“I believe Jacksonville is an underdog city. I want to prove there’s more to Jax than people think,” Esther Rimert, owner and creative director of Explore Jacksonville, expresses.
Stretching for more than 800 square miles, there’s no hiding Jacksonville is a big city. Whether you’re a native or a newcomer, you’ve probably found yourself saying “I didn’t know we had that” when you see someone post an exciting event on their Instagram story, or maybe you find yourself questioning what there is to do on a Saturday night after a long work week.
There are plenty of Instagram profiles and blogs that cover the 411 + exclusive spots, local events and hidden gems throughout the city, though rarely do we learn the story of individuals driving that content.
Explore Jacksonville was originally created as a page devoted to small business marketing for local companies, but the content was inconsistent. So, in May 2019, Esther Rimert took her love of random explorations around town and shared them with the, then, 12,000 followers on the page in an effort to revitalize Explore Jacksonville’s social media presence.
After discovering the joy of interacting and sharing her experiences, Rimert felt it was important to learn more about fellow Jacksonville residents: “I feel like I need to know the audience I’m interacting with. Everything I post I want to be a personal experience, so I know what I am talking about.”
What differentiates Rimert from other things-to-do based websites is her ability to build intimate connections with her followers. She’s not simply writing or posting a place; she’s writing stories and posting experiences. And spontaneity works best for Rimert.
“I have a lot of variety in my life,” Rimert says. “I don’t like to do the same thing every day. A lot of [my content] stems from me being curious.”
She enjoys trying new things, so when she sees a place or an event that piques her curiosity, she plans out a day to go and spend time discovering new ideas and gathering new content.
“It takes time to get a vibe of a place, try the food [and] understand different businesses out there.”
Rimert describes a good vibe as somewhere, “That the people running the place are friendly and open, offers good service [and] puts effort into making sure people have a good time.”
Since 2019, Explore Jacksonville has gained over 25 thousand followers. Through the authenticity of her posts, Rimert was focused on organically growing her followership through steady, progressive growth without the use of promotions or google ads.
“I felt it was a very natural steady progress,” Rimert says. “It was always consistent, and I contribute that to always focusing on high quality content. I never plan content. I feel connected and excited about every post. Genuine about it. I feel like people can sense that and they can connect with it.”
Despite people advising her on how to appropriately manage her brand, Rimert vows to stay true to what works best for her.
“Unless I’m working on a very specific blog post or I want to put together a guide, [my days] aren’t planned.”
She doesn’t want to lose the passion that drives her to actively produce authentic content by stifling her creative freedom.
“I protect myself from getting burnt out by keeping the enjoyment in my content,” Rimert. “If I’m not excited about it, why would I post it?”
Although Instagram can seem like a numbers game, that’s not her focus. The constant good feedback from supporters is the only reassurance she needs.
“I try to focus on content that I am proud of and content that I think people would enjoy,” Rimet expresses.
One of Explore Jacksonville’s purposes is to encourage people to care about Jacksonville and value community. Although Rimert is a Lake City native, she’s grown a deep appreciation for Jacksonville in the nine years she’s been a resident.
“Jacksonville is a unique city. I’ve met so many wonderful people and [visited] places that I find, and think are cool,” Rimert says. “I love the diversity. I feel like I can go to many different places in Jax and there’s many different cultures and many different [vibes]. I love that you get a variety of things [here].”
Through Explore Jacksonville, Rimert can show her appreciation and prove that Jacksonville has more to offer than meets the eye.
“In Jacksonville a lot of things are unknown,” Rimert says. “You have to search for things to do. What makes the city of Jacksonville unique is how, within 30 minutes from anywhere you live, there’s a new area that feels nothing like your own.”
Rimert recently introduced herself in an Instagram post on July 12. She figured her followers would feel more connected if they were used to a familiar face, especially since she wants to start a new video segment where she explores the city alongside different locals.
“I want viewers to understand that Jacksonville has a really good community,” Rimert says. “The people are very open, laidback [and] friendly. Jacksonville is a real city. We have real people with a real community.”
Currently Rimert is enjoying exploring the night life scene and working on creating a live jazz music guide.
“One of my favorite things about my job is being out in the community and meeting people from all walks of life.”
One tip for people wanting to find new things in Jacksonville (besides following Explore Jacksonville) is to find new people to meet: “Open yourself up to try new things; through people you learn more about Jacksonville.”
Explore Jacksonville is here to “help people find new places and get them out of their neighborhood.” Check out some of the cool places they’ve covered at @ExploreJacksonville or visit explorejacksonville.com and choose your next exploration in the Bold New City of the South.