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12,000 and counting like 'Newport Beach'

Businessman's Facebook page proves a popular tribute to the city, but it was supposed to be a dry run before he promoted his own company online.

February 12, 2014|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • One of the cover photos used on the I love Newport Beach Facebook page, which has more than 12,000 "likes."
One of the cover photos used on the I love Newport Beach… (David Manasen )

"I Love Newport Beach" was intended as an experiment.

The Facebook page so named, which was unveiled in September 2011, was meant to be Newport Beach resident Tony Shaw's social media training.

"I wanted to practice on something that nobody would see so I wouldn't embarrass myself in front of people I know," remarked the owner of Seaside Realty and Financial Services, who ultimately wanted to increase his business' online presence.

But his plan for a dry run went awry with the site's unexpected popularity.

Starting out, Shaw enlisted the help of three friends, who took photographs of the area and gave him permission to post their work online. He began with one or two pictures a day. Quickly realizing that more images translated not only to heavier traffic but a burgeoning fan base, he began posting more snapshots — having fun the whole while.

Someone would give the page a virtual thumbs up, and he would reach out to offer thanks. And so it continued.

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At last count, "I Love Newport Beach" had 12,044 "likes" — akin to a badge of honor on Facebook.

"I remember when I had 600 fans on there and thought I was doing good," the 60-year-old said.

Shaw, who is constantly on the lookout for images of his hometown, currently works with a list of about 200 artists. It's a symbiotic relationship, he believes, because the contributors are given credit and they gain attention.

The artwork posted on Facebook matches the scene in Newport Beach right down to the weather and time of day. If the sky is overcast, Shaw posts cloudy vistas, and if it's bright outside, the images show sunlight glinting off vehicles, structures, the pier and the Pacific Ocean.

The jovial Shaw, who has called the area home for 45 years, hastened to clarify that the page's popularity did not skyrocket. Sure, there were days when it got 300 followers in a matter of hours, but for the most part, it's been a gradual growth.

"I told my wife, 'Hey, honey, I guess I have a hobby,'" Shaw said, laughing.

Andrew Scott Tull, a 26-year-old Huntington Beach native, met Shaw at the peninsula while photographing surfers — his favorite theme along with landscapes and oceans. He liked "I Love Newport Beach" as soon as heard about it and is not surprised by the response it's received.

"I would say it's added exposure," Tull said about the advantage of such a page, adding that, like other photographers, he posts images on his personal Facebook account and allows Shaw to take his pick.

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