Islander gains in social media notoriety as SanibelSam
It seems like new technology every day is creating new and fun ways to discover the world.
Welcome SanibelSam to the mix of web travel guides, blogs and kitschy observations on life. Using social media like Facebook, Twitter and other venues, SanibelSam for the last year has been sharing photos, tips, networking blasts from island merchants, Santa trackers, weather and travel updates, humor and, of course, a few shameless plugs for his condo rentals in Sanibel. His signature flamingo avatar is popular with his followers, some 1,000 on Facebook alone.
But SanibelSam mostly reaches those investigating travel to the islands, looking to save a few bucks, the best places to visit and shell, for instance. He also links to events, articles, visitor photos, blogs, dozens of activities and business promotions. He joins islander Pam Rambo with her iloveshelling.com blog and literally hundreds of others with a Sanibel-Captiva Twitter hashtag or Facebook presence selling paradise to the world.
Gary Pokrant adopted the SanibelSam moniker about a year ago, first posting information about diabetes, quickly morphing into more cultural posts, mostly linked to island life and vacationing, free activities, his quirky humor and, again, the six condos he rents along Gulf Drive.
But the plugs slackened as his reliability rose, Pokrant said, because those following his Twitter or Facebook and other social media postings grew weary — and wary, he said. Once past the initial urge to plug his stuff, he said, his popularity ballooned, especially with his posting insider tips for this popular travel destination.
“If (a posting) is self, self, self,” said Pokrant, a successful accountant splitting his time between the islands and Maryland, “there’s no tolerance for that.”
Pokrant has become a minor cultural phenomenon, getting invited to island social events, nonprofit benefits, a social media following by notable islanders. He’s enjoying the notoriety, noting that he’s always liked helping others.
“That’s been my whole life,” he said of his life in accounting and a childhood Eagle Scout sash. “And (if people) can feel good and save money, all the better.”
Pokrants’s only stumble in social media has been the offense some have taken in the nickname, confusing SanibelSam with the icon in island retail, Sam Bailey. The former owner of the general store was considered legendary. Pokrant said the SanibelSam nickname struck an angry chord with some, but he had invented SanibelSam before his awareness of the dignity and elevation of Sam Bailey in long-timer circles.
Some islanders still get worked up over SanibelSam’s hookup to Sam Bailey, “but most get a good chuckle,” Pokrant said.