A story of crowdsourcing on Flickr

The Flickr platform – part of the Yahoo company – has exploded in the last year, with the addition of social bookmarking and RSS feeds. The ability to integrate into Facebook with the widget MyFlickr and photo editing functions has also expanded its reach. But how are others using Flickr to engage in business conversations?

A “soft” case study
Interestingly enough, I read a recent blog post by prominent blogger Jay Baer, from Convince and Convert fame, on how one photographer has been using Flickr to “soft” crowdsource.

Jay interviewed Tyson Crosbie, a photographer out of Phoenix, Ariz., about how he used Flickr to crowdsource his photos among his audience. He decided to use the platform to allow users to vote for their favorite photograph for his clients – providing the client with another valuable source of feedback (example).

According to a quote from the Convince and Convert blog post by Jay, Crosbie said:

“I initially began the soft edit crowd sourcing process as a way to better educate myself and my clients about photography,” says Tyson. “Sometimes clients select photos that they probably would not have, but the positive feedback from the community can be influential.”

An online community
Crosbie was able to build his brand and develop a powerful online community because he engaged in a fun and interactive conversation. Not to mention that beyond the fact that users were discussing what they liked, the photography was getting more exposure, hence more business for Crosbie. It helps that he adds his logo and name to the bottom, right-hand corner of his photos for further brand recognition.

It all comes back full circle when done right and Crosbie, in fact, did it right. He said:

There are dozens of people who comment on the photos. Some are professional photographers, but most aren’t…If they know the subject of the photo, they are more likely to comment, and some people just love the process and participate regularly.

How does this help me?
There are so many social media platforms out there, and they all serve a valuable purpose, but utilizing the right one based on your objectives and strategies is imperative. Flickr can be a great tool when you want to share content, specifically photos, with your friends, consumers, co-workers and so on. It also allows you to tap into a whole new audience by letting people speak their mind about the topics presented to them, as well as generating potential revenue from the increased brand reputation.

People could crowdsource my picture by commenting

As an example, Crosbie actually builds the “soft” crowdsourcing fee for his photography into each project. This is a way for him to create extra value to the customer and provide another unique selling proposition (remember that term?) to his audience. He has even built a reputation around shooting avatars for Twitter users. Now that’s a niche to be in!

Jay mentions about Crosbie that:

Business portraits for use in social media and elsewhere make up a large portion of his commercial photography work, and he charges $500 for that service – including the soft edit crowd sourcing process.

This can be of help to you by keeping one thing in mind; that with the right strategy and creative mindset, you can use Flickr to build your personal or business brand in new and innovative ways.


9 responses to “A story of crowdsourcing on Flickr

  • Jay Baer

    Thanks very much for the write up on the post. I love what Tyson is doing. Great example of using Flickr to build his business. My new Tyson-shot avatar launches December 1. I’m delighted with it.

    • rjdavila2003

      Hi Jay,

      Wow, I apologize for just responding now. For some reason WordPress just sent me a message with your response. And guess where the response went…my SPAM. For what it’s worth, I appreciate you taking the time to comment on this post. When I read yours, I was intrigued and really dug into what Tyson was doing and wanted to talk about it myself.

      BTW, the avatar came out great!


  • tysoncrosbie

    Nice analysis of the work I’ve done on Flickr.

    Flickr like a lot of the social tools we have available are ripe for innovation. Innovation is a great opportunity to provide value for clients that previously were impossible or REALLY expensive. Sometimes it means breaking the rules of how it is done, sometimes it is just adapting tradition to new definitions, if done right there are immense rewards.

    For an avatar on twitter or other social web applications the idea of sourcing your photo directly from your audience, just makes sense. After all they are the ones that see your face dozens of times a day.

    • rjdavila2003

      Hi Tyson,

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate the kind words on my synopsis.

      You’re absolutely right about innovating within any social media platform. By finding new ways to use these tools you can offer a unique value that can give you opportunities to work with clients you may not have been able to previously because of their size, expectations, etc.

      I think what you’ve done also makes the process, beyond extra value and positioning, really just a fun process for the clients.

      Thanks again and I look forward to watching how you continue to use social media, especially Flickr, to help your clients.


  • Gregory Taylor

    I don’t know Tyson but I have heard a lot about him. I think that crowdsourcing the soft edits is brilliant. I mostly shoot live music and concerts and I don’t know how this process would work for me – but believe me it’s a thought.

