Watching the video that helped Benjamin Solomon clinch the America’s Best Summer Job contest—a locally produced social media campaign that will employ Solomon to blog about an all-expenses-paid 10-week summer vacation in Vail—you can’t help but wonder how a hipster from Brooklyn won the gig. There’s Solomon, with a five-o’clock shadow, standing in front of a construction-paper cutout of the Gore Range. Wearing ski goggles, he chastises himself for forgetting that the contest is “a summer thing” and trades the goggles for sunglasses and a tank top. Then, alpenstock in hand, he’s hiking up the stairwell of his walkup, saying, “C’mon, Vail, what adventures do you have in store for me this summer?”
Compared to the videos submitted by sixty-six other aspiring bloggers, typically slickly produced with GoPro footage of skiing in the Back Bowls and earnest confessions of lifelong love affairs with Vail, Solomon’s entry doesn’t convey much passion for this place. In fact, before he shot the video, he’d never even been here in the summer.
“When we created America’s Best Summer Job, it was in an effort to find someone who knows very little about Vail and give that person an opportunity to experience this amazing place for himself and tell the world about it,” explains Vail Mountain marketing director Davy Ratchford, the mastermind behind the social media campaign.
That’s all well and good, but why Benjamin Solomon? In meeting the 30-year-old freelance journalist in person on his home turf of Williamsburg, you begin to understand what impressed the panel of local business owners and marketing gurus who picked Solomon over the other finalists who were all assessed via Skype. He’s a really nice guy. Friendly, eloquent, and gracious, Solomon explains that the video was slapped together (with the help of his boyfriend) in less than twenty-four hours, but the process of canvassing and recruiting a critical mass of Facebook friends and friends-of-friends to “like” his video was a full-time job that lasted three weeks.
“You know what was amazing? That people were so incredibly supportive,” he says, smiling broadly. “Like anything—fundraising, a Kickstarter—you don’t know how many people will support you until you ask them. When I saw how much people were willing to help, it made me work harder. When you use that social capital, you hope it pays off for something.”
In the end, Solomon amassed 9,100 votes, more than 10 percent of the 87,000 that were cast.
“I’ve seen contests like this before, always for great places. I’m always like, ‘There’s no way.’ But there was something about this one.... I was like, ‘I have to do this. What do I have to lose?’”
Which is really why he had to win. —S.F.