Disclosure: Bicultural Mama received samples and goodie bags related to the conference. All opinions expressed are solely those of Bicultural Mama.
When it comes to conferences, what often comes to mind are boring lectures in fluorescent-lighted rooms set to a chilling 65°F. This was definitely not the case at the 2nd annual Social Media on the Sand conference at Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Villages and Spa. At this conference, our sessions were literally held on the beach with our feet in the sand. With 125 participants, the conference not only helped us learn to grow our influence, but also fostered new and old blogger friendships.
The invitation-only Social Media on the Sand conference included four nights and five days of educational, inspiring, and empowering sessions. Best of all, social media influencers could bring their families at discounted conference rates. My husband and two young children came with me, and we all loved our time there.
While I attended the conference, my family took advantage of the 45,000 square-foot waterpark, strolled through four activity-filled villages of Italy, France, the Caribbean and Key West, ate at many of the 20 restaurants, played on the 12-mile beach, swam in several of the 7 pools available, and participated in kid’s camps. Activities abounded for people of all ages, including infants and toddlers as detailed HERE in my first post about Beaches Resort in Turks and Caicos.
We learned so much through the speaker sessions and had lots of fun, too! Below are highlights from the conference:
Heidi Clark, Director of Programs at The Sandals Foundation, delved into this philanthropic organization of Sandals Resorts International. The Sandals Foundation strives to improve the lives of the local residents where they operate through education, community and the environment. Over 14,200 volunteers have participated in Sandals Foundation programs in the last six years, including NBA Champion Dwyane Wade’s charitable organization, Wade’s World Foundation. His organization raises funds to provide integrated youth sports programs in underserved communities in South Florida and the Caribbean.
We had the opportunity to participate in “Pack for a Purpose,” a program where conference attendees could donate backpacks filled with school supplies. We happily packed them in our suitcases to bring to the conference.
School supplies are in demand, and one special speaker was Hannah Addington, an amazing teen and daughter of Angela Addington from the blog Dayton Mom-Spot. She talked about how through the Sandals Volunteen program she was able to participate in a Reading Road Trip and became a Beaches Teen Advisory Panel member. Inspired, Hannah started a Go Fund Me page for a Turks and Caicos School Supply Fund to provide 100 kids with much needed school supplies, first aid equipment, and recess materials.
To further assist in the education arena, the Sandals Foundation has developed a one year Reading Road Trip partnership with Scholastic. Through this partnership, Scholastic will be donating 25,000 books to local school libraries. Dillon Kalkurst, Director of Community and Volunteer Engagement Scholastic Book Fairs, provided details of the partnership. He also mentioned the 1-for-1 book fairs for people in U.S. to purchase books to donate to the Caribbean. If you’d like to buy and donate, simply go to store.scholastic.com and use promo code SANDALSF to receive a 20% discount.
Scholastic has also just released the book, Raising a Rock-Star Reader, written by educational bloggers Amy Mascott of Teach Mama and Allison McDonald of No Time for Flash Cards. The authors spoke about their book which provides 75 quick tips to help children develop a lifelong love of reading.
Given the location of the conference, several of the speakers featured were those who made the conference happen. Debbie-Ann White, Senior Vice President of Public Relations and Promotions, talked about her role at Unique Vacations, Inc. — an affiliate of the worldwide representatives for Sandals Resorts International. Maria Bailey, CEO of BSM Media and founder of Social Media on the Sand, spoke about Periscope and other social media platforms along with Alice Chase, COO of Periscope Summit. A BIG thank you to Maria Bailey, Debbie-Ann White and their teams for putting together this terrific conference!
Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts International, discussed how Sandals Resorts International redefined all-inclusive resorts by elevating the dining experience with gourmet restaurants, offering brand name liquors, and making sure that “everybody gets a vacation” – meaning that his resorts appeal to multigenerational families because there’s something for everyone.
Tiffany Mullins, Social Media Manager at Sandals Resorts, shared the history of the company’s progression in social media as well as its strategic vision for the future. Through her team’s work, Sandals Resorts now boasts a social media presence of over 4 million followers across 126 social media networks.
Patrick Huey, Director of Spas and Fitness Sandals Resorts International, highlighted the launch of three new skin care products from Red Lane Spa. Though the spas are located within Sandals Resorts, the products are available to everyone through its website at www.RedLaneSpa.com. New products included Luxe Cleansing Oil to nourish and brighten, Peptide Mist to hydrate and smooth, and Nurturing Mud Mask to heal and restore.
