The New York Times ran a review of photo sharing sites this week but focused primarily on the consumer service aspect of such sites, rather than their community features. That wasn’t the purpose of the article of course but it is exactly the sharing aspect of these sites that offer marketing opportunities.
The following sites are the most popular photo sharing sites, according to Hitwise:
- Photobucket – Owned by MySpace
- Yahoo! Photos – Slated to be closed
- Flickr – Owned by Yahoo!
- Kodak Gallery
Kodak Gallery does not have social networking features and neither does Photobucket but because it was recently bought by the premier pure social networking site, MySpace, it is certainly possible for social networking features to be added to the service.
Hitwise lists Photobucket as the most popular photo sharing site with 41% of the market. As noted above, Yahoo! Photos will be shut down in favor of Flickr. Assuming most of the Yahoo! Photos users migrate to Flickr, that makes Flickr the second most popular photo sharing site with 10% of the market, but the most popular site with social networking features. The following are a few other photo sites with social networking features:
So how do you use these sites for marketing? Let’s use an example. Let’s say your company sells model trains. With a digital camera, you can easily photograph your inventory and create a catalog of digital photos.
Search Optimizing Your Photos With Tags
Click to enlarge.
Highlighted areas are editable.
Once you upload your photos to a photo sharing site, you’ll be able to create a title, add a caption, and apply keywords–or tags–to your photo. The primary method by which users of photo sharing sites find the photographs that interest them is by using the site’s search function. The search function will look for any text that is associated with the photo in order to return relevant results for the person conducting the search. (I’ve included an example of the edit page on Flickr to the right. Click on the photo to enlarge it. The highlighted areas are editable.)
Therefore, it is important that you use keywords that people will most likely use when searching for your photos. So, someone interested in model trains will probably search for that phrase when they are looking for photographs of model trains. If they are a collector, they might also search for specific brands of models of model trains. Use your keywords in your title, caption, and tags so that people can find your photos.
Conversational Marketing On Photo Sharing Sites
Many of the photo sharing sites give you tools to build communities among their users. You can often create a group. So in the case of our model train business, you could start and host a group about model trains in which you and/or the members of the group could post and discuss photos.
By doing a search for model trains, you can find other users of the site who have tagged their photos with those keywords; invite them to your group! Post new photos of your inventory and lead a discussion about the product, its features, whatever will capture your group’s imagination. All the while, you’re reminding people of your business.
Most of the sites also allow users to post comments on individual photos in exactly the same way that blogs allow readers to comment. Find other people talking about model trains and participate; get known as the "model train expert."
Branding, Then Sharing Your Photos
Most photo sites give you control over the degree to which people can use your photos, often using the creative commons copyright alternative. You can let users download photos, post photos to their blogs, etc. Our model train company might want to brand their photos with the company logo and web site address and then give users wide latitude to use the photos. If they download the photos, they might use them as their computer’s wallpaper, giving you a great branding tool.
If you allow people to post photos to their blogs (it’s usually with attribution and a link back to your photo site profile), you’re extending the reach of the photos beyond just the photo sharing site. It’s more likely than not that the blogger will be writing something enthusiastic about the photo, casting your brand in a positive light.
Sound like a lot of work? It is. But, if you’re a Mac user, you can make your life a lot easier by using the very nice (and free) PictureSync utility. It’s a little piece of software that lets you simultaneously batch upload your optimized photos to multiple photo sharing sites. A Windows version is currently in development.
The model train company example obviously doesn’t apply to everyone but there’s no reason you can’t figure out how to make these sites work for you.