The Battle of the (Tampa) Bay

The Battle of the (Tampa) Bay


Tampa’s Tree Lighting at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park | @cynthiaobscura

Which City had the best holiday tree picture on Instagram in 2016; Tampa or St. Petersburg?

by John M Kraps II

Holiday lights not only are pretty to the eye, but they are a source of pride and competition for many Americans.

I remember when I was a kid, there were these two houses on my street engaged in a holiday light “cold war” each year, which would have put Clark Griswold to shame.

Eventually, it became such a big deal that it was covered by a regional news station.  Which of course brought in more looky-loo’s and fanned the flames of what was already an out-of-control visual explosion of holiday cheer.

To settle the debate we would hold a neighborhood-wide poll to determine who won that year.  So, I consider myself an expert on holiday decorations.

A few years ago I moved to the bay area and I’ve noticed that in many ways Tampa and St. Petersburg have a similar rivalry.  Locals love to argue over who has the best restaurants, parks, bars, etc.  In fact the other day I heard an argument between two friends regarding which city had the best tree lighting ceremony.  I sat there eavesdropping while each side made some good points.  While I live in St. Petersburg, I also work in Tampa and haven’t lived here long enough to choose a side.  In my mind they are both awesome cities.  However I felt with my previous experience in proper holiday lighting, I made it my civic duty to resolve this argument once and for all (or at least for this year.)  Quickly I pulled out my phone and pulled up Instagram.  After looking at @tampagov and @stpete_fl I am proud to announce which city had objectively the best tree lighting celebration based upon posted photos.

The best holiday tree lighting picture on Instagram goes to…

Neither one!

Sadly, when it came to Instagram neither Tampa nor St. Petersburg thought their celebrations were good enough to share.  There were also zero announcements regarding the events either. (Admittedly, they both did a solid job promoting the events on Twitter and Facebook.)  There is some good news however!  My research uncovered which city’s official account is the most effective at utilizing Instagram.

When it comes to Instagram, the most effective city account is…

St. Petersburg.  In fact they are killing it as of right now:

@stpete_fl has 13,456 followers and 419 photos shared.

The real surprise is the lack of Instagram love coming from Tampa:

@tampagov has a measly 262 followers and only 62 posts!

An effective Instagram account is a must-have for local governments.

Instagram has quickly become a leading platform for sharing images and video.  30% of all internet users have accounts, and 60% of those users log in everyday making it the 2nd most engaged social network after Facebook (which owns Instagram btw).

Along with that, 90% of its users are under the age of 30.  This fact might explain why St. Petersburg has invested so heavily in its presence on Instagram.  The city has worked tirelessly over the past decade to shed its reputation as “God’s waiting room.”  Even if your town or city isn’t actively seeking a younger demographic, Instagram can still be extremely beneficial.

Ellen Martin, Digital Marketing and Communications Consultant, says that effectively managed Instagram accounts help local governments bring in tourists, attract new residents, build rapport with current residents, and increases civic engagement.

When I first moved to the bay area, I posted a lot of photos on Instagram.  Little did I know that this would quickly turn my apartment into a “free Airbnb” for all my friends and family who need a break from the cold up north.  The idea of spending the holidays at the beach can be very alluring this time of year.  While we missed the boat on showcasing the bay area’s tree lighting ceremonies on Instagram, we can always improve.  So if your town, city, or organization thinking about getting an Instagram account, or is struggling with its current one;

Here are 4 tips to make the most out of your Instagram account:

1.Learn from your followers, residents and visitors.

The photos people are taking of your city reflect what they felt was important to share with other people.  They are basically letting you know what kinds of visual content they are looking from you.  The pictures taken by residents indicate what they are most proud of in their city.  While visitors are taking pictures of things they don’t see back home, or what might help make your city stand out online.  Finding out the most frequent hashtags being used by the opinion leaders can help you tap into the pipelines feeding to your desired demographic.


Local Instagram leader @Ilovetheburg has over 24,000 followers desiring awe-inspiring photos of St. Petersburg. But if you wanted to know more specifically the types of photos and places those 24,000 people were looking for you could run an analytic report like this one which gave me insight into @Ilovetheburg’s success.

This graphic was produced with Scraawl, which “offers a comprehensive set of integrated advanced Social Network Analytics to help you better manage your brand and messaging.”  Many companies and organizations struggle with understanding how their social media efforts impact sales, marketing, and public relations with stakeholders.  Scraawl provides a wide range of tools that range from the macro to the micro, while allowing organizations customize each tool so that it works best for their particular needs.

2. Then work with them!

The city of New York reaches out to local photographers and uses their photos while giving them credit and linking to their accounts.  We have a lot of great artists in the bay area who love where they live.  Why not reach out to them?  They’ll provide better photos to post and by plugging the photographer’s account your city and the artist will both gain new followers.  A great place for St. Petersburg to start would be the Instagram account @igersstpete. That’s where I found this creative photo shared by Instagrammer @shadow1188.


For Tampa check out @thatssotampa for some breathtaking pictures like this one taken by local photographer Ray Reyes.


A great way to find out where these artists are is through Scraawl, which allows you to tap into these pipeline hashtags, helping you better connect with those who would be interested in your content, and give you some great content as well.

3. Market effectively to them!

As I shared earlier, 90% of users on Instagram are under the age of 30.  Not only are users posting what they like about it, but also what events they like.  Also, consider using Instagram like you would Twitter, as an announcement system.  If the majority of instagramers are checking their feeds at least once a day, then it can be a great place to make them aware of upcoming events or important information they might not be aware of.


Sugar Land, TX; (hyperlink:  a suburb of Huston used Instagram to help get the word out about trash pick up during the holiday season; something young people or new residents probably aren’t aware of.

4. It’s almost 2017, but don’t fret; sometimes it pays being late to the show.


When a new social networking site or tool comes out, people as well as organizations can be hesitant to utilize them.  This is understandable, I’m still feel embarrassment regarding my old Myspace page.

But In 2016, close to 50% of all U.S. companies with 100 or more employees reported using Instagram for their marketing campaigns, and that number is projected to jump to 70% in 2017.  There are already best practices for cities looking to establish a presence on Instagram.  Here are 6 cities that will give you some great ideas to get the most out of your Instagram account.

Marshall Mcluhan’s statment that “the medium is the message” is still important for those involved in social media management and content creation.  Effectively matching content with the right medium will maximize your exposure and get the best return for the effort. After all, reading about Gasparilla is just not the same as seeing a live video stream of it.  Overall,  When it comes to events like holiday tree lighting ceremonies, a city should focus on sharing visual content through networks that specialize in that type of content; like Instagram.


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