Thursday, January 24, 2013

Five years in, data & lessons from Library of Congress Flickr project

A WPA-era poster from the collection on Flickr
It's hard to believe it's been five years since I reported on the Library of Congress using Flickr as a new-media way to adapt its collections for public use--in this case, collections of historic photos. Now the Library's reporting on this successful effort, a Flickr Commons with "more than 250,000 photographs with no known copyright restrictions...contributed by 56 libraries, archives, and museums worldwide, with new images added each week."

See what you can do on social media in five years?

One key to the Library's success has been its strong embrace of all aspects of social media. It announced the Flickr project without a news release, using only its own blog and communications with bloggers to spread the word, and it has recorded and reported on the statistics and measurement of the project routinely, as in this year four report posted on its blog so that others can see the full impact of the comments, shares, and the growth of the collection. (The original report, issued after the launch effort, also is well worth a read.)

Qualitative measures also have been recorded. Users have been encouraged to tag and comment on photos posted, particularly where little is known about the photographer or the subjects, and photography buffs often post questions or observations about the methods used to create the photos. In many cases, they've added direct knowledge to the Library's holdings, enriching the collections in this way. It's unlikely that most of these users would have visited the Library and its collections in person, but now they can contribute and participate, thanks to the use of open platforms and social media.

What I like best here: The social media strategy isn't an add-on to existing communications efforts, it is the communications effort, with posts on the blog and on Flickr taking the place of published reports, news releases and other traditional products. Can you do the same? If you've got a comparable example, please share it in the comments.

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