N2Y3Con: Using Flickr to make Your Existing Community More Amazing, or to Create a New One

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This is Brenda Hough, blogging live from the NetSquared conference, currently attending a session on Flickr and community. The presenter is Gail Ann Williams, community manager at the WELL.

Gail feels that Flickr is a great tool use for many things. Thinks a big part of its success is that there are multiple ways of finding people and sorting things. Another cool thing is that people have developed multiple expressions of culture around them.

Gail provided a few examples of the interesting ways in which Flickr is being used:

  • Voices in the Wilderness: A Prayer for Wild Things -- These are photos of wildlife from all over the place. Although there are no real rules and no staff, this group is acting like an organization. There is engagement and excitement!
  • Disaster photos, for example right after the recent earthquake in China - people posting photographs and finding one another using Flickr. Tags in Chinese.
  • What is this? with photos being identified by users

Gail then engaged the audience in a discussion of how they had used Flickr. One man shared that he has a portrait gallery on Flickr, with over 1100 portraits, but it gets very little traffic. How can he get more traffic? Replies included... is there a tagging strategy that might help? Gail said that when she was a little girl, she wanted to get postcards from her friends. Her mom told her that in order to receive postcards, she was going to have to send them. It's the same in the Flickr world. It's important to comment on the photographs of others.

Another example... March of Dimes - premature babies - had a contest to choose baby to be poster child. Used a Mashup... Flickr photographs mashed with a voting database they created.

Gail talked about a fun thing the WELL did. Created a Flickr badge, images that would appear when people hit a 404-error page on the WELL (it's an old site and people hit them a lot). The photos received a huge amount of traffic!

The Project for New Orleans Recovery has an active Flickr community, but it struggling with how to map the images, to Google Maps, for example.

An individual from HASTAC talked about their work with the Macarthur Foundation's Digitial Media and Learning award winners. They gave each of the 17 winners a Flickr pro account and encouraged them to go wild. The challenge is... those who are using it seem to see it as an "official" thing and they have not added the "hammering nails" sorts of photos that he thinks would be interesting.

Flickr and fundraising -- any interesting things happening? Disasters may be an area where this is happening. Also some are running photography contests (with entry fees). Or maybe your donors want a photo testimonial or thank you? Funders would probably love great pics of what they funded. Peer to peer fundraising ("I'm walking for AIDS" for ex).

An audience member asks, "What are the things you wish non-profits knew to better use Flickr?" Responses include... use photos to pull people in (for example, for an event, use photos to encourage people to come next year because look at these great photos of this year). Document events -- this gives attention and validation. An audience member talks about Andy Lopata, who recommends that every non-profit organization have a story bank and a photo bank. Gail recommends taking 30-seconds of video of volunteers and individuals in the communities we serve, etc... "tiny testimonials in someone's voice are much more affecting than the same words typed out."

Flickr is a topic we think about a lot at the MaintainIT project. Many librarians and libraries are using it, too, and this session left me thinking about how we might use it even more creatively. Hmmm....