Using Flickr for Business Purposes
It’s one of the most utilized and well-known, if not the most popular (that honor currently belonging to Instagram), photo-sharing sites in the world. Flickr is one of the pioneers of social networking and photo-sharing, and while it may have recently been eclipsed by others in some key respects, its core functions – photo storage and sharing – can provide invaluable marketing facility for businesses looking to grow their brands.
In this article, we will explore, 1) the history of Flickr, 2) the purpose of Flickr, 3) the benefits of Flickr, 4) setting up a Flickr account, 5) using Flickr for Business, 6) Flickr terminology, and 7) best practices/case study.
HISTORY OF FLICKR
Flickr began, not as a standalone social media website or smartphone app, but as a series of features in a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) called Game Neverending. The MMOG was created by Canadian husband and wife developers Steward Butterfield and Caterina Fake, and developer Jason Classon. It game failed, but the firm launched Flickr in its wake as a stand-alone site. Flickr quickly became very popular, attracting a large user base and the attention of industry publications and firms. Butterfield’s firm, Ludicorp, was rapidly acquired by Yahoo in 2005 – a year after launch, for $35 million. Yahoo increased user storage limits for users, but, some critics contend, failed to nurture the existing social community, leaving the field open for other players such as Facebook and Instagram to grab social market share. While the integration with Yahoo – allowing all registered users to use Flickr, grew Flickr’s user base, the transition likely cost Yahoo the engagement of Flickr’s highly active early users. It also had difficulties with mobile engagement as Yahoo Mobile’s Flickr functionality was, according to many critics, poorly designed and only for existing users. Today, Flickr’s direct competitors in the photo-sharing space include Instagram, Photobucket, Shutterfly, SmugMug, Picasa, Kodak Gallery, Pinterest, and Snapfish; and in the social space, include the aforementioned plus Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, and Pheed, among others. Nevertheless, Flickr still has a huge database of organized photos, a user base of 92 million as of February 2014, and high profile users, such as The White House.
PURPOSE OF FLICKR
While Flickr was originally designed as part of an MMOG to enhance its user experience, Flickr itself was designed to allow users to organize and store photos, as well as to engage with each other’s photo content. Today, the purpose is much the same. Users with a free account get a Terabyte (TB) of storage, which makes it excellent for archiving, especially for amateur and professional photographers, who might want to save uncompressed files for later in-depth photo editing. Flickr still has social networking tools, such as the ability to like, comment, and share content, as well as to create and join groups around a common interest. And Flickr does have mobile apps for iOS and Android operating systems, which have received praise from critics, though these have been eclipsed in usage by Instagram, among other photo-sharing apps.
BENEFITS OF FLICKR
Flickr can be used – and is best suited – for photo-sharing, photo organizing, and archiving. It is ideal for photographers and in-house creative staff, as well as marketing initiatives. You can easily organize photos, batch edit them, geotag them, and access them from anywhere. Flickr can be easily integrated into content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress or Drupal, for the display of your photo collection on your blog/website. You can determine who has access to what photos through robust privacy controls, as well as use filters to categorize the content they upload and/or search for. You can upload family friendly photos and/or adult content photos depending upon your brand. And you can release your photos under several different license types, such as those found under Creative Commons 2.0.
Photos on Flickr can also be easily shared on your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or other social media account. And the free TB of storage, which can be used to download photos of any size, is far more than the amount offered by other photo sharing sites. Google, for example, offers unlimited space to download files that are of a maximum size of 2,048 pixels; however, it charges $50.00 per month for a TB with an unrestricted download size. Flickr offers Free, Doublr (which offers 2Tbs of storage) and Pro accounts which offer unlimited storage.
Further, its social media network allows you to extend your brand online, build brand awareness, generate leads, and enhance SEO. There are over 10 million Groups to join, each based on a common interest. Flickr mail lets you connect with other Flickr users. The Explore link leads to Flickr curated photos; those selected are usually unique or popular or both. And Flickr’s mobile app allows you to shoot and edit 30 second videos – a direct challenge to Vine and Instagram.
Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that Flickr claims no ownership rights of the photos uploaded onto its site, unlike some other popular photo-sharing social media sites.
SETTING UP A FLICKR ACCOUNT
To set up a Flickr account, first you need to set up a Yahoo account, which is both free and simple. Visit www.yahoo.com. Select Flickr from the top of the page, and then Sign Up on the following page. You will be prompted for some personal information on the following page. Once you do so and click Create Account, you will be prompted to create a Flickr username, which ideally should be either your brand or a term closely related to it. You will then sign in and be ready to upload photos.
Before you upload your photos, there are a few things to consider:
- How will you organize your photos hierarchically? What albums, collections, and tags will need to be used to ensure that your photos are arranged in a user-friendly manner?
- Is there a particular naming convention you plan to employ?
- What rights will users have to access and use the photos?
- Are your photos high quality and/or unique? Flickr users engage more with photos that are both, so if you may want to consider doing away with the randomly snapped smartphone shots.
- What size will your photos be stored in? Because of its capacity, you don’t really have to worry about compressing your photos to save storage space. You have the option of limiting user downloads to a particular size, which may deter users from downloading them for unauthorized use.
- What do the photos you choose to display say about your brand?
- How will you integrated Flickr’s content distribution capabilities with your content roadmap and/or third-party social media management tools, such as HootSuite? How will you integrate it with your website? And how will you integrate it with your existing digital archive?
- What metrics will effectively measure the success or failure of your Flickr usage? Comments? Shared photos? Make a determination and enable the Stats tool in Flickr to track your progress.
It’s a good idea to explore the site, read through best practices for sharing and storing photos on Flickr, and answer those questions well before you start uploading photos.
