The U.S. Embassy to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean is continually searching for new ways to better engage with a local community spread across seven different countries: Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Dominica. Social media forums, such as Facebook and Twitter, are popular in the Caribbean, particularly among teenagers and young adults. These platforms provide a great starting point for discussion, but real engagement is multi-faceted and involves feedback and dialogue.
In September 2011, the Public Affairs Section (PAS) of U.S. Embassy Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean launched a six-week focus on urban culture that relied largely upon Facebook to promote embassy events and to host activities online. The most successful of our online activities was the Urban Visions video contest. With this contest, we asked our fans literally to show us their perspectives on urban culture through video.
Embassy staff selected three finalists. James Marcelle's video, set to upbeat hip-hop music, followed his fellow students at St. Mary's College as they explored urban culture in St. Lucia. The other two finalists, Mikul Elcock and Andre Phillips, outlined aspects of the skateboarding culture in Barbados. We linked the three finalists' videos on our Facebook page, and our fans selected the winner by "liking" their favorites.
Competition was fierce, with two of the three videos immediately attracted large numbers of "likes." Mikul's video rallied strongly at the end, as he rounded up his supporters among Barbados's skateboarding community. With 645 "likes," Mikul's video edged out the second place video's 606 to win the contest.
PAS designed the Urban Visions video contest as a method of connecting with youth across Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. Throughout the contest, we were excited to see new fans join us every day and immediately contribute to the chorus of comments about each video. We judged the success of Urban Visions not only by the intense online interaction the voting generated, but also by the hundreds of new fans it attracted to the Embassy's online community. Urban Visions and other content related to urban culture spiked interaction on our Facebook page by 80 percent, expanding our audience for future discussions. We will continue to find innovative ways of actively engaging with our audience, and encourage our new friends to continue to follow us and to speak up as we create even more ways to become involved online.