When Tiffany Phillapou started the facebook group, “Secret London”, she had no idea that within 2 months she would have created a movement. A movement that has spread across all continents and has finally made its way to Panama in the form of “Panama Secreto,” a facebook group that within 1 week counts over 3000 members.
But what is “Panama Secreto”? It is a concept that strives to build a community based around sharing Panama’s hidden gems. Although many people use the group as a glorified Panama City events page, the real excitement of the site is learning about fun activities and great places to go in Panama City that you didn’t previously know about. Each person that joins the group brings a different knowledge base, allowing secrets to come out into the open via different forums on the site.
So how does “Panama Secreto” work? Here is an example from the discussion component of the group. One person was searching for the best place to grab a bite to eat after a long night of partying. They posted the question in the discussions tab of “Panama Secreto” and within a few days twenty different people had weighed in. So where is the best place to get late night food in Panama City? The nearly unanimous decision was the Executive hotel. However, in the process of finding out which place was the most recommended, 7 different places were also mentioned, many of which people might not have otherwise heard of. The great part about these forums is that they can be started by anyone. It is completely user generated content which is why the information is unfiltered and real.
And now the big question. Why has this concept been so successful? There are many contributing factors as to why this concept has spread so fast. The first one is practicality. The rate of Facebook usage is higher than ever, and since people are on Facebook anyway, seeking out information on facebook becomes an efficient activity. Another obvious reason for the concept’s success is that people love sharing secrets because sharing a secret is sharing a part of each of our identities. It is sharing a little bit about who we each are. Not only do we like to contribute our little tidbits, but more importantly we like to find out secrets that only few others know about.
In the end, a group like this will only be as useful as the number of people that decide to contribute. So, to get all of the best Panama City information into one place, post it to “Panama Secreto.” If you find out about a new poetry reading café, post it. Surely there are other Panamanians who would love to check it out. If you want good date ideas, start a discussion group, and take advantage of others’ creativity and inside knowledge. Looking for new Thai restaurants? It is almost guaranteed that one of the over 3000 members will be privy to that information. So next time you are on facebook check out “Panama Secreto” if you really want to find those hidden gems of this beautiful city.