• There is nothing I love quite as much as a summer road trip.

    Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the City of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. A family celebration was planned, so I took a couple of extra days on either end of the event to holiday and play tourist.

    Naturally, I posted about my journey across the Salish Sea on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Almost immediately, new followers appeared, and a couple of local businesses took the time to tag and welcome me to the island.

    My friend and colleague, Rebecca Coleman was also island-side, so we planned to meet up at a farmer’s market on a sunny morning. The market, which I had visited several years ago was smaller than I remembered with fewer vendors competing for attention. Still, it offered all the basics: fresh produce and eggs, baked goods, a variety of crafters and some live music to add atmosphere.

    It was a beautiful day and my mother Coleman and I happily wandered the stalls, chatting with vendors and planning our lunch.

    I’ve written about Coleman before. She teaches social media at BCIT and UBC and is a well-known B.C. food blogger and the author of the cookbook Aquafabulous (Robert Rose 2016). She has a devoted online following. Her followers trust her and seek her out for advice and recommendations on all things social media and food related. She’s got influence, and in the online world, she’s got real game.

    Coleman is spending the summer exploring her own backyard, visiting places in B.C. and writing or vlogging about them.

    During our market visit, one of the vendors asked Coleman not to take pictures of her, or her product. Of course, the vendor couldn’t know who Coleman is, or why she was taking photographs. She simply saw somebody, a tourist, pointing a rather high-quality camera her way. It’s absolutely the vendor’s right to decline photographs, and Coleman respectfully pointed her camera elsewhere. But what a missed opportunity.

    It’s summertime and people are traveling all over the province. They are looking for family activities, places to eat, and places to shop. They are using smartphones and iPads. Savvy tourists find and follow interest-based hashtags and geotags and check out the feeds and recommendations of local influencers.

    By contrast, another vendor, the Island Chai Guy, was delighted by our visit to his stall, posed for an Instagram story and offered us tasting samples of his product. Shortly after we tagged and posted, he reached out via private message and offered to send us product samples. A very generous box full arrived on my doorstep in Maple Ridge a few days later.

    This isn’t to say that businesses need to send free samples out to anyone who points a smartphone or camera their way. It is to say that businesses can take advantage of the opportunities to have products and services amplified by active social media users, especially during the summer tourist months.

    If someone points a camera at you, find out why.

    Meanwhile, enjoy your summer rambles.

    Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article first appeared in the Maple Ridge News.