GFInsights – JOSH and Instagram!

No-brainer Insight for the week: Get a super star like Josh Duhamel into town (Thanks GGFCVB @visitgrandforks and ND Tourism @visitnorthdakota !!!).

This week’s GFInsights is looking at the launch of the City of Grand Forks Instagram channel. We’ve run a little bit of data and analyzed what we could for a few lessons. As always, please let us know what we missed and any other suggestions!

First suggestion, as noted above: Get Josh Duhamel to do local photos with local favorites, like singer-songwriter, Ali Rood (who is the Mobility Manager with the city’s Cities Area Transit department) and push aggressively to social media.

You’ll see the spike in Instagram reach below from this #JoshDuhamelDay occasion, the huge impact it had and the recurring ripples.

Set a Clear Goal, Measure, Iterate: Expanding College-Age Audience

The next thing our data demonstrate this week is we were on the mark with our goal for launching a City Instagram channel, which was to expand our reach to the 18-25 year old demographic in town (specifically, University of North Dakota @uofnorthdakota students.)

Our team really has done a great job attracting the right followers so hats off to the Instagram Launch!

We knew our Facebook and Twitter followers for that age group were fairly small (7% & 17%, respectively) – although consistent with national levels (9% & 18%) – so we initiated Instagram to reach deeper into this college-age demographic (knowing the national rate is a 21% reach in the 18-24 age range.)

Social Media Demographics for 18-24 Year-Olds
Our numbers track a bit lower for all social channels, which reinforces our goal to grow the 18-24 demographic, specifically in Instagram.

We launched with a strategy to leverage our current social users (Facebook and Twitter) for the base, which I think may be fairly common, essentially moving from one platform to another. This was effective in growing numbers, but it also resulted in a not-so-surprising age demographic break down: The Instagram users looked exactly like our existing users, because they were.

That was not the intent. We had to pivot.

So our action (remember, analytics should always presume a response or action) was to stop pushing from existing social channels and increase more authentic content to the platform, focusing on our target market. (Here’s a shout-out to UND’s social guru, Layne, for her guidance.)

Currently (below), our numbers, broken down above by age and gender show about a 20% following of our target age, 18-24.

Instagram Followers by Age & GenderSo we’re on the right track. We’ll report back in a few months on whether we’ve continued to move the needle on increasing our target audience.

Optimal Number of Posts?

Next insight: Relationship of # of posts to engagement. The data shows daily Instagram engagement certainly correlates to the number of posts.

But we also think perhaps there is a sweet spot in posting between 4-6 times.

Any less and there is a significant drop in the impact. Any more and the increased engagement ROI is less than 1:1. This suggests diminishing returns after about 5-6 posts, including concerns about #spamming users and causing #unfollows.

There’s a funny story of how we came upon it that literally demonstrates the value of visualizing the data and creating the right #viz.

We had been looking at two charts on separate pieces of paper. One for engagement and the other for number of posts. We literally laid one over the other and held them up to the light and said, “Well, look at this!”.

It was a cliché scene in the office boardroom that day, but it was authentic visualization and learning nonetheless.

Here’s a simulation of the two charts below, a depiction of our manual overlay, and a Tableau recreation that also includes averages of posts and engagement.

Media Sent - Posted per dayEngagement Received - Post Per Day

Merge Engagement & Posting - Instagram
Overlay of posts/day chart and engagement chart. What it looked like holding up to the light.

You can see the correlation but also note the increase in engagement does not directly correspond when the posts are greater than 5 (the gold bar seldom surpasses the average) – except the #JoshEffect outlier, on Oct. 21, of course.

Instagram Posting Behevior vs. Engagement with Josh Duhamel.png
We’ll keep exploring this theory with a test of 5 posts/day for a set time and hope to hear from you about any research you’re aware of or have done yourself.

Content is still King

We also remember content is king. When our content was heavy on meetings about the Opioid Epidemic and other, more weighty topics, the engagement was a sliver of the Josh effect.

So while the end goal of government social media is really to create channels to communicate with residents on critical issues like emergencies, standard operations or responses to the Opioid Crisis, we have to remember that it takes time to build the audience and, moreover, create the type of trusting relationship with valued content that produces these open communication channels.

Use all the tools in the toolbox

Finally, this week’s look at Instagram data reinforced the fact we need all types of manual and automated data collection, analysis and visualization tools. We use Sprout Social for multiple channel management and analysis and are quite pleased with it.

The demographics reports of Instagram are not quite as robust as on Facebook and Twitter, however, when needing to create a meaningful #viz.Therefore, we had to extract the demographic data and use another favorite tool, Tableau, to better visualize the data.

We’re interested in tools others use and other use for the tools we’re using. We hope to hear from you.

Check out past posts at
Why We’re Diving Into Data
Leaf Collection!


haga.jpgPete Haga is the Community/Government Relations Officer for the City of Grand Forks and serves as assistant to Mayor Michael R. Brown. Pete also works directly with the Public Information Center team on communications efforts. He has been with the City of Grand Forks since 1997 and with Mayor Brown’s office for the last 15 years.

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