Why Flickr? Using photos to tell your story

"Wire + Minipegs = Polaroid Wall" by Fiona McLaren"Wire + Minipegs = Polaroid Wall" by FionaMclaren

While discussing various uses of social media by arts organizations, a coworker mused, "But why Flickr?"

"Why Flickr?" indeed.  Or perhaps, more accurately, HOW Flickr?  After prowling around in search of arts organizations that are using Flickr in interesting and relevant ways, it seems pretty clear that the question should be addressed.

Since the internet can transmit exciting, attractive, visual media, rather tell you about what you can do with Flickr, I will let the photos save me a thousand words.

The Mattress Factory's photostream -Inviting front page -Colorful photos with good composition and interesting content -Current (there's this week's snowstorm!) -Clearly organized into sets [e.g. "Behind the Scenes" (something that I strongly believe in--because, as we know, "Everyone wants to feel like an insider."), "Exhibitions" or "Events"] -Flickr page is linked from the social media ("Friendship 2.0") page on the Mattress Factory's website.

Misnomer Dance Theatre's photostream -Inviting front page -Colorful, bright, energetic photos -Clearly labeled sets -Misnomer home page has a Flickr widget at the bottom

Steppenwolf Theatre Company's photostream -Clear differentiation among sets (e.g. rehearsal pics in black and white) -Behind-the-scenes and production shots -Some albums show interaction with audience -Linked from SteppenwolfTheatre.org

The American Conservatory Theater's photostream -Don't all look professionally-shot, but convey a spirit and energy -Show many aspects of the production -Show interaction with patrons -Linked from ACT homepage

The Whitney Museum's photostream -User-generated photos -Linked from "Get Involved" page on Whitney's website -Discussion forum (with some involvement)

I do want to say what I have seen that I haven't found effective. Too often organizations do a couple of things: they have an intern, or a staff member, who manages their photostream (that's their page on Flickr) from a personal profile. That doesn't make me want to engage. Instead, it makes me feel like I'm encroaching on a space to which I am not convinced I'm invited. Organizations that DO use Flickr, and have someone taking photos to PUT on Flickr, should have an organizational profile and should have a Flickr widget or link prominently placed on the homepage. (And, pet peeve, I think the best widget is one that actually SAYS "flickr" and doesn't just have the dot-logo).

Other huge turn-offs? (Apologies for immenent snarkiness.) I don't want to name names here, but organizations that essentially just do a mass-upload from their camera after an event: shudder.  Do your audience a favor and sift through them to find the ones that actually look interesting and lively.  I don't particularly care to see an entire album of a group of students all with their backs to the camera.  Having endless posed pictures of people standing and smiling together like the social pages looks like bragging, and not a lot like fun.  It's fine to include a few, but thirty?