AS SOON as Albay Gov. Joey Salceda wakes up in the morning, he greets his constituents on Facebook (“Good morning, Albay”) and cycles through the towns and component cities with a slew of hashtags promoting the province.
After the morning greeting, Salceda shares a “tigsik,” a short poem in Bikol, written by the province’s poet laureate Abdon Balde, Jr. The Palanca awardee posts the tigsik as early as 3 or 4 a.m. It covers anything Albay, from its beautiful vistas to its culinary wonders and cultural heritage.
Salceda will then post updates on the weather: key information for a province ravaged by typhoons and occasionally threatened by an eruption of Mayon Volcano.
After that, his Facebook account, which he personally runs, is a continuous stream of photos and updates promoting Albay events and destinations.
Salceda has hit the 5,000 friends limit on Facebook and could no longer add new ones. He regularly threatens to drop or block Facebook accounts of those who do not change the cover photo to the designated image to promote an Albay festival or those who send game requests.
He has 131,898 followers on Facebook, a veritable private army of promoters who amplify his Facebook postings about events, destinations and anything Albay.
Salceda refuses to create a Facebook “fan” page for himself. A Facebook page, unlike a personal account, would have allowed him more than 5,000 contacts, access to analytics as well as capability to pay to boost his postings and make it visible to even more people. He said that if his account were a page, people would think it’s being run by an “admin” and he does not want that. He wants to interact with people himself.
When our team dropped by the Provincial Tourism Cultural Affairs Office (PTCAO) last Thursday, Salceda was hunched on his desk–he has one in PTCAO, including a sofa where the governor who works long hours often sleeps and rests, a testimony to how important tourism is to his administration–working on Facebook to promote the day’s events and send out instructions to officials and employees.
He quickly asked for a Facebook-optimized banner image for our event–the Digital Tourism launch in Albay. Each event must have a Facebook banner image, Balde later told us, for the governor to use in promotions.
Balde said that when he was named poet laureate in 2011, Salceda was already extensively using Facebook. Balde said the governor’s use of the social network was effective not only in promoting Albay but sending out important messages as well as encouraging transparency.
The governor shares official and even personal communications. Including, to my minor embarrassment, an email I sent to Capitol officials related to our project and with him in the loop. When Albay was struggling with rotating brownouts because of equipment breakdown some months back, officials of power agencies saw their SMS, emails explaining to Salceda such things as delays posted on Facebook.
But when it comes to tourism promotion on social networks, Salceda is unmatched. When asked by reporters how important tourism was to Albay, he answered, “Simple. No tourists, no food.”
Salceda wants Albay to gobble the market share of other destinations. And to do that, he is turning to what he described as “magical” technology: digital, mobile and social.