USING FLICKR FOR BUSINESS
Even given its diminished standing within the ranks of social media tools, there are still many benefits to using Flickr for Business, first and foremost, displaying and archiving photos.
Displaying and archiving photos and video
Many firms struggle with warehousing their digital photo collections. Even though they do not take up the physical space of a printed photo, they do take up server space (and depending on the file format, they can take up quite a lot of it). A Flickr professional account, which costs a mere $50.00 a year, affords you unlimited server space, which can greatly reduce the strain on your own internal data warehousing resources, and the cost of acquisition of dedicated storage space for your photos. Further, Flickr tools, such as Organizer, make it easy to label, categorize, tag, and source your photos, individually or en masse, for posterity.
Flickr allows users to make their photos or publicly visible. Integration with WordPress, through Plugins, is seamless; other CMS’ can display Flickr content on webpages as well. And even if yours can’t, you can always add a link to your Flickr photo collection online. Further, Flickr can be a great place to find stock photos to display on your website – in many cases much cheaper than those on existing stock photography sites.
That one TB can also be used to upload videos, either those shot with Flickr tools or others. As of yet, Flickr does not add advertisements to videos you choose to display publicly on Pro accounts. You can upload high definition videos of up to 1GB each that last for up to 3 minutes.
Extending reach and visibility
Storing your photos on Flickr not only gives you the capability to share your photos on existing social networks, but you can also connect with fellow Flickr users, and share and comment on photos on the site itself. And Flickr’s users are active and engaged: one million photos are shared per day on the site. Sharing photos here allows people another way to connect with your brand. You can use Flickr as a photo portfolio, photo directory of your products, or archive. And if you use the site for archiving purposes – dumping most if not all of your photos on the site and making them publicly visible (as opposed to carefully curating content), candid, imperfect photos, as well as staff photos, may help humanize your brand.
Flickr also provides visitors the option to print photobooks from albums and collections of photos, which can expand your reach.
Expanding your network
Flickr may not rival Facebook or Twitter in terms of social network reach. However, as a free service offered to Yahoo customers, it does still have a formidable number of registered users. You can network by clicking the Invite Your Friends link under Contacts, to import your email contacts database to Flickr, see which members of your network/customer list/target consumers are already on Flickr, and invite those who are not. You can join Groups and engage with Flickr users, peruse pages of individual Flickr users, and highlight other users in Galleries you create, to engage Flickr users and grow your list of Contacts. From this base, you can build brand awareness, generate sales leads, and conduct product and market research.
You can also optimize photos, tags and titles to appear high in search results, which can make your brand more visible. Be on the lookout for pictures of happy consumers using your product or service and display these prominently on your Flickr page and on your website.
The following is a short list of terms that are essential to using Flickr optimally.
- Tag: a way to organize photos by assigning them unique words or short phrase
- Geotag: geotagging is a form of tagging in which you can categorize your photos by the geographic location in which they were taken
- Albums (formerly sets): a group of photos, organized by a Flickr user according to their criteria
- Collection: a group of photo albums
- Galleries: a collection of third-party photos on Flickr that you curate and can comment on. Galleries are limited to 18 photos
- Flickr Badge: an HTML or Flash photo that showcases your pictures – either all of them, an album, or a group sharing a common tag. You can use Badges
- Contacts: Flickr’s versions of friends or followers. You should strive to build a large base of contacts, consisting of members of your target market and influencers.
- Photostream: a Flickr users’ unique feed of photos, which can appear to them based on their preferences, as one of several different views, including a slideshow, a justified view, and a chronologically-ordered archive
For a deeper dive, there’s also a handy guide to Flickr slang on Flickr here.
BEST PRACTICES / CASE STUDY
You should familiarize yourself with Flickr, its Community Guidelines, and its community before establishing a presence there. Some of the best practices for Flickr usage are readily apparent, such as filling out your profile information completely to make sure people can find you, and describing photos fully to enhance their visibility. Others are fairly intuitive, such as avoiding the hard sell on a network meant for photo sharing and engagement. Others include:
- Upload photos in such order that your best photos are last. These are the photos that will show up first the Photostreams’ of your Contacts;
- Upload your photos in real-time to increase interest in your event or initiative;
- Take great pictures, which makes it more likely that you will gain Contacts;
- Creating groups relevant to your target consumers and sharing content of interest with them;
- Create Flickr Badges and embed them on your website and/or blog to share your photos with its visitors
- Use Flickr to share your photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
- Create and join Groups of interest to your Contacts, target consumers, and influencers, and engage members of these groups fully.
- Review and assess your data on a regular basis, by enabling stats
A number of brands have successfully incorporated Flickr into their social media, as well as their broader marketing, strategies. One such brand is Graco – the baby product manufacturer. In 2007, Graco realized it needed to engage active parents over a long term. Their preliminary research pointed to the fact that this target group hated hard sell commercial initiatives; their approach then became to integrate themselves into parental activities. The firm began to hold parental get-togethers, and blog about them using Flickr as a photo-sharing tool. This content strategy has enabled them to build a robust community on the photo sharing site. Using their own metrics, Graco saw a 15% increase in brand perception in 2008, as well as significant positive reviews. The blog went from 59th in the rankings of the ParentPower index within six months of launch to 34th within a year. Graco also began to post user photos of themselves or others using Graco products, as well as candid, behind-the-scenes staff shots – to humanize its brand. By building a vibrant community around, Graco has not only seen an increase in positive impressions, it has also likely mitigated negative ones. Graco has endured several recalls, and has used its social channels to engage with parents – apologizing and discussing solutions.