(First published on Memeburn)

Besides the usual social media suspects like Facebook and Twitter, there are many other tools worth considering when it comes to promoting your business online. One of these is Flickr, the Yahoo!-owned photography sharing site. When used correctly, Flickr is an extremely effective way of engaging with your target market — provided they use the site, and provided your business lends itself to having photographs uploaded and shared with the Flickr community.

In my next three posts, I’ll talk about 1) how to set up your Flickr account, 2) how to use it to increase your brand’s exposure through participation in the Flickr community and 3) how to promote your account outside of the site.

Before starting with Flickr, it’s a good idea to know a bit more about the tool and how it’s best used, so that you can see whether it’s a natural fit for your business or not. Thinking about this properly beforehand means that any time investment you make with it will be worth your while in the long run.

The background.
Started in 2004, Flickr was bought by Yahoo! a year later, and is today one of the most active photographic sharing communities online (at the time of writing, Flickr hosts close to five billion photos). The site lets you upload photos and videos from the web, computer and mobile devices to your own Flickr account. Once they’re uploaded, you can publish them to other locations such as your blog, website, or other social sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Who uses it?
Flickr’s user base consists of both amateur and professional photographers who not only want to share their photos with others, but who also want to engage with and solicit feedback from Flickr’s active user community. It’s important to understand the culture of Flickr’s discerning audience: you won’t have much success on the site if you see it as purely a traffic driver – Flickr’s rules explicitly forbid you from uploading photos that are posted purely to advertise or market a product. You need to think of the site as a place to upload quality photos related to your business and connect with others who are doing the same. Any resulting traffic to your website or other web properties is a happy by-product. For example, if you’re a hotel owner in Sydney, think along the lines of uploading your own original photos of your hotel’s suburb to help people researching a trip to Australia, rather than uploading pictures of your hotel’s interior that you had taken for your brochure.

How do I interact with the community?
The two most effective ways are by commenting on other photos and by participating in Filckr groups. Each time you leave a comment on the site, your username (alongside the comment you made) links back to your personal profile, which in turn contains links to your own photo sets, videos and biographical information. Flickr Groups are places for people to upload photos and videos and engage in discussions with other members on a specific topic. Uploading photos to these groups and participating in related discussions is therefore a great way of getting targeted exposure to your photos within a specific audience group.

How much does it cost?
A basic Flickr account is free – all you need is a Yahoo! ID to sign in – and you can upload 100MBs worth of photos and two videos per month to your account. If you’re looking to upload more, a Pro account costs $24.95 per year and gives you unlimited uploads of photos and videos, (but with a limit of 20MB per photo and 100MB per video), unlimited storage and bandwidth, and the ability to have HD playback for your videos. You also get rewarded with other perks such as not having ads displayed on your account, the ability to replace photos and download the original high resolution versions once you‘ve uploaded them, and stats relating to users’ interactions with your photos. As a Pro account holder you also have a “Pro” icon displaying alongside your username, which gives you added credibility compared to a regular user.

How can it help my business?
Flickr’s large user base and easy sharing capabilities mean you can quickly and easily expose your photos to a large and engaging audience online. From here, you can drive more traffic to your blog or website, which can translate into more sales or engagement on your own properties. You can also use the site as a way of establishing your credibility and authority on a particular subject area within Flickr, and it can serve as a networking tool where you make new business contacts and connect with potential customers or influencers.

Is it right for my business?
The best way to answer this is to consider whether you have original photography worth uploading to your account. Secondly, decide whether you have the time to keep adding material and engaging with the community on the site. This is not unique to Flickr: as with all social media sites, the more time you invest in adding value to the site community, the more long term benefit you’ll ultimately get for your own business.

In my next post I’ll cover the details of getting started and extracting real value from Flickr.


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