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November 9th, 2007

Starting Small with Social Media

Georgia Aquarium - Coral Reef

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.

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 GoGatorNation.com. 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 mind..how about you?

About the Author
Josh Hallett leads up the Voce Connect Client Services team, managing the care and feeding of clients and developing social media strategies with the rest of the team. You can also read his personal Hyku blog and follow him on Twitter @hyku.

Filed in Blogging, Social Media

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