Wednesday, April 08, 2009

photos as a social-media strategy: 5 views

Back in the mid-1990s, I was working at U.S. EPA when the so-called "ten-year" Mississippi floods hit, and I'll never forget a newspaper account that detailed how a local high school became a staging area for damaged family photos lovingly saved in the recovery efforts. Lines of flood victims formed to walk through the high school gym, where table after table held ruined, wet photos of graduations, weddings, trips to Disney World, summer vacations.

Today, I expect such a scene may be a thing of the past, given the popularity of photo-sharing social media sites. And if your organization hasn't uploaded its picture stash on the Web, consider it one of the low-hanging fruits you can easily pick to start your social media communications.

Sure, it may feel as if photos don't have the pizzazz of a Twitter feed or online video. So here are my five views on why you should consider a photo-sharing strategy as the core of your social media communications efforts:
  1. Photo-sharing boosts your media relations: A few years ago, newspapers began devoting much more space to photos, in an effort to compete with the Web's visuals. Now all news media are in on the act, with online, print, and broadcast news--yes, even radio--competing for new photos to post online. Bloggers also look for photos to illustrate their coverage, and with more than 200 million blogs out there, represent a major avenue for expanding your coverage. Make your photos available copyright-free so they can be downloaded faster--and make sure your photostream includes basic "official" photos of your senior staff, buildings, signage, campus and more, as well as more event-specific shots..
  2. Photo-sharing makes it easy to engage audiences. Here, the numbers tell the tale. Photo-sharing may be the most frequently engaged-in activity in social media. Facebook is the largest photo-sharing site in terms of users and the fastest-growing. But in "Who has the most photos of them all? (Hint: It's not Facebook), TechCrunch sorts out photo-sharing sites by number of stored photos this way: ImageShack, 20 billion; Facebook, 15 billion, PhotoBucket, 7.2 billion; Flickr, 3.4 billion; and Multiply, 3 billion. At those levels of participation, you're sure to find photo fiends who share your "views," so to speak.
  3. Photo-sharing invites people to comment on your archives: Got a mystery photo? Shots never before seen? Post them and ask people to add details, ideas, or ratings. I've written before about the success of the Library of Congress Flickr feed (go here to read about how they measured that success). More recently, this New York Post article details the roaring success of, a new website that's launched with photos from the now-defunct Life magazine and Getty Images archives. More than 97 percent of the photos posted are rarities, never before seen by the public--a fact that invites browsing, and ratings, by ordinary folks and celebrities like Ellen deGeneres.
  4. Photo-sharing invites people to share their own photos: If you're smart about it, your photostream should include an invitation to others to post their photos of your events, people, and news. Ask alumni (whether former students or employees) to post photos from their days with you, or challenge attendees at your current events to share their pics. (Again, the participation data noted above tells you that people like -- and find it easy -- to share photos, so take advantage of it.) While you're at it, invite photo contests, submission comments and more.
  5. Photo-sharing adds dimension to your online presence. You can have the swiftest search and the best-organized task bar on the Web, but it's photos that will add emotion, visual pauses, click-throughs and participation to your site. Photos, from formal to candids, professional or amateur, allow us to see ourselves in your setting. Make sure your photo archives get uploaded, tagged and available--and promote that availability--to ensure your image is completed with images. Be sure you're using all other social media outlets, from Facebook and Twitter to bookmarking sites, to share your photo trove.

No comments: