Miss Montana Sheridan Pope thinks Atlantic City’s beaches are nicer than the beaches in the Bahamas, and Miss Kentucky Jenna Day has taken a liking to watching the sun come up over the Atlantic Ocean.
Miss Wyoming Rebecca Podio, meanwhile, was excited for dinner and dancing at the Tropicana Casino and Resort last week, but wouldn’t have minded stopping by a blackjack table instead.
Those are just some of the social media musings of the 53 Miss America contestants spending two weeks in Atlantic City before Sunday’s televised competition. The women have taken to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and just about every other social media tool available to talk about their experiences in the resort.
It’s a marked change from the last time the Miss America competition was in Atlantic City in 2004 and many social media tools were still in their infancy.
For pageant fanatics, the change means being able to follow their favorite contestants’ activities, from morning video shoots on Revel beach to a Blondie concert at the Golden Nugget.
For locals, it means getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the women’s adventures as some talk about getting Starbucks deliveries from their favorite jitney drivers and police escorts to dinner at Buddakan.
But for those charged with promoting Atlantic City in the midst of a five-year state plan to revive the resort, Twitter feeds are anything but inconsequential. The women’s postings are introducing the city to new audiences all over the country, said Jeff Guaracino, a spokesman for the Atlantic City Alliance.
The alliance spent $20 million last year on a “Do AC” marketing blitz targeting the Northeast. The organization has contributed to bringing Miss America back to the resort by comping hundreds of hotel rooms and discounting thousands more, but the contestants are not paid to tweet about Atlantic City, officials said.
“What you’re seeing right here is one of those intangible benefits of having Miss America here. Nowhere in the contract does it talk about the value and the massive power of tweeting,” Guaracino said. “This is the next generation of travelers. Their friends and their families are new visitors who don’t have the same old ideas in their head about Atlantic City.”
Some of the girls tweet comical insights into their days. Miss Vermont Jeanelle Achee joked that a security guard told her she’d have to run around the room to workout, so she tweeted a photo of herself with exercise bands wrapped around her.
Many others post photos and videos of restaurants, designer shopping experiences and hotels in Atlantic City — all things the Alliance strives to promote.
“Can we stay in Atlantic City forever?” Miss Minnesota Rebecca Yeh tweeted. “Great people, awesome food, amazing experience with (Miss America) Class of ’14!”
The contestants went through an orientation that included time with alliance officials. They were told about the things the city is seeking to promote, including the beaches and Boardwalk. They were also introduced to the “Do AC” hashtag, a way of aggregating information on Twitter, but they haven’t been prompted to post, officials said.
“There’s a real sense of authenticity to it,” Guaracino said. “We’re not telling them what to write, but we’re giving them plenty to write about.”
There’s a strategic nature to some of the activities. The women are spread out in hotels throughout the resort. That’s logistically more difficult for the Miss America Organization, but it helps with marketing as multiple casinos promote the contestants staying with the them, and the contestants in turn tweet about the casinos.
Sharon Pearce, interim president of the Miss America Organization, pointed out that the generation of women in this year’s competition were using social media long before they were crowned as state titleholders. When a winner is crowned Sunday, she will become a spokewoman of the organization’s corporate mission of education as well as other causes. That includes acting as an official spokeswoman for Atlantic City, according to the organization’s contract.
“While we provide some basic guidance to them, in order for them to communicate effectively, most of what you see on Twitter is coming from the heart,” Pearce said. “They are sharing their experiences in Atlantic City because they are genuinely excited to be here to compete at Miss America and to be part of this historic Atlantic City homecoming.”
Achee, Miss Vermont, drove home that point in a recent tweet after a day of dining and shopping at The Pier at Caesars.
“Today was a dream. All of the #MissAmericaClassof2014 were treated like #MissAmerica. We are so lucky to be home where we BELONG,” she wrote.
Contact Jennifer Bogdan:
@ACPressJennifer on Twitter