Brands and Influencers
Dan Lewis, Director of New Media Communication at Sesame Workshop, explained how Sesame Workshop utilizes social media to maximize reach and influence. He mentioned Sesame Street’s newest character, Julia, who is the show’s first character with autism. Through Julia, the hope is to present a relatable character to help people better understand those living with autism.
Lori Lorenz, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Hewlett-Packard Company, highlighted the new HP printers and HP Instant Ink program. The ink is ordered by your printer when it’s running low and then new ink is delivered to your door so you never run out. Lorenz also spoke about leadership, stating, “Leadership is a choice, not a title.” In her inspiring talk, Lorenz pointed out we’re all leaders in different ways, and encouraged attendees to define themselves, assess opportunities, and make time for the 20% of things that make 80% of the difference in their businesses.
Jennifer Labit, CEO of Cotton Babies cloth diaper line, inspired conference attendees with her mompreneur story. Back in 2002, the mom of four started the company with just $100. Today Cotton Babies is a multimillion dollar international business. She gave an example of a company conflict and how doing the right thing was not necessarily the popular thing. She pointed out it’s important to survey customers in your business to identify opportunities.
Ilana Wiles, founder of MommyShorts, described how she grew her blog into a successful business. She offered advice to bloggers on how to build a community, earn income and grow reach.
Dr. Deborah Gilboa, author and parenting and youth develop expert, said to “declare your inner expert.” She stated we’re all experts in something, and the key was to find what that was in order to become influential in that area.
Many brands partnered with Social Media on the Sand and helped make the conference a big success. Thank you to HP for sponsoring the fun 80’s party at Club Liquid. HP’s recently launched MyPrintly.com site provides DIY projects and ideas using printable products. It’s new Social Media Snapshots paper — 4×5 sticky-backed photo sheets that prints directly via social media Smartphones — works with the HP Social Media Snapshots App to instantly display life’s memorable moments. Now through November 30, 2015, HP Social Media Snapshots are Buy One Get One Free when you use the following link and click “redeem now”: bit.ly/snapshotsbogo.
Playskool surprised attendees with its all new Play All Day Elmo, sure to be at the top of kids’ wish lists this holiday. Lands End outfitted attendees with marina-inspired swim tees which many of us wore to the conference sessions. Del Sol, manufacturers of clothing and accessories that change color in the sun, gave bloggers fun hair clips, sunglasses and nail polish. LeapFrog introduced the LeapFrog LeapPad Platinum tablet, and many influencers with children received samples.
In addition to previously-mentioned Scholastic, Sesame Street and Sandals Foundation, a huge thank you also goes to these partners:
- BudStraps – Soft touch earbud retainers similar to sunglasses straps except for earbuds.
- Boogie Wipes – Soft, disposable saline wipes used to dissolve mucus for kids.
- Daily’s Cocktails – Ready-to-drink cocktails and mixers including its top selling frozen pouches.
- Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus – An easy-to-use wrinkle spray that reduces wrinkles and helps keep clothes looking neat without the hassle of ironing.
- Dreft Laundry Stain Remover – Formulated to remove tough stains on children’s clothing, bedding and blankets.
- Entenmann’s Little Bites – Delicious, baked sweet goods for on-the-go snacking.
- Evalar – A leading dietary supplement brand in Europe for more than 20 years featuring products with natural origins designed by women, for women.
- Good Natured Selects – Premium baked snack food made from healthy ingredients such as oats, potato flour, poppy, flax, sesame and caraway seeds.
- The Grand Bevy – Leading high end cocktail service specializing in luxury weddings and events.
- Hashtracking – Real-time intelligence and insights for hashtag campaigns and events.
- The Mommy Hook – Durable, lightweight and versatile storage hook for hanging bags on strollers.
- Powder Pouch – A pouch that easily brushes off beach sand.
- Project Mc² – New fashion doll line based in S.T.E.M. / S.T.E.A.M. curriculum that debuted in August alongside a Netflix Original Series.
- Stopain Migraine – The first topical gel to safely, quickly and effectively relieve migraine pain.
- Strand Bands – DIY fashion accessory kits featuring stretchy-soft bands that are simple and fun to braid, weave, bead and decorate.
Thank you to Beaches Resorts and BSM Media for setting up fun events outside of the conference sessions, such as the beach party dinner at Treasure Beach, Sesame Street Character Breakfast at Le Petit Chateau in the French Village, Beaches Resorts Interactive Sessions (I attended the Robert Mondavi Wine Tasting and Food Pairing session), Halloween Party at Key West Village Lawn and more.
We created memories to last a lifetime, and hope to attend again next year!