Photo networks such as Flickr and Picasa are wildly popular among Internet users, and as you already know, it’s important to be where your customers are. That has never been more evident than today, with the rise of social media use among marketers emphasizing that point.
But how can you leverage these photo networks to add value to your company? According to Lee Odden, CEO of Spring Park, Minn.-based digital marketing and public relations services provider TopRank Online Marketing, there are two angles marketers can take. One is optimizing image assets to achieve high rankings in search engines, and the other involves targeting consumers in networks like Flickr and Picasa and moving them closer to taking action—and also enhancing your search rankings due to having images on those sites.
Search Engine Rankings
The first step, says Odden, is to take inventory of what image assets you have available, part of what TopRank calls digital asset optimization. “Digital asset optimization is the notion of looking at the way search acts, the search experience, and what search engines are delivering to users,” explains Odden. “… Sometimes an image or video or a news item or a book or a blog or whatever is identified as one of the top 10 best answers.” This is a huge opportunity from a marketing standpoint, he says, as long as you know all the available options you have for images. For instance, you can take screen shots of important pieces of a video, whether it is already on the Web or not, and use those images as additional assets, which enhances your search engine optimization.
Once you’ve taken inventory of your image assets, it’s vital to optimize them properly. That means tagging the images with the appropriate keywords that both search engines and consumers target, and providing the appropriate links back to your site or landing page, so consumers get closer to taking action (i.e., purchase). Odden suggests categorizing all your image assets as well, whether on your own site or on photo networks, to make it easy for search engines discover them. “Pay attention to categorization and also the keywords used in those categories, keywords used in file names, keywords used in the links on the image index that actually points to the image file,” he says. “If there are annotations to the link someone would click on or the bot would follow, that could be helpful as well in helping the search engine understand this image is very relevant to, say, bottled water or a telephone, and therefore rank it better.”
The second angle involves image distribution to connect with your audience, which is what Flickr, Picasa and the like are all about. People join photo networks because they have some sort of interest in images, so simple product shots probably won’t do you any good on such networks, according to Odden. He says it’s crucial to provide images that interest your audience, things like head shots, event photos and unique images of products—more action-oriented images. Basically, images that are relevant to the group you are targeting.
That’s the great thing about photo networks—they offer many niche audiences. By joining or creating groups, you’re already segmenting your potential customers, which in turn allows you to provide targeted images to pique their interest. “When you look at Flickr or some of the other image-sharing sites, it’s amazing how niche people’s interests are. So the benefit would be to create awareness. In a social context, interruptive or push efforts don’t tend to work very well. What does work is being at the right place at the right time,” says Odden. “… Someone’s searching and they find an image, and that image could be the proxy that connects the consumer ultimately with something that can be bought. If it’s socially optimized, in that attention is paid to audiences that have common interests, there is an effort to participate with those audiences where it makes sense, to share images as a resource, those situations are identified by the directed marketer and then provided as a service as being helpful, and then again that image or that sharing of a resource can be a proxy to a commercial sort of relationship.”
Odden offers the example of a fabric retailer TopRank works with that shared images of its fabrics featuring Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers logos in a sports group the week the two NFL teams were playing each other, engaging those group members and linking them back to its site.
The key, says Odden, when it comes to social marketing or social SEO is “give to get. You really need to give value before you expect to get value back.”