun began.

We got hundreds of people liking us, some friends, a bunch of photos and a lot of entries. The entries ranged from one-liners to multi-verse poems, from rap video to still photos. People waxed eloquently about culture, sports, mountains, streams, beaches, friendship and people. They told life stories of how they came for a moment and stayed to raise a family. They praised artists and restaurants and the views from lookouts. We had to develop 19 categories on an Excel spread sheet.

At the end of the contest we short-listed and created a voting page on Facebook, left it open for a week or so and stirred things up with a few more press releases and blogs to create a frenzy of voting. And after people voted we asked them to pick their favourite feature of our valley, from five categories. Was it geography, recreation, culture, climate or people?

Of the 76 entries, the rap video won. Of the five categories, people and geography tied for first place.

The poem written for a wedding invitation more than 30 years ago placed second. And when you think about it, the poetry of 1979 is the rap of today and YouTube is the delivery method replacing the printed format.

As an aside, the Globe and Mail edition of July 3 announced the results of its Facebook poll asking Canadians “what truly defines our country.” Now I don’t want to suggest that our local contest initiated in March helped shape the idea for a national poll on the same social medium but – amazing coincidence – you be the judge. Come to think about it, a recent pre-Canada Day MacLean’s issue included a piece entitled Unravelling Canada’s crazy quilt in which Canadians were polled on a variety of issues. I’d suggest I’m on to something here but my paranoia is somewhat muted by their claim to have conducted similar surveys in the past. Ha! But do they give out prizes? Besides, what survey for a national animal can be taken seriously when choices include the black fly, caribou and prairie dog?

We announced our winners at our open house re-opening, gave out the prizes, barbecued hot dogs and ate cake. And then got back to work. We were pleased with ourselves, we knew the prize winners were happy and we got some good media coverage of the event. We thought the results were pretty much wrapped up.

Then the note in the mail came from our winner: “Thank you for all of your kindness in words, support, actions, contest suggestion in the first place and all of the contributors in this prize package. This pick-me-up came at a time in my life that was a low point! Doing this poem and rapping it with my kids really was the best medicine for me. Truly thank you.”

Who knew that our contest would be delivered “just in time” for our winner?

As we approach our August holiday, B.C. Day where I come from (Did you know that the west and the territories have nine statutory holidays while the Maritimes have only five? That’s doesn’t explain the imbalance in the number of seats in the Senate but it is a small comfort), let’s call on that international motivational wordsmith, Teddy Roosevelt to whip us into a fever of service to our country, our community. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

 You can follow Marty Douglas on Twitter 40yrsrealestate or on LinkedIn and on Facebook. He is a managing broker for Coast Realty Group (Comox Valley) Ltd., with offices on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast of B.C. Marty is a past chair of the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Corporation of B.C., the Real Estate Council of B.C. and the B.C. Real Estate Association. He’s a current director of the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. [email protected]; 1-800-715-3999.


  1. Great summary of the campaign Marty, and it was certainly fun to work on it with you! That its timing was impeccable, well, we'll leave that to readers' imaginations whether it was cunning strategy or pure kismet.


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