Anatomy of a Simple Share

The best camera is the one that’s with you.

The phrase, its impact reduced by repetition, is nevertheless an important message for any aspiring journalist, photo or not.

Odds are you have a camera nestled in your pocket right now, built-in to a smartphone many times more powerful than the computers we grew up using… the iPhone 5, for instance, holds its own compared to a Powerbook G4, the laptop that I relied on through high school.

I picked up my own iPhone 5 on Friday (white, 16GB, AT&T) and was excited to play around with the camera this weekend. I got my chance on Saturday at Penn State’s home football game against Temple. After snapping a couple atmospheric panoramas, I was extremely impressed by the quality of images the device produced; it wasn’t until I left the game, though, that I saw a scene truly worth preserving.

Picture of me capturing the “famous rainbow shot” via Jess Pelliciotta.

I uploaded the picture to Twitter shortly after taking it, although I did wait a few minutes for folks to file out of the game and return to the world of connectivity (cell service in Beaver Stadium stinks, as does the new in-stadium wifi network).

For the tweet, my goal was brevity — obviously a structural necessity in the world of 140, but sometimes shooting for even fewer characters behooves the journalist in pursuit of shares and engagement. Giving readers ample room for an old-style retweet and/or their own annotations can have a positive influence on key metrics. I also used a couple hashtags — like Twitter itself acknowledges, they have a quantifiable effect on engagement. I try to use hashtags in the natural flow of a sentence… the exceptions to this are event hashtags, which I’m more likely to append at the end of a tweet.

Here’s the update I put out:

Immediately the tweet began attracting retweets and favorites, but it really began to blow up after @Penn_State and @OnwardState shared the photo (the former did me a solid by using a new-style retweet, whereas the latter posted the photo from their own account with an original line of copy and inline attribution to me).

Onward State also posted the picture on its Facebook page.

The photo’s traction among Penn State fans resulted in some pretty great stats. Have a look below.

Mt. Nittany Rainbow Pic: By the Numbers

Retweets: @DavisShaver: 87, @OnwardState: 106
Favorites: @DavisShaver: 47, @OnwardState: 46
Reach: Difficult to calculate with Twitter, but @OnwardState and @Penn_State are followed by 29,301 and 28,176 users respectively.

Facebook (Onward State)
Likes: 2,706
Shares: 207
Comments: 85
Views: 24,084 people (11,276 organic and 12,530 viral)

For just a few minutes of work, the picture’s quick spread was really fun to watch. Now, if only there was a simple way to turn exposure into revenue…

Update 9:56 pm I totally forgot to mention an important factor in yesterday’s social media success — getting parodied by @AwkwardState.


5 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Simple Share

  1. Davis:

    The best camera is the one that is witrh you, yes. It also help to capture a photo that captures a “connection” or something that people will respond to. For Penn Staters and all who live in and around the Centre region, that is Mt. Nittany.

    I can’t explain it, even though I’ve been lucky enough to see the sunrise over the Mountain a thousand time, and even luckier to be on Nittany Mountain a time or two to see the sun come up.

    Terry Dunkle wrote a story about Mt. Nittany in th July/August 1976 edition of Town & Gown magazine. The story concludes with a powerful statement as true today as when it was written. I’ll go with his words.

    “She is our Plymouth Rock, our Old Faithful, our Cathedral of Rheims, our Gibraltar. “The moment we see Mount Nittany,” as one old grad has said, “we know we are home.”

    Vince Verbeke

    Mount Nittany Conservancy Board Member

    • Thanks for the comment, Vince. You’re right — the significance of the picture’s subject was a huge factor in its viral success. I thought about expanding upon the symbolism of Mt. Nittany in the post, but didn’t just for sake of brevity. Maybe I’ll do that in another column sometime.

  2. Pingback: Game Day Observations: Temple - Onward State

  3. An implicit but perfect not obvious point about the simple share is that you also need to have spent time the network, cultivating the audience (Penn State, Onward State, etc.) necessary to see your content. For most, I think a simple share by itself probably won’t result in the kind of response yours merited.

    • Yes and no… The fact that Onward State and Penn State had large social media audiences already cultivated definitely helped, but, given that, I think the picture could have spread just as far if another individual had captured it instead of me.

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