Why social media is an art and a science and a hassle

I love San Francisco Giants fans on social media. All summer I laugh at the ingenious GIFs of @gidget on Twitter. I argue pitching with my college buddy Matt the Cat on Facebook. And I swing by the Giants social media cafe at AT&T Park to marvel at the giant Tweetdeck whirled and swirled by the witty and wonderful social media team led by Bryan Srabian, the Giants’ VP of Digital Media & Brand Development.

And then when the days grow short and dark and the crack of the bat fades into memory, I miss all that. I want to reconnect.

Last weekend I wandered over by the ballpark and took this photo as the sun came up at McCovey Point on the San Francisco Bay. I cropped the photo so it looks like the statue of all-time great Giants slugger Willie McCovey is standing on the water. I Instagrammed the photo to make the dawn colors pop.

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Photo of Willie McCovey statue on San Francisco Bay by Jeff Elder.

I knew from experience that a photo like this is appreciated by fans, because I posted a similar photo of the Juan Marichal statue outside the ballpark several years ago.

Juan Marichal statue by AT&T Park in San Francisco.

I posted the photo on my accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Imgur. Then I applied the hashtag #howSFseesSF, which I started in 2013. It’s now attached to 102,257 photos. I also mentioned the Giants on Twitter and Facebook.

I asked a few friends to help me out by sharing the photo, and they obliged, widening its reach.

In the past two days the photo has been seen by at least 50,000 people and engaged with at least 5,000 times. But most importantly, it reconnected me with the audience I sought. As the photo made the rounds, I engaged with dozens of fans I consider friends.

Social media is an art: The photo is beautiful.

Social media is a science: The hashtags and targeting and performance of the previous photo were applied methodically. (I actually visited Instagram to discuss #HowSFseesSF in 2013.)

Social media is a hassle: I got up at dawn on a Sunday to take the photo, then spent half the day shepherding it through social media channels.

And the whole thing really wouldn’t be worth it if it weren’t for the community: The audience of San Francisco Giants fans on social media that I wanted to reconnect with. That is the payoff. Not clicks or money or big social media metrics. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Big social media metrics are not that great. I took what was once one of the most popular Vine videos. (RIP Vine.) 772.3K Likes, 128K Revines, 11.6M Loops. That and $4 will get me a cup of coffee in San Francisco.

But that’s not community. Community is where you belong – settling into your same old seats at the ballpark, or the symphony, or the diner. If we are doing all this right, we are reconnecting with who we are.

Then the art captures the graceful strength of greatness. The science connects like a ball and bat, with a familiar, satisfying impact. The hassle is like going home from a game, surrounded by your tribe, jostled, tired, kids and seniors, tourists and old-time fans, generations riding together, making connections without even thinking about them.

Written by

Former WSJ reporter and syndicated columnist working in the blogosphere. Once sold books to Johnny Cash. My Medium post about that was praised by Paris Review.

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