Destination Duluth inspires photographers, visitors and new residents | BusinessNorth Exclusives

For Destination Duluth, pictures are worth more than 1,000 words when it comes to promoting the city and region.

On its popular Facebook and Instagram pages and story-centric website, Destination Duluth uses imagery to celebrate all things Northland and generates millions of social media interactions.

The Destination Duluth story begins in 2006, when co-founder Branden Robinson, General Manager of the South Pier Inn, purchased the domain. The non-profit organization, funded by individuals, corporate sponsorship and private grants, was officially launched in 2013 by Robinson and Christopher Swanson, currently Mayor of Two Harbors, and Tom Livingston, who co-founded ProVideo Productions and works now as a producer with Story. Front, a film collaboration.

“Destination Duluth was created out of a need to educate the public about Duluth’s qualities as a ‘Destination for Life,'” Livingston explains on the organization’s website.

Jerry Thoreson, a freelance social media marketer, is CEO of Destination Duluth.

“We partner with Visit Duluth to attract visitors, but our ultimate goal is to educate and inspire people about Duluth’s quality of place, thereby shaping the positive growth of the city and region,” Thoreson noted. .

Since its inception, Destination Duluth has featured images and stories to further these goals of inspiring people about the city and region with Facebook and Instagram pages featuring the “best of the best” images from area photographers and the site Web featuring stories of businesses, local attractions and people who make Duluth a great place to live and work.

In May 2013, 40 content creators from the region came together to launch the organization’s Facebook page. Following this launch, Destination Duluth experienced remarkable growth on the social media site, surpassing 2,000 followers in just 20 days, reaching 5,000 by day 50, continuing with 100 fans per day to reach 50,000 by day 500. Today, he hosts over 225,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram.

The engagement rate has been so remarkable that Destination Duluth has been ranked third in the nation for social media engagement in the tourism category for three consecutive months, from August to October 2021, according to These rankings beat out tourism social media giants such as Discover Los Angeles, Choose Chicago and The Official Guide to New York City.

Shareablee monitors over one million businesses and notes that interactions from Destination Duluth’s 225,000 subscribers have placed it in the Top 10 of Sharablee’s monthly PowerRankings.

Thoreson credits Destination Duluth’s social media success to photographers who capture the unique landscapes of Lake Superior, beaches, trails, freighters and, of course, Duluth’s iconic aerial lift bridge, and who express the love of Duluth and Northland.

Their images embody the organization’s mission goals stated on its website:

“Lake – Inspired by the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, Destination Duluth covers Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage on the North Shore and Bayfield, Wis., on the South Shore through photographs, videos and stories.

“Life – By sharing the vital qualities of Duluth, we educate and inspire people to visit and #befromDuluth.

“Light – Photographers know that ‘it’s all about light. “Our goal is to shine a light on this incredible place we call home. Through social media, we do this by featuring amazing photos and videos. On our website, we share stories of people from Duluth who weave the fabric of our culture.

The relationship with the photographers was definitely a win-win. Over 200 photographers donate images to Destination Duluth’s social media pages and compete daily to be featured on its Facebook and Instagram pages by tagging their photos #destinationduluth.

At the same time, Destination Duluth has been the vehicle for area photographers to showcase their work.

Last January, Destination Duluth hosted a “Photomeet & Celebration of Photographers” at Spirit Mountain. At the event, Thoreson shared his 2021 social media achievements: 52 million impressions and 2.4 million engagements for an average of 142,000 daily views and 6,500 daily “clicks” of engagements .

All those looks and clicks translate into tourist interest, a third “winner” in the win-win scenario.

“While a picture can be worth 1,000 words, for Duluth a picture can be worth 1,000 visitors coming to the North Shore,” Thoreson said. In a survey of 1,000 Destination Duluth subscribers, 50% said they had “visited Duluth because of the influence of Destination Duluth”.

According to Thoreson, social media and the website do much more than encourage tourism. Using its hashtag #befromduluth and directing readers to employment and housing opportunities, Destination Duluth encouraged people to move to Duluth for the first time or to return home after moving.

One of Destination Duluth’s contributors, photographer Charles Howard Smith, can attest to the sites appeal. “I love Duluth. It was a 25-year dream to turn back the clock. All those great photos of my favorite Destination Duluth city were the encouragement I needed to finally take that leap of faith,” is he quoted in an article on the website.

Today, Smith’s specialties include imagery of landscapes, wildlife, and the Northern Lights. He often travels the northern coast of Minnesota, chasing perfect shots that sometimes require a rope and cleats. These images often garner 1,000 to 2,000 likes or more.

Dennis O’Hara is another frequent and popular photo contributor. O’Hara quickly embraced digital and drone photography after launching Her videos and images had nearly 8 million impressions on Destination Duluth’s Facebook and Instagram channels in 2020-21. He also created and operates the Duluth Harbor Cam, a popular website and YouTube channel that streams live and edited video from several different harbor cameras along the north and south shores.

“I started this site in 2006 with a camera so I could watch the boats,” O’Hara said. “Now I find myself watching the weather, seagulls, people and boats, but most importantly sharing ‘Duluth Live’ with the world. Cams are part of my life.

O’Hara recently formed a partnership with Destination Duluth to share Harbor Camera content directly on Destination Duluth’s Facebook page.

With social media well in hand, Destination Duluth cites the development of its website as a goal for 2022, as well as sharing “Life in Duluth” stories and creating a series of photographer profiles there. .

Destination Duluth is planning more photo-centric events this year and next, with a May 9th Aversary Photomeet and Party tentatively scheduled at the Depot, a fall Photomeet at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum/North Shore Scenic Railroad, and the third annual DECC Photographer Celebration on January 16, 2023.

As for the future, Destination Duluth envisions a larger gathering to showcase this region – a photographers’ summit in 2023 or 2024 in Duluth, where photographers from across the country will gather for three days.

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