Firstly a disclosure: I have been a Flickr member since 2004, I used to work on European PR for Flickr during my time at Yahoo!. Anyway, how that I’ve got that out of the way I can crack on with the post.
What is Flickr?
Flickr describes itself thus:
Flickr - almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world - has two main goals:
1. We want to help people make their photos available to the people who matter to them.
Maybe they want to keep a blog of moments captured on their cameraphone, or maybe they want to show off their best pictures or video to the whole world in a bid for web celebrity. Or maybe they want to securely and privately share photos of their kids with their family across the country. Flickr makes all these things possible and more!
To do this, we want to get photos and video into and out of the system in as many ways as we can: from the web, from mobile devices, from the users’ home computers and from whatever software they are using to manage their content. And we want to be able to push them out in as many ways as possible: on the Flickr website, in RSS feeds, by email, by posting to outside blogs or ways we haven’t thought of yet. What else are we going to use those smart refrigerators for?
2. We want to enable new ways of organizing photos and video.
Once you make the switch to digital, it is all too easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer number of photos you take or videos you shoot with that itchy trigger finger. Albums, the principal way people go about organizing things today, are great — until you get to 20 or 30 or 50 of them. They worked in the days of getting rolls of film developed, but the “album” metaphor is in desperate need of a Florida condo and full retirement.
Part of the solution is to make the process of organizing photos or videos collaborative. In Flickr, you can give your friends, family, and other contacts permission to organize your stuff - not just to add comments, but also notes and tags. People like to ooh and ahh, laugh and cry, make wisecracks when sharing photos and videos. Why not give them the ability to do this when they look at them over the internet? And as all this info accretes as metadata, you can find things so much easier later on, since all this info is also searchable.
In terms of numbers:
- 51 million registered users
- 80 million unique users per month
- 3 million plus geo-tagged photographs
- By 2008, Flickr contained some 2.4 billion photographs
But that’s not as big as Facebook, why should I care about Flickr?
Not all unique users are created equal and flickr manages to attract creative types in far greater numbers than ‘me and my mates after 16 pints’ pictures that tend to appear on Facebook. The Flickr community has dune a good job in self-policing against conduct not in keeping with the ethos of the site. These creative types have also advocated the use of flickr by commercial and non-commercial organisations, you can find The Whitehouse, 10 Downing Street and the Smithsonian Institute. So you have a community known for high quality images, this means that this is a trusted source for image search by Google and Bing - making it ideal for search engine optimisation by putting back-links in picture metadata.
It’s creative user base has also attracted bloggers (I use Flickr myself for image hosting on my personal blog). So it is an ideal way of sharing pictures as a kind of online press room for photography.
The core thinking behind Flickr was to make it open and extendable, so the company has been very good at providing ways of sharing and using images via an API. There is an eco-system of applications out there that do all manner of photo-related things including pulling these pictures into Facebook if you want.
Flickr also embraced location-aware services way before Twitter and Foursquare were conceived by their creators. The geo-tagged information on photographs in Flickr allows Google to use these pictures on their mapping service - providing a PR opportunity for retailers, hotels, spas and restaurants.
Flickr makes it easy to search its photo archive, so brands can use it as a sort of desk social anthropology by getting some idea from the images how their products or services are perceived and used. For example here is a search that I did on the Flickr brand itself.
The creative commons
Flickr has championed the use of creative commons licences, which help facilitate the distribution of content but allowing the author to get credit, options include restricting use to non-commercial uses and controlling the degree of alterations that may occur to the works. This has made it ideal for bloggers looking for suitable images and presenters looking for interesting visual cues.
If you are doing international campaign Flickr has greater potential reach than Facebook simply because it isn’t blocked in China. The service is available in a range of languages from German to Vietnamese, making it an ideal platform for use in global campaigns.
If you’d like to know more about how you could take advantage of Flickr for your business as part of a wider digital strategy, drop us a line and let’s do coffee.