While law enforcement captured pictures of license plates of purported speeders on I-680, it was another picture that accelerated the Youngstown speed-trap story on social media.
The picture was of an officer holding what appears to be a radar gun on a stoop of the Market Street Bridge, leaning against the fence barricade, overlooking the I-680 southbound drivers.
An editorial about the speed trap was written by Vindicator editor Todd Franko and published on page A2 last Sunday.
The story generated a modest level of activity on social media: a few shares, likes and retweets.
It wasn’t until Franko received the image of the officer on the Market Street Bridge from a Twitter source, and subsequently posted the image to Facebook with a link to the editorial, that the story generated social media buzz.
As of Thursday morning, that post on the paper’s Facebook page generated more than 160 likes and more than 290 comments. It’s interesting to note that the number of comments exceeded the number of likes. Apparently people didn’t like the story as much as they wanted to comment on it.
Those aren’t even the most noteworthy numbers.
The Vindicator’s Facebook story was shared 1,857 times as of Thursday morning. This means that enough people found value in the story to not only comment on it, or like it, but to take the next step toward the social media Holy Grail: validation through sharing.
. Sharing on Facebook is the equivalent of a top-notch endorsement. If I share something on Facebook, and to a lesser extent, retweet something on Twitter, it carries more weight than if I simply like a post.
Social media shares drove people to the Vindy.com website. Per a Google Analytics report, the editorial received more than 27,000 unique page views and represented more than 14 percent of all the activity on Vindy.com. The next closest was a story that generated just over 3,000 unique hits and 1 percent of all Vindy.com visitor activity.
But the activity on Vindy.com didn’t accelerate until the picture was added to the post.
Several memes with the picture emerged on Facebook in the days after the post.
Memes are ideas that flow from person to person throughout a society. On social media, memes are best known as those witty text-on-picture combinations that make us laugh (e.g., do a search of “grumpy cat memes”).
Of course, some memes make us think. Good memes tend to follow in the tradition of the editorial cartoon (Don’t worry, cartoonists; no one can replace you).
Like most editorial cartoons, some memes are political satire steeped in opinion.
One meme of the I-680 speed trap included the image with text that read “Who cares about the heroin epidemic, I’m too busy making speed traps profitable for the city of Youngstown.”
Another meme read “Because ... there’s nothing else going on in Youngstown that requires police attention.”
There’s little doubt that the picture drove the speed-trap story. It’s a good reminder that while a picture might be worth a thousand words, a good picture might be worth a thousand shares on Facebook.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.