Tuesday, August 5, 2008

5 things associations can learn from Flickr

Associations that are exploring the use of Web 2.0 tools and social media would do well to take a look at the photo sharing site Flickr.

Flickr is, in their own words,” almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.” I started using Flickr in mid-2006, before Yahoo bought them. That makes me old skool. In the early days they were exactly what they said they were. They are still pretty good. When I joined Flickr here’s what I found:
  1. Easy-They provide a very simple interface for uploading your photos.

  2. Entry was cheap. They let me use it for free. The terms haven’t changed. Free users have a monthly upload limit and an overall data limit on how much you can store on their servers. I quickly upgraded to unlimited uploads and unlimited storage for a measly $25/yr. I now have over 300 gigabytes of photo files stored on Flickr and it still only costs me $25/yr!

  3. Search tools- good search tools allow you to search member profiles, meta-tags,
    photo titles, descriptions, discussions, and more. This allowed me to find and connect with people who share my photographic interests. I happen to like the work of Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, and Lee Friedlander. A quick search and I find people who share my interests and I can see the work that they are doing.

  4. Peer-to-peer communication- Once you find people that share your interests you can communicate with them, either publicly or privately.

  5. Groups-I think this is one of the great things about Flickr. Anyone can create a group for photo sharing and discussion-- about anything-- in public or in private. I created a group around my interest in Robert Frank’s seminal work, The Americans. The group has 230 members from all around the world. I also created a group for photographs of Stuffed Animals Lashed to Truck Radiators. Believe it or not there are 24 members posting photos and geo-tagging sightings of this oddity. No niche is too small. I didn't have to ask permission.

What can your association learn from this? A lot I think. Flickr is just a platform. A pretty good one. It serves my purposes at present. Of course there are similar social media platforms: Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. They all function pretty much the same. They connect people. Their value is in their ability to connect people. It’s not about stuff they push at you.

Do I have any allegiance to Flickr? None at all. I’m not a Flickr evangelist (I hate that word in business context). Flickr has no mission. What keeps me paying my $25/yr to Flickr is the transaction cost of maintaining my connection to my friends.

So... what if your association showed Flickr’s commitment to fostering connections between its members, gave them the tools to share, and organized them under an idea that inspired them?

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