With remarkable reach and engagements Destination Duluth surpasses 200,000 Followers on Facebook.

Destination Duluth has been inspiring people to #befromDuluth for eleven years. 

Destination Duluth (DD), a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit launched in 2013, bears some comparisons to the 1930 classic children’s book, “The Little Engine That Could.” DD is also small, yet mighty, and ultimately triumphs, despite plenty of obstacles in its path.

Through its robust online presence, published on platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and its own website, Destination Duluth proudly showcases the people, places, and events that make Duluth such an amazing place to be.

The Phillip R. Clarke enters the Duluth Port on a sunny summer day. Photo by Dennis O'Hara northernimages.com

It encourages people to visit and relocate to Duluth, using its proprietary hashtags: #befromduluth, #lifeupnorth, and #yourdestinationforlife.

Today, that little Destination Duluth engine is celebrating a giant milestone: 200,000 Facebook followers. This landmark occasion is even more remarkable considering that DD has limited resources. It operates on a shoestring budget and has no employees. The organization operates with a handful of independent contractors, including Managing Director Jerry Thoreson.

Thoreson has some theories about why DD has struck such a chord with viewers. “The environments of Duluth and the North Shore are second to none,” he said. “We live on the greatest of the Great Lakes and have state parks in our region that are awe-inspiring. We also have 160+ miles of designated trails INSIDE Duluth's city limits”

“Our mission is to inspire, educate, and connect people to Duluth,” he added. “Destination Duluth really tries to highlight our unique quality of place.”

A freighter enters the Duluth port at daybreak as charter fishing boats leave. Photo by Dennis O'Hara northernimages.com


DD was founded in 2013 by local residents Branden Robinson, Chris Swanson, and Tom Livingston. Thoreson has also been a key player since day one. Today, he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization, including what content is published on its platforms.

Additionally, over their 11-year history, there have been over 350 contributing content creators (photographers, videographers, and writers) who work hard behind the scenes to capture compelling photos and write intriguing stories.

The Blue Angels depart Duluth after the 2023 Duluth Airshow. Photo by Adam Bjornberg. bjornbergphotography.com

DD is governed by a Board of Directors. Current Board members include David Schauer, Branden Robinson, and Beau Walsh, with Thoreson acting as a non-voting member.

Impactful Content

The biggest draw for Destination Duluth viewers is undoubtedly Duluth-centric photos. Within that niche, Thoreson has a particular strategy for what is ultimately posted on the DD platforms.

“First and foremost, our content has to have emotional impact,” Thoreson said. “'A photo is worth 1,000 words' if it has emotional impact. I also like to say 'a photo is worth 1,000 people.' People see a photo of a ship, and it transports them, emotionally and psychologically, back to when they saw that ship themselves.”

Destination Duluth’s talented contributing photographers work hard to provide this deep emotional Duluth connection. “The photographers are out in force every day, no matter the weather,” Thoreson said. “All because they love where they live.”

With that said, some images receive more views than others. “Our most popular posts are videos and photos of fierce Lake Superior Storms which happen several times a year. One a day-to-day basis, the most popular images are ships with the Aerial Lift Bridge, sunrises, and Split Rock Lighthouse, in that order.”

This video montage of the November 18, 2016 storm has 1.2 million views. By Dawn LaPointe, radiantspiritgallery.com

Captivating stories on their website about people from all walks of life also draws people to Destination Duluth.

Thoreson shared that engaged viewers and readers are the key to DD’s past and continued success. “The secret sauce to all this is that people engage with our content. The more people like, comment, and share, our Facebook and Instagram posts, the more our posts are seen.” Recently, Thoreson took an engagement snapshot of their last 20 Facebook posts. The 20 posts had 21,000 Likes, Comments, and Shares, which resulted in 1.2 million views of those posts. Last month, Destination Duluth's Facebook, Instagram, and website content had 6.1 million impressions "because of 300,000 engagements," Thoreson emphasized.

Sunrise on the newly restored Duluth Lakewalk.

By the Numbers

Destination Duluth’s impact can be quantified by a few statistics. For instance, a 2018 survey of 1,058 Facebook followers found:

Because of DD’s influence:

• 258 (24%) had considered moving to Duluth, because of Destination Duluth's influence.

• 20 were in the process of moving here, because of Destination Duluth's influence.

• 29 have moved to Duluth, because of Destination Duluth's influence.

With air temperatures below zero over the warmer waters over Lake Superior it creates what locals call "sea smoke." Photo by David Schauer

In Destination Duluth's 11-year history, Meta's analytics report they have:

• 30,000+ published posts (photos, videos, and stories)

• 45 million clicks of engagement (likes, comments, shares), which caused

• 650 million impressions

2022 was a record year with:

• 100 million views of DD content

• 275,000 impressions daily average.

Ranked 3rd in the country for engagements in the Tourism Category

In September 2021, Destination Duluth was informed by Sharablee.com that they were ranked in the top ten tourism social media platforms based on engagements. Shareablee, founded in 2013, monitors the social media of over 1 million global companies and categorizes and ranks them, publishing a top-ten ranking monthly for each sector. In July 2021 Shareablee added Top Tourism Boards on Social. In August, September and October, Destination Duluth ranked 3rd among 1,000s ranked. In November they ranked 4th. Sadly, Shareablee.com was sold in December of 2021, so further rankings are not available.

New Initiatives and Looking Ahead

While Destination Duluth already has much to be proud of, there is more to come. Looking ahead, Thoreson expects a new branding and website to be rolled out in the 3rd quarter of 2024.

He is also excited to share the continued growth of two new initiatives, which were introduced in 2023: an Arts and Entertainment segment celebrating local performing art and artists, through written reviews and profile stories, and Eat & Drink Duluth, a series reviewing Duluth’s restaurants and breweries.

Destination Duluth's new Arts & Entertainment initiative is led by editor Sheryl Jensen at destinationduluth.org

All DD’s content will continue to be shared through the lens of positivity. “Social media can be a dark and ugly place,” Thoreson noted. “But at Destination Duluth, we’re in social media to act as a beacon of light and life.”

“I truly believe people can have a better life here in Duluth, and we’re helping encourage them to make that decision. DD is sharing the qualities of this light- and life-giving place. In fact, I feel like I’m as much in ministry today as I was 40 years ago,” Thoreson, a former minister, added.

Check out Destination Duluth on Facebook, Instagram, or its website, destinationduluth.org.


Andrea Busche is a Duluth + regional freelance writer and small business owner. She is credited with over 1,000 bylines in local print and digital publications and has been a frequent contributor to Destination Duluth since 2017.


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