Fifth World Art by Robert Neff
ebook - Reconnecting With Life by Robert Neff

ebook: Reconnecting with Life

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When I returned home to support my widowed mother's fight with breast cancer in 2002, I reevaluated my life's journey and direction. Read more...

7 Views of Downtown St. Petersburg


Experience the seven views from walkabout photographer, Robert Neff as they offer unique views of St. Petersburg, Florida. The postcard set or prints make a wonderful gift for the home or office. Read more...

travel & tourism

Sharing Tampa Bay with a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro from Cox Auto Bradenton

by Robert Neff | 23 Feb 2014

Before a former St. Petersburg resident, Allyn Hane, returned to his hometown on business after many years away, he used social media to explore St. Petersburg, Florida. Allyn is VP Digital Strategy at Launch Digital Marketing, and is savvy with social media. I was impressed that he reached out to me, and we started exchanging messages and emails. I offered to show him how much St. Petersburg has changed since he left. Little did we know where our conversation would lead?

This is not the first time people have approached me and connected on social media. I have also provided behind the scenes tours of Tampa Bay and recommendations on places to eat and things to do. The tours have become popular with many wondering why I have not started a local tour business?

On our tour of St. Petersburg downtown and craft brewery scene, I mentioned to Allyn that Port Charlotte's County Visitor Bureau, @CHGIFlorida, had invited me to the Tampa Bay Rays Media event at Charlotte Sports Park on Friday, Feb. 14. I added, "This was for the Tampa Bay Rays spring training opening press conference and lunch." Allyn asked what I thought about driving a car from his client, an auto dealership, from St. Petersburg to Port Charlotte? I replied, "Yes!"

Allyn pitched the concept to his client, Cox Auto in Bradenton, who readily accepted. The General Manager John Rudd asked if a 2014 Convertible Camaro was OK?

I had used social media to reach out to the Bradenton Herald. The newspaper connected me with business reporter, Charles Schelle. We met at the dealership when I picked up the Camaro. Imagine my surprise when the Mr. Rudd said, "Keep the Camaro for the weekend!" Now I was thinking how to share Tampa Bay with a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro from Cox Auto Bradenton.

@MeredythTV commented on Twitter:
What do I need to do to score a car? I'd like to try out the @ChevyVolt :)

Charles was interested in how I used social media to create viral buzz. I suggested we continue our discussion with the top down on the drive to Bradenton Beach. He could observe how I would use social media to leverage Bradenton Beach.

On the drive across the causeway, Charles described the three beach areas - Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria. He suggested we visit the three piers area on Bradenton Beach.

I pulled over, parked the car, and we walked onto the beach. I took photographs with both the iphone and my Nikon. While I was sharing the three piers, and vista views of the beach and Gulf of Mexico on social media, Charles took pictures of the Camaro and me for his story, Cox helps Tampa Bay Rays fan drive Camaro for free in exchange for tweets.

First two days with the Camaro, I was averaging over 7,800 views a day for my images on Flickr.

Turns out, Charles was actually doing what I do on a tour — sharing the local lore and history. My palette started watering when he pointed out several local restaurants. We decided on lunch at a local Cuban restaurant, Jose's Real Cuban Food. No wonder the restaurant was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. They served huge, home-cooked portions!

I created a Pinterest board called "Sharing Tampa Bay with a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro from Cox Auto Bradenton." Here I posted  both my smartphone and professional images. I also tagged the image's GEO location on the map so you can follow my travels!

After I dropped off Charles, I took his advice and drove from Bradenton Beach to Sarasota. The drive offers scenic views that are much different from the Gulf Beaches that stretch from St Pete Beach to Clearwater.

The Camaro's seats were comfortable, steering was great, and the sound system was dynamite! I especially liked the automatic transmission and the paddles that allowed shifting without a clutch!

Along the way, I stopped to take pictures with the Camaro. Soon people were following my posts on social media. Since I was in Sarasota, I had to stop at the Unconditional Surrender Statue and Trader Joe's, where I shared my experience on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr!

On Friday morning, I picked up another Rays fan, @MandaGator, and we headed for the media event. She was excited because this was Rays Manager Joe Maddon's first spring training media event. At the Charlotte Sports Park, we met the other invitees. Then we were escorted to the media event. We stood behind the media, and shared our experience!

Out of the 50 contributors for #RaysSpringTraining14, I had the highest level of brand impressions, 1,042,940 for the event. This was five times the next social media influencer.

That weekend I drove the 2014 Camaro around St Pete Beaches and Fort DeSoto, using social media to share Tampa Bay.

Each night at dinner, my Condo Seniors wanted to hear about my experience. They kept asking for the keys, but settled on a ride to the beach with the top down. Needless to say, I had to make several trips.

I also connected with a fellow Indy Car photographer, Christopher Brut. He attached a Go Pro on the trunk and then to side of the car. Check out the great footage driving across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

On Monday, I drove my Condo Seniors to Munch's Restaurant for the $2.25 breakfast special, but ended up leading a four-car caravan. Munch's is a local favorite and has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. After showing off the convertible and dropping off my Condo Seniors, I drove back to Cox Auto Bradenton with the top down.

At Cox Auto, I made sure to thank the general manager for the opportunity to use the 2014 Camaro. I said this produced great engagement from the area's county tourism bureaus, reporters and people asking how I liked the Camaro!

Mr. Rudd replied, "I was at an event this weekend  and someone had mentioned reading the story in the Bradenton Herald!"

I grinned and replied, "This was a perfect example how the business community can engage social media influencers and embrace social media to share both an area and a product."

Watch the Go Pro Video:
Camaro on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Returning 2014 #Camaro to @CoxAuto #Bradenton... Sniff! Sweet ride! Sharing #TampaBay via #CoxAuto

Photo Essay

Sharing Tampa Bay with the 2014 Camaro
: Sharing Tampa Bay with the 2014 Camaro

6 Sec Vine Video - Putting the Top Down!

Unconditional Surrender Statue

Sarasota, Florida
Unconditional Surrender, Sarasota Public Art  from inside the Chevy Camaro - Sharing #TampaBay via #CoxAuto

Attaching the Go Pro to the 2014 Camaro!

South Fishing Pier, Sunshine Skyway BridgeChris, @BrutPhotography, attaching #GoPro to #Camaro for a run across Sunshine Skyway Bridge, #LoveFL

Combined Online Views

2.2 Million for 2014 | 1.5 million for 2015

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