Flickr is a free photo-sharing network with a very strong and active user base. It is one of the largest photo and video hosting services on the web: as of September 2010, Flickr was hosting over five billion images.
How does Flickr work?
There are two types of Flickr account: free or Pro. The free account is fairly comprehensive. Users are allowed to upload 100 MB of images a month and 2 videos. However, if you fail to log in to your account for 90 consecutive days, you account will be deleted. You are also denied access to the original upload file - Pro users can access and re-download these images. Images can be tagged and labelled with geographical data to make them easy to search for. There are a number of copyright options for users: everything from a Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to use the images for non-commercial purposes with attribution, to all rights reserved.
Can I market my business on Flickr?
Technically, users are not allowed to use Flickr for commercial purposes - you can't just upload an advertisement as it's against the terms of service. If you are in a service business - accounting or insurance, for example - Flickr probably isn't the most useful network for you. But if there are any visual elements to what you do, or if you manufacture real-world products, there are a number of ways to promote your brand on the photo-sharing platform.
Tips for using Flickr for business
1. Use your website address as your Flickr screen name.
All your activity on Flickr will be displayed alongside your screen name: every photo you upload, every comment, and every message you post in a group discussion. Be an active member of the Flickr community and let your screen name advertise your website URL. Top tip: If an image or group is getting a receiving a lot of comments, make sure you get involved as this is an opportunity to get your name in front of a lot of eyeballs. But make sure your interaction is authentic.
2. Use your Flickr profile to promote your company/products/services
Flickr allows you to create a profile where you can give a brief biography and list a web site name and address. Use your profile to introduce you business but keep the sales pitch to a minimum. As with all social media, the hard sell turns off other users. Top tip: Make your company logo your Flickr icon.
3. Upload high-quality photos of your products/services, and things related to your business.
Use your Flickr account to upload sets (these are like albums) of business-related images. Be creative: if there are some funny/novel uses for your products, get snapping. If you run a farming business, pictures of new lambs go down a treat. Use Flickr to give the outside world a view into your business.
4. Tag your photos and use relevant keywords
Give each photo a name and description. These descriptions should be accurate, but try and avoid any marketing puff: it's about the image, not the hard sell. Add 'tags' to each photo, including your company name and website as this will turn up in the search function. Top tip: Make sure you link prominently to your website from your Flickr stream. This is not just for directing traffic from Flickr, it also helps your SEO ranking.
5. Find and join appropriate groups
There are hundreds of thousand of groups on Flickr, covering just about every industry and sector imaginable. Find the groups that are relevant to your business, join them and share your images. If you see images you like, favourite them and add the user to your contact list - this is a social network after all.