Tips for successful marketing using photo-sharing services

Decide if images will help your business

Some businesses are a natural fit for photo-sharing services. For example, tourism, fashion and hospitality are all industries that are easily promoted through attractive images. On the other hand, if you're a plumber, accountant or computer programmer, it may be harder to come up with appealing photos! Decide whether using a photo-sharing service will actually advance your business goals.

Pick the right service and account

If you do decide to use a photo-sharing service, consider which one will work best for you.

Flickr is generally good for businesses that want a quick, easy and free way to upload photos and share them with others. Flickr has a 90-second limit on videos. Pinterest is a good addition if you want a free service that allows you to share and connect with a large community of women.

There are also paid account options, and differences in how individual services integrate with services such as Facebook or mobile technology, so it's wise to research carefully if you want to use their more sophisticated functions.

Create a strong profile, screen name and icon

Any business using a photo-sharing service should complete their profile page on the site. Although this isn't compulsory, other users like to know as much about you as they can, and a profile is a good way to give your business a personal face.

You will also be asked to choose a screen name. Think carefully about what you choose. Many marketers recommend using your website address (e.g. 'JiveCafe.Com') so that your URL is promoted whenever you use the site. Others say that it's important for your screen name to be easy to remember. Think about your business and the site community, and decide what name is likely to be most effective.

Likewise, the icon (image) that represents your account should reflect positively on your business. Some businesses use a personal photo of the owner, while others use a photo of the business or something related to the business (e.g. flowers for a florist).

Post original and interesting photos and videos

You will attract viewers and friends on photo-sharing services by posting original and interesting photos and videos. People are looking for images that are beautiful, unusual, friendly, cute or informative - so that's what you need to supply. You don't need to be a professional photographer, but you do need to know enough to take a decent photo. Examples of good photos include:

  • a sports store posting pictures of happy customers buying football jerseys around grand final time
  • a tour company posting pictures of a group watching baby turtles hatch on a Queensland beach
  • a shoemaker posting pictures of shoes being handcrafted
  • a charity posting pictures of their workers helping on an aid project
  • a green business posting a picture of a baby wearing an eco-friendly nappy
  • a lighting company posting pictures of their lights in use in attractive homes and businesses
  • a pinboard featuring all the different staff from your business.

If any of your photos feature people (e.g. staff or customers), make sure to get written permission from them before uploading their images.

Encourage others to re-use your photos

One of the best ways to promote your business is to post great photos and then have them re-used by others. Pinterest is especially good for this. To encourage re-use, make sure to fill in the relevant information on the site concerned so that other users can see that you're happy for your images to be reproduced with credit. If the site doesn't allow this, make sure to respond quickly to any requests to reproduce your images.

Link photos to your website, blog, Facebook page or Twitter

Flickr allows you to link your photos to your other online services. For example, you can create a slideshow or 'badge' in Flickr and then upload it to your website, so that a selection of your Flickr images will appear there. You can also select options that automatically post images to your blog, Facebook page or Twitter account, expanding the number of people who see your images.

Likewise, you should link from your website etc. back to your photo page on Flickr or Pinterest. Photo-sharing services provide logo buttons that you can add to your website (or elsewhere) for this purpose.

Connect with other users

Photo-sharing services are not just storage containers, or platforms - they're communities. You'll get a far better response if you connect with other users than if you just post photos.

On Flickr, you can join groups, comment, join discussions, and create a 'favourites' list of other people's photos. On Pinterest, you can follow other pinners, comment, and like and repin their photos. All of these activities will help your marketing efforts. It's also worthwhile finding very popular users and following them. If they follow or 'like' you in return, they can bring a whole new audience along with them.

Some marketers also suggest using competitions to engage with other users. For example, you could ask people in your group to submit their best photo, or to create the most beautiful pinboard using images relevant to your business. Just make sure to check that any contest won't break site rules.

Use titles, tags and descriptions effectively

Flickr allows you to name your photos and add 'tags' (keywords) during the upload process. They also allow you to add a description of the photo, as does Pinterest.

Make sure you complete all of this information and make it as relevant and useful as possible. No photo should ever have a title like 'DCM123.JPG'. Titles should be descriptive and keyword-heavy if possible.

For example, a photo of a model wearing a Lin Jones dress that you sell in your clothing store could be named 'LinJonesatFashionWeek.jpg'. You could then tag such a photo with keywords like 'Fashion Week', 'Lin Jones Designs', 'New Collections Winter 2013', 'Alternative Fashion', and 'ragtraders.com.au' (the website address for your business). Your description might be 'New Zara dress from the Lin Jones Winter 2013 collection comes down the catwalk at Fashion Week'. This gives people useful information about an attractive picture. And, provided that you use a good screen name, readers should be able to work out that you sell the dress, without you having to use 'hard sell' tactics that would break site rules.

Adding rich information will allow your viewers to understand what a photo is about, and to find it, whether they search the internet or just the site concerned. In the long term, it is also likely to improve your ranking in search engines.

Don't use Flickr to sell

Flickr has rules regarding commercial activity, which prohibit selling products or services, using your account solely as a product catalogue, or linking to commercial sites. Follow these rules or you'll be banned from the site.

Plan, track and promote

Before you start using an online photo-sharing service, make sure to set some goals and work out the practical aspects of the task (e.g. Who will manage the uploads? How often will they upload? What keywords will you use?).

Once you've joined a site, make sure to take advantage of any tracking information that they provide. Pay special attention to which images get the most likes, comments, or repins, and shape your future posts accordingly. You should also track any sales that come from your photo-sharing services.

Finally, make sure to promote your presence on a photo-sharing site. It's easy to add 'Visit us on Pinterest' or 'Follow us on Flickr' to your marketing materials. People love pictures, so if you're posting good images you shouldn't have any trouble gathering followers. And, if you get an impressive number of followers, you can add this to your marketing materials too.

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