    It’s awesome to have someone like Tyson in our Phoenix community of photographers.

    • rjdavila2003

      Hey Gregory,

      Appreciate the comment. Tyson is doing some really cool and innovative things with Flickr, but I think you can do the same with live music and concert shoots.

      You could essentially crowdsource on YouTube, Vimeo, Metacafe, etc. by using their commenting threads to essentially “soft” crowdsource.

      Actually, it would be really neat if you were shooting a video live and between takes, or a set, upload the video on the fly to one of these sites (if you have the capability) and engage your audience while it’s happening.

      Just a thought, but video has great opportunities as well. Let us know how you find new ways to get your work out there and engage your audience. I’d love to write something about it!


  • Gregory Taylor

    Thanks for the ideas – Next time I shoot live I will plan ahead and try to upload live from the event.

    This August I am planning an exhibit called “40/40” and I want to crowdsource some of the exhibits selections.


  • davidsutula

    I think it would be safe to say that you won’t find anyone more ‘on-board’ with the idea of using social networks as a forum for starting, guiding and participating in transparent conversations about you, your product or whatever. Getting them to talk about you starts with getting them to talk to you in the new digital world of advertising / PR / marketing.

    I also believe with all of my being that innovation is the only way to truly break through the clutter, so using the available tools to do things that even the guys who thought up the tools in the first place didn’t think of is of paramount importance.

    I tread with caution, however, when someone suggests any sort of ‘groupthink’ as not only a viable alternative but the preferred decision-making method. Consider that if Edison had crowdsourced his ideas he might have spent the bulk of his life trying to produce longer lasting candles.

    Crowdsourcing is really just a more robust – and therefore more diluted in some cases – focus group. The primary difference – and this is a positive difference IMO – is that instead of selecting a representative sample from the population-at-large, crowdsourcing has the latent tendency to present the opinions of your actual customers, not just your intended demographic. But the results might be little more than a more accurately diluted picture of your demo’s opinions.

    Crowdsourcing, like its evolutionary antecedent the Focus Group, has its place and can be a powerful tool in the conversation, but lets not lose sight of the fact that our opportunities to mold the message are dwindling and in our efforts to participate in and guide the conversation we should carefully weigh the pros an cons of surrendering to the masses the few branding elements that we still have under our control.

    So, while the ideas are great and the foundational principle of innovation is a must, I think I’ll retain the right to choose my own profile picture.

    BTW, Ralph: If you want to put your profile pic up for a vote, I have a few choice photos that I’d submit for consideration taken at Put-in_bay a couple years ago… Get my point?

  • Zachary Linquist

    Almost a year later…

    Dave, I just read your comment and couldn’t help but respond about one particular paragraph you wrote.

    “I tread with caution, however, when someone suggests any sort of ‘groupthink’ as not only a viable alternative but the preferred decision-making method. Consider that if Edison had crowdsourced his ideas he might have spent the bulk of his life trying to produce longer lasting candles.”

    Although I agree that crowdsourcing should NOT ALWAYS be the preferred decision-making method, it’s hard to argue that it’s any better or worse than other decision-making methods people use in all situations. Democracy is type of crowdsourcing, and although it’s not perfect, I feel it can serve as a viable approach to running government. Dont get me wrong, it certainly has many flaws, but so do other types of goverments that make decisions using different methods such as those run by a dictator. They both have their pro’s and con’s, but I prefer to be an active participant in certain decision-making processes.

    Also, I’m also not sure why you assume Edison crowdsourcing his ideas wouldn’t have resulted in the invention of a lighting source better than anything we have available today. I generally think, possible because it makes me feel better about society, that the world is over flowing with creative minds and innovative thinkers. It’s seems that lightbulb hasn’t actually changed much over the years, until now, due to the masses pushing a more environmental agenda. This innovation push isn’t the work of one man or one company, it’s the collective push of many. A huge crowd of people forcing innovation to continue forward.

    I don’t think crowdsourcing limits ones ability to “think outside the box” (or candle in your example), but rather I think it helps propel that type of thought and forward thinking. To me, there is a big difference between a focus group and a collective brainstorming session. I think the people who understand that crowdsourcing can allow for open (not just guided) collective thought will find it’s potential is much more than a simple focus group online.

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