A picture is worth a thousand words.
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Photo sharing Web site Flickr can also be a valuable place for small business owners to connect with existing and potential customers if they use it right.
“It’s a good venue for some small businesses, but not for all small businesses,” said Mark McGee, an online marketing consultant for small businesses. “If you don’t have a visual element to your business or can’t come up with a creative way to bring a visual element than you probably not going to do well using Flickr.”
A law firm or marketing consulting company may not find value in Flickr, but a retailer or home remodeling company can easily share photos to show off their products or work.
Owned by Yahoo (YHOO), Flickr is a leading photo sharing Web site that allows users to upload photos and videos from a myriad of digital devices and share them both globally and locally.
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According to McGee, while a small business isn’t automatically going to get new customers because it posted pictures on Flickr, it can give provide valuable exposure. “Somebody that has 500 Flickr friends or 1,000 Flickr friends spots a photo using my product that has potential to get seen by a lot of people.”
So how should small businesses go about using Flickr? According to Jeff Korhan, a marketing consultant and blogger, one way is to load pictures on Flickr and push them out to a Facebook page. When photos are only published on Facebook only subscribers of Facebook can search for them. Pictures posted on If Flickr allows anyone on the Web to find them.
“If you have a business you want a presence on the Web, where people can find you via Google and the other search engines and Flickr is a way to do that,” said Korhan.
Another way to use Flickr according to Kohran, is to use its common section where anyone can use the photos uploaded as long as they give a link back to the creator of the photos.
Let’s say a blog is writing about Cannondale bicycles and uses a photo from Flickr that happens to be from a local bike shop. The person reading the blog may be prompted to visit the Web site of the photo, giving the bike shop a potential new customer.
While social networks are inherently social, the jury is out about how personal a small business pictures should be on Flickr. Kohran said small business owners should keep the photos relevant to the business but also make it personal if it can be tied in to the business. “The small business is trying to be the local company down the road that people trust,” said Kohran. The pictures should make people want to do business with you, he said.
Small business owners can also use the photos to create some buzz and build loyalty, said to McGee. A clothing retailer can encourage customers to take photos wearing their clothes and then upload the Flickr; engaging customers and get a testimonial, or without having to spend a dime. Any business that sells a tangible product can encourage people to take pictures of the products being used.
Flickr also has groups on the Web site, and according to McGee, joining the groups is an ideal marketing tool.
“There are an infinite number of groups out there that you can join,” said McGee. “If you are a small pet store and sell rare exotic birds there are dozens, if not hundreds, of active groups where pet loves and people interested in pets are already posting photos.”