(Cross posted from the VoceNation)

Social media strategy doesn’t always involve blogging or launching a social network. I always say, why start your own, when you can join an existing one? Social media/commuity initiatives can start out small and focussed….and use existing networks. A great example is the recent Flickr photogroup created by the Georgia Aquarium.

Georgia Aquarium - Coral Reef

The Georgia Aquarium is fortunate that their location is often photographed, and the results are usually quite stunning. A number of amateur photographers and just regular users upload their aquarium photos to Flickr….why not join the party? Or at least help cultivate the interest? That’s what the Georgia Aquarium has done.

Back in October I received the following e-mail invite via Flickr. Of course I joined the group, and as of today there are 89 members with close to 400 photos. Why only 400? The aquarium has asked members to submit their best five photos. I don’ agree with that entirely, but I can see their point.

Georgia Aquarium's Flickr Group

The photo collection was part of their web site relaunch slated for November (which is now up). The plan is to feature the photography and stories of visitors from around the globe. Not a unique idea, but it still works well with destinations. Below is a screenshot of the new site featuring one of my photos.

Georgia Aquarium's User Photos/Stories

The ‘how-to’ section instructs users to join Flickr, then join the Georgia Aquarium group…then upload their photos into the group. The description on the photo will be used as the ‘story’. This use of Flickr is similar to what the University of Florida did with Rather than creating some proprietary and hard-to-use photo-upload system, why not just use something that everybody is using already? Smart.

Let’s recap. Finding the photos is simple, just do a Flickr photo search for ‘Georgia Aquarium’. As of this post there are 43,574 photos, not bad, but it pales to the 883,000+ you’ll find for Disney. Once you’ve found the photos, create a group and begin to invite the users to the group. Of course you need a purpose or strategy for the group. In the aquarium’s case it was to build out a sharing/story function on their web site.

What’s next? You have a community, but you need to provide something of value to the community. I’m not sure what their plans are, but here are some ideas:

1. Host a private function at the Aquarium for the photogroup members and invite in a professional aquatic photographer to host an instructional seminar. Then give the photogroup access to the aquarium for a few hours all to themselves (before of after normal hours). I can’t speak for everybody, but if they offered that, I’d fly to Atlanta on my own to take part

2. Provide photogroup members access to behind-the-scenes area for pictures.

3. Feature select photos on the primary home page of the Georgia Aquarium Site.

4. Take the best 12 shots (determined by a user vote) and produce a calendar.

What other innovative campaigns have you seen built upon user photos? For me the Nikon campaigns come to about you?


6 Responses to Starting Small with Social Media: Georgia Aquarium Flickr Photogroup

  1. Kevin Dugan says:

    This is a great how-to. Much like Voce and GA, my place of work has a Flickr group.
    It reminds me of a comment you provided at UGA Connect: Smart brands are aware of social network activity related to their brand and rather than trying to control the message they facilitate the message.

  2. That is very cool. Great post and I look forward to hearing about other photo campaigns. I’m also thinking about how we can leverage those 1500+ photos in the BlogPhiladelphia flickr pool for the 2008 event…

  3. Great post Josh! Love the suggestions you offer up as well. It’s this type of forward thinking that gives small businesses a great chance to get in and compete with the big boys.
    I’ve talked to several small businesses about mining YouTube for great viral content to buy the rights to (and then noticed the new investment campaign using all the laughing baby clips found on YouTube, lol) and have also talked about setting up Flickr groups and doing special events for the members. I’m a huge fan of that idea, especially for popular tourist spots.
    Thanks for offering up real advice that anyone can implement on a limited budget. This is exactly the type of social media marketing advice people need to hear. As opposed to yet another “just get on Digg” post. ;)

  4. Andrew Mills says:

    Hey Josh..or should I call you hyku :)
    How exciting to come across a member of our flickr group blogging about the project! Funny enough I was actually the person who sent that invite to you. I am part of the team at What’s Up Interactive who worked on the project for the Georgia Aquarium. We were all very excited to see such a positive response to the International Adventures project. While this program comes off as a pretty simple process, we ran into some challenges that required some creative thinking to overcome. Just FYI, the website was not re-launched in November; the map project was added to the site to commemorate the second anniversary of the Georgia Aquarium. I passed this blog post along to some co-workers to show them your mention of ideas regarding how to further use this program to benefit the users and they were very well received!! Thanks for participating in the project and helping us get it off the ground!

  5. When was the last time I visited an aquarium? Anyway, I agree that inviting people with photos is not entirely a new idea. Still, sometimes, certain strategies work best for certain situations. In this case, as you mentioned, the Georgia Aquarium is photographed by many people. I think they did well in choosing which way to go about things. And thanks for sharing that how-to list with us!

  6. linkbait says:

    Great article, seo types seem to have subsitituted linkbait for social media optimization. The first step in running a successful social media campaign is identifying where your site is popping up on social networks and leveraging to your greatest ability.

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