Silicon Beach: Boat Show Sails Into Social Media

Categories: Silicon Beach
The Super Bowl has come and gone, but one local tradition is still going strong. The 69th annual Miami International Boat Show and Strictly Sail Miami will have boating, fishing, and water sports enthusiasts in a frenzy this weekend.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), which organizes the show, expects about 100,000 people to show up at the Miami Beach Convention Center and Sea Isle Marina from February 11 through 15.

Yesterday, Silicon Beach spoke with a few boat show movers and shakers over the phone on the subject of social media.

This is the first year the NMMA has explored social media full-throttle. "We started a Facebook fan page last year," says public relations manager Sarah Ryser. "But we're really drumming it up this year. The fan page is for our Miami-based boating and fishing enthusiasts. We'll be posting articles and key information that will be more relevant to our Facebook fans."

Boat show management has also ventured into Twitter (@miamiboatshow). "We're working with exhibitors to pulse information," Ryser explains. "But we'll also be putting out information on press conferences, events, product features, and tweeting photos. Our Twitter account is for everyone interested in the boat show -- not only consumers but also media and industry professionals."

A number of boat manufacturers and sellers have been popping up on the boat show's Twitter account, including Sea Ray (@searayboat), the world's largest manufacturer of quality pleasure boats, according to its website.

This year, Sea Ray is giving financial wizard Suze Ormon the keys to a craft in the effort to promote its Women on Water initiative, which hopes to make boating more accessible to women. The company has been using social media to promote the Ormon event, but it won't stop there. "We'll be using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to report back to friends, fans, and followers," says Ken Rohman, director of interactive marketing.

Nielson Paty (@jettypro), who owns a video production company and is not affiliated with the boat show, is holding the first boat show tweetup this Friday, February 12, at Shucker's in North Bay Village. (Invite here.)

Paty, an avid fisherman and boater, has been eager to put together a marine industry tweetup. It might be a rogue event, but Paty wisely chose boat show weekend for his first one and hopes it will become a regular gathering over the coming months.

"This isn't sponsored by the boat show," Paty explains. "But I'm looking for marine enthusiasts, fisherman, boaters, divers -- basically anyone interested in the industry. I'd also love to see people there who don't know a lot about the ocean but are curious. I want the marine aspect to be the center point."

Paty claims he has seen the fishing community embrace social networking platforms.  "Captains are tweeting daily. I get information on a daily basis from all over the world," he says.
The marine industry, which relies heavily on technology, is also using Twitter. Any serious boater is already a gadget geek by default. "I've seen companies coming on to Twitter and asking customers to respond about products," Paty says. "Captains have been using GPS for a long time, and they're very likely to respond to location-based apps like Foursquare."

The official hashtag for the Miami International Boat Show is #mibs. Follow the event on Twitter @miamiboatshow and on Facebook.

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