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Three lessons from #Linsanity--so far

It's been three weeks of unprecedented attention around the NBA phenom Jeremy Lin. Here are three things I've learned about social and digital media (with only one Lin pun).

Sports Illustrated put the #Linsanity hashtag on its February 20 cover, modifying it to #SILinsanity
Sports Illustrated

I know what my editor is thinking. "We hired this guy to blog about social and digital media, but for the second post in a row, he writes about a magazine cover?!?"

But just as my previous post about the "Loading..." cover of the New Yorker was about using digital artifacts in a print setting, the cover you see above represents the same thing.

In this case, Sports Illustrated's cover last week, featuring the #SILinsanity hashtag, a play on the regular #Linsanity hashtag, caught my eye. (Jeremy Lin is also on the cover this week, sans the hashtag.) It may not be the first hashtag on the cover of a magazine, but it certainly is one of the first I've noticed. More importantly, it inserts SI and its coverage into the thick of one of the most popular topics at the moment. (The SI hashtag, according to the hashtag-tracking service Hashtracking, generated at least 550 tweets from close to 500 accounts with about 1.3 million followers.) I expect more magazines to do this--on occasion--in the future.

Having caught my own share of Linsanity (mainly thanks to my 8-year-old twins who, like millions of others, are suddenly interested in the once-moribund Knicks franchise), here are some digital-media lessons I've learned from the frenzy around Lin--all with no other Lin puns.

1. If you are doing something big and interesting in real life, people will look for you on Twitter and Facebook. Sure, we know people like following celebrities, but I didn't realize just how much they wanted to connect with Lin until I took a look at the stats at A guy who was bopping along with around 20,000 to 25,000 followers in December and January is now past the 530,000 mark. Even more telling, as you can see from the graphic below, there are times when he's gaining as many as 60,000 followers in a single day.

On February 11, @JLin7 gained more than 60,000 followers. TwitterCounter / Screenshot by Sree Sreenivasan/CNET

Over on his Facebook profile, he already has 460,000 subscribers and you can see his handful of posts have generated tens of thousands of likes and thousands of comments.

2. More people are going to get in trouble for their responses to Lin. For all the wonderful things that Lin's success has brought out over the last three weeks, we have, alas, seen another side to Linsanity (and not just the bad puns). It's also brought out insensitive, ignorant, even racist comments and attitudes from all kinds of folks. Every day, we see ordinary Americans posting terrible things about him, about Asian Americans, etc., on Twitter and Facebook, in blog comments, and elsewhere. Big-time journalists and headline writers aren't immune from this problem because the speed with which you can say anything and everything you are thinking means your sophomoric jokes can live on in infamy.

"Saturday Night Live" did a good job of spoofing the casual racism, as posted on this BleacherReport post. Meanwhile, the Asian American Journalists Association has issued a timely, useful media advisory that anyone with a microphone, Twitter feed, or Facebook page should read and memorize.

3. Fans show their digital love of Lin in unusual ways. Among the many ways fans are showing their love is, a site that wants to use social media to show Knicks management that Lin deserves more than the league's minimum salary. I asked Siddhartha Dabral, who co-created the site along with Gabriel Cheung and Chiyong Jones, five quick questions via e-mail. is trying to get Jeremy Lin a raise by assigning each #linsanity tweet a $1 value. / Screenshot by Sree Sreenivasan/CNET

Q: Why did you create this site?
Siddhartha Dabral: Linsanity is blowing up the twittosphere, and we think everything Lin is about is priceless, so we decided to try and use the power of social media to show him some love and more importantly, get him paid. We're adding $1 to his current league minimum salary for every #linsanity tweet in the hopes that the Knicks front office takes notice and makes the right move, not that his play so far doesn't already warrant that. It took a day to come up with the idea, and another one to build the site so it all happened pretty quickly.

How did you pick the name?
Dabral: We picked it during lunch.

What social tools are you using to promote it?
Dabral: Just Twitter and Facebook right now. We're hoping fans and supporters join in to share it.

Has Lin seen it yet?
Dabral: How can he? The dude plays 48 minutes a game. But if he does, we hope he gives us a shoutout, we're obviously huge fans.

What's next for the site?
Dabral: We're actually hoping to digitally project the site somewhere by [Madison Square Garden] or outside his lil bro's apartment where Linsanity all started. If anyone can help, get in touch with us through the site.

READERS: What do you make of #Linsanity? Post your thoughts in the comments below, please, or via @sree or #sreetips on Twitter.