Drowning in a Flickr Pool Meme

The Humane Society of the United StatesUp early, and reading a post by nptech guru, Beth Kanter, on generating activity through Flickr memes. The short of it: The Humane Society is running a campaign on Wendy’s treatment of animals. The campaign includes blog badges, a Myspace page, and the topic of today’s post–a Flickr pool.

So, I took a gander at HSUS’s Flickr pool, totally a whopping 38 photos. Most of which were uploaded by HSUS, and, as Beth notes, all of which were “all rights reserved.” I’ll start there. Why on earth would you not encourage embedding? All rights reserved? For images like this? Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of meme-spreading? Have the LOLcats taught us nothing? (The meme-tacular LOLCats provide embed codes.)

Out of curiousity, I went thumbing through Oxfam’s Starbucks campaign Flickr pool and found that the vast majority of the 577 photos were uploaded by a few select users–one of which is Oxfam–suggesting to me that very few individual activists participated. What’s worse, the individuals that did participate are totally buried between the hundreds of Oxfam employee photos. This discovery got me thinking…what are the benefits of Flickr pools? Does it really help your cause to post hundreds of photos of your employees holding signs?

Social media is about community. As a member-driven organization with a host of other communication tools (including email blasts), nonprofits are well-placed to serve as a host for bringing like-minded people together on the web. Tagging, especially, is a way for people to find eachother in an increasingly cluttered web environment. Posting hundreds of photos of your employees, or similarly drowning out the other voices in the room, only contributes to that clutter.

Whether it’s Flickr, Facebook or Magnolia, it will always be more powerful for the user to connect with a handful of users via shared interest in your campaign or organization, than with your huge, sprawling organization. Please don’t drown out the select few that care.

For media snackers, here are the Flickr pool cliff notes:
1. Allow creative-commons licensing for all images
2. Keep the institutional involvement to a minimum.


5 Responses

  1. hello,

    Nice to discover your blog! I think that the Humane Society photos were coming in from different chapters – and also from myspace profiles which were not posted onto flickr.

    Also, the Human Society staff person told me she was going to use Creative Commons licensing. That she wasn’t aware of it …

    Good points about the best practices, although I think it is important to have a few photos added in the beginning so you don’ t have an empty photo pool.

  2. Hey Beth,
    Thanks for commenting! Rereading my post, I see that I was definitely a bit cranky that morning. Perhaps I shouldn’t blog before my morning latte.

    Thanks for pointing out the origins of the photos–I hadn’t realized. Chapters (as well as analog members) presents an interesting challenge when dealing with social media. I deal with it in my own work with nurses.

    And I totally agree that you don’t want to launch with an empty pool…I’m just wondering how we can “get the party started” without dominating the room.

    Lots to think about.

  3. This was the first photo petition we’ve done, so it’s been a learning experience.

    We weren’t aware of the lisencing issue, and it’s something that we’re going to change thanks to Beth’s advice.

    We got photos through MySpace profiles and a dedicated email address, for those not comfortable with Flickr (which was almost everyone), so that’s why it looks like all the photos are ours. In reality, they are not. We only posted the first one to get it started.

  4. Hey Carrie,
    Interesting to hear more details about this.

    I’m wondering if using the Flickr “upload by email” tool might help in this scenario. While this method would still result in having photos uploaded to the org’s account, it does let the user see their uploaded photo almost instantly, and lets them control the title, description and tags from the email. (There are, of course, some security concerns about this. One advantage is that you can change the account email address at any time.)

    I’m always watching to see how other orgs deal with their members’ varying web aptitude. I think what I was getting at w/ this post is that the added value of social media between individuals is lost when they are removed from it. In most cases, it’s not the org’s fault. Members simply aren’t there yet. In those instances, I’m wondering what is gained, and whether the goals should be different. (For example, not trying to reach a certain number of user contributions, but strengthening the connections between those that do participate. Making the smaller HSUS Flickr community a real one, with tagging, commenting, notes, and more.)

    Easier said than done, I know. I think the campaign idea is terrific and have enjoyed thinking about ways to engage members through social media.

    p.s. I just used the LOLcat generator on Icanhascheezburger.com to generate my own contribution to the group. 🙂

  5. I learned A LOT about our member’s varying web aptitude with this campaign. The way we explained it in our email was simply not good enough. I thought it was easy, but to the average person, it was not. Great lesson in web usability there. However, I will say, that the process of uploading a photo to a group is a complicated one on Flickr’s end… for someone that’s not familiar with the site.

    Interesting point about the upload by email function.. I’m going to have to check that out. You and Beth have been very helpful, being that this was my first crack at a Flickr photo petition.

    Your point about a smaller goal is also an interesting one. Honestly, we were happy with 50 submissions. It takes a highly engaged person to a) be passionate about this particular issue and b) take the time to take a photo, include a message, and send it in. I had an individual dialogs with each one of them, since almost all of them submitted via email. I’m happy that I got to engage them, because hopefully they will become stronger activists and get others involved!

    That was you with the LOLcat! I loved it!!

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