You can get more than just links from social media. You can also get really great content. And one of the best places to find free content is on Flickr.
There are tons of ways to use Flickr. If you can take a great photo, you can use Flickr to build inbound links and get your photos showing up in places like Consumerist and Epicenter. You can use Flickr’s comment area to build links that drive traffic and exposure. However, one of my favorite ways to use the site is to follow a link AND content development strategy. And that’s what this article is about helping you learn to do.
I’ll start out by saying that full credit for this method goes to Rae Hoffman who passed it down to me while we were brainstorming ideas for Outspoken Media. She also agreed to let me use TheBinocularSite.com, a site she owns with MFE Interactive, as our case study.
Case study: The binocular site
The Binocular Site prides itself on being an independent guide for all things binoculars. There are overviews on virtually every binocular manufacturer on the planet. There are consumer guides to address binocular-related concerns. Basically, if binoculars are your thing, this is your mecca. However, even with all that content, the site was looking for a better way to engage its community, especially with horizontal sites or sites that aren’t directly related to binoculars. Sites geared towards groups like hunters, birders or online predators.
One of the content pieces Binoculars was working on was a List of Birdwatching Spots to go inside its Birding section. Here’s how they used Flickr to not only help them build the content, but to attract links to it, as well.
Building the content. The Birdwatching Spots guide was to serve as a resource for the community. Each spot was carefully selected, researched and built out by a team of expert writers. To add to that value, they decided to include images associated with each of the spots mentioned in the article. To do that, they went to Flickr.To find images available for use, an Advanced Search was conducted looking only for Creative Commons-licensed content available for commercial use. They searched each one of the sites that the writers had covered and were able to find a collection of usable photos. The photos were added to the content with a link back to the original Flickr page. Thanks to Flickr, The Binocular Site now had real pictures of the locations to go inside their guide. Not only did this make the piece more visually appealing, it also increased its value. They could give people a feel of the spots, show what they really looked like, etc. The photos became an integral part of the birding section. But that was only step one of the Flickr campaign.
Building a volunteer promotion army. One thing you may not know about Flickr is that unless you have a Flickr Pro account, there are restrictions for how many people you can message. A quick $25 takes care of this. With a Pro account in hand, Rae and her team now had the ability to contact each of the photographers whose photos they were using. An email was sent out giving them a friendly heads up that their photos were being used and inviting them (and their friends) to come leave reviews on the actual locations. And the photographers did leave reviews. They also began promoting the content. Or more accurately, they began promoting themselves. They blogged about the birdwatching guide that used their photos. They linked to it. They sent traffic to it. They became the best promotional army you could ask for because they were feeding into one of the most basic human instincts there is—the need to be more famous and more recognized than the person standing next to you.
Thirty-five or so links to the main site (and that number goes up every week), to the directory and to other interior pages. All from connected and well-linked birdwatching sites.
Real foot traffic.
A more linkworthy directory thanks to the incorporation of expert photos, thus making it easier for the marketing team to market and build more links to.
It became a success story for how to do something interesting and gain links in a very natural way.
Using the method listed above, let’s brainstorm some other ways to use Flickr to develop both great content and great links. Ready? Let’s go.
Example #1: You’re a florist
You’re a florist and you’re looking for unique and interesting content ideas. How about a piece on Five Flowerly Fantastic Floral Arrangements? How do you create it?
Head to Flickr and do an Advanced Search for floral arrangements that allow commercial use as directed above. Spend some time going through the photos and select five arrangements (or more if you’re feeling daring) that you think your readers would find interesting. Then, create a post on how to save money by replicating these arrangements at home for less.
Once you have the photos and story in your head, start building your post. Make sure you link back to the Flickr photos you used and contact the photographer once the post is finished to give them the all important “heads up”. You may also leave a comment on the photo itself to point people back to your post. Sure, the comments are nofollowed, but you’ll still benefit from the traffic, especially if you select a popular photo or one that’s been added to several different Flickr sets [cough].
If you do it correctly and you grab a few photos per arrangement, you’ll have between 15-20 photographers to contact. Contact them and watch as they promote it for you on their blogs, on Twitter, in their photo and floral communities, and maybe even on Kirtsy or Boudica. It’s a great way to get really good content without having to be a fantastic photographer yourself.
Example #2: You’re in the automotive industry
We’re in the midst of a recession and you need to get people excited about spending too much money on their cars again. So what do you do? You write an article about The 7 Most Amazing Paint Jobs Ever. How do you do it?
Head to our friend Flickr and do an Advanced Search for car paint jobs. Once you find your photos, start thinking about how you can add extra value. If you just snatch a bunch of photos from Flickr, no one’s going to care and they’ll start to resent you. Instead, contact the photographer and see if they can put you in touch with the artist. Find out how much that kind of paint job costs, how long it took to complete, what went into it, etc. Use all of that information to create a resource that is worthy of attention and links. Something that gives love back to the community. Once it’s complete, tell the photographer and the artist where to find it. Chances are they’ll link to it and promote it. They’ll Twitter it, share it in their car community sites, etc. When you make other people look good, they want to promote you. You get people passionately working for free.
Example #3: You’re a wedding planner
‘Tis the season and everyone’s getting married. You may as well bring them to your site so that they can buy that $3,800 couture wedding gown from you. So what’s your next content piece going to be to get their attention? Why not the Most Outrageous Wedding Dresses of All-Time. As usual, let’s head to Flickr.
People love uploading their wedding photos to Flickr, it’s like a tic. So open up that Creative Commons, commercially-licensed Advanced Search and go on your hunt for wedding dresses. Find the 10-15 that pique your interest and pull them in for a post.
Once you have your photos, message the photographer and let them know that you”ll be using their work. Add value by asking them if they’d be interested in offering some additional information for the post to help your readers. Find out the designer name, the style of the dress, how much it cost, where it was purchased, where it was worn, what accessories were paired with it, etc. Basically, tell the story of the dress and the day and make it something that readers will really be interested in.
Once it’s done, invite the photographers to leave their own comments to add even more information. Chances are they’ll jump at the exposure. They’re also likely to once again help you promote it, reaching out to their photography blogs and networks. And of course, the wedding community. And let’s face it, there is no greater self-promotional group than those who are in the process of getting married. Get your story in their hands and they’ll pimp it to holy hell.
The idea here is to think outside the box and to start using Flickr as not only a place to scout for links, but for a breeding ground of content. Sometimes you’ll do this work and you’ll get a handful of links, sometimes you’ll get a hundred. You have to keep experimenting to find a content and link strategy that works. And once you do, you’ll not only come away with some superior content, you’ll be able to take advantage of that built-in promotional army.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.