Top 10 Ways to Get Attention on Flickr
"What is more pleasant than the benevolent notice other people take of us, what is more agreeable than their compassionate empathy? What inspires us more than addressing ears flushed with excitement, what captivates us more than exercising our own power of fascination? What is more thrilling than an entire hall of expectant eyes, what more overwhelming than applause surging up to us? What, lastly, equals the enchantment sparked off by the delighted attention we receive from those who profoundly delight ourselves? - Attention by other people is the most irresistible of drugs. To receive it outshines receiving any other kind of income. This is why glory surpasses power and why wealth is overshadowed by prominence."
Caterina Fake, Co-founder of Flickr, 2005.
A couple of years ago I wrote a post called Top 10 Tips for Getting Attention on Flickr that proved fairly popular. A lot has changed at Flickr in the past 2 years though and how imagery is rated and ranked on the site has also changed. That said, I thought I'd write a fresher updated post on the top 10 ways, presently, to get attention on Flickr.
Back in 2006 when I wrote my original article on how to achieve popularity on Flickr my photostream had been viewed almost 400,000 times. According to a Flickr stats page that's been added since that time, the view count for my pages on Flickr now stands at 9,953,328. It should pass 10 million sometime this week. I'm averaging about 14,000 page views a day on Flickr.
Some of how one gets attention on Flickr has remained the same since 2006. Other stuff has changed.
1. Take great pictures. This was my number one way to achieve popularity on Flickr in 2006 and remains the number one way today. Despite all the other things that you might do to promote your photography, none of it will matter if your photos are not interesting. Everyone can be creative. Some are more creative than others. Sometimes your gear and photo processing matters, other times it doesn't. I've seen incredibly beautiful and creative photos taken with a $10 toy camera. And I've seen incredibly beautiful and creative photos taken with a $40,000 digital Hasselblad. I've seen people upload interesting things from a crappy iPhone camera and I've seen people upload interesting things that they spent 8 hours on Photoshop with. But, the better your photos are the more likely that you will get attention. Taking great photos is a prerequisite to everything else in this article.
This said, there are certain types of photos that tend to become more popular on Flickr than others. Provocatively posed female self portraits or photos of attractive women in interesting poses, extremely saturated photos rich with eye candy like color, cityscapes, night photography, photos depicting movement and motion, silhouettes, dramatic architecture, unique portraits, creatively arranged macros and cross processed and some film photography.
2. The order that you post your photos to Flickr counts. The number one way that your photos will likely be seen in Flickr comes from your Flickr contacts looking at their Flickr contact's photos. At present Flickr allows you to set your contacts most recent photos to their last photo, or their last 5 photos. Anything beyond 5 photos in a single batch upload will largely be buried on Flickr. If you are uploading more than 5 photos at once, make sure that you upload your best 5 photos last and what you consider your very best photo last of all. Frequently people will upload a batch of 30 photos from a concert or something with no thought as to which will be the last 5 of the 30 in order.
3. Consider places outside of Flickr to promote your photography. Do you have a blog or a photoblog? If you want more attention on Flickr you should. Flickr makes it very easy to blog your photos, you simply cut and paste the html code above your photo and you are now photoblogging with a direct link back to your photo. My blog, thomashawk.com is my number two external referrer of pageviews to my Flickrstream. Are you on FriendFeed yet? You should be. It's easy to set up and makes sure more people see your photos. Pownce (when it is working) is another place to post interesting photos.
4. Do you have your settings on Flickr configured for maximum exposure? After Flickr itself, Google drives more traffic to my Flickrstream than any other source, even my blog. Yahoo search and both Google and Yahoo image search drive traffic as well. But your photos will be blocked from appearing in search engines unless you authorize Flickr to display your images in search engines. Make sure your photostream is set to not "hide your stuff from public searches," here.
Same goes for the Flickr API. Lots of people are using the Flickr API in interesting ways. I get traffic from places like Flickrleech, Compfight, Technorati and lots of other places that use the Flickr API to extend your photos outside of Flickr. Make sure that you've authorized Flickr to allow API access to your photos here.
5. Explore. Explore still remains the number one way to get photos viewed on Flickr. Explore uses Flickr's "Magic Donkey" algorithm to each day highlight 500 of what Flickr feels are the best photos on Flickr for that day. It's a very popular section of the site despite the fact that everyone seems to constantly hate Explore and decry its mediocrity in selecting exceptional photos. Explore has changed and evolved a lot since it was first introduced at Flickr a few years back. Initially things like *when* you posted your photos mattered.
Whether or not Flickr chooses your photos for Explore is still very much a mystery. But there are some things that we do know. The more faves, comments, tags, etc. your photo gets, the more likely it is that it will appear in Explore. Explore also uses averaging in their algorithm now. This means that if your average photo gets 5 faves, then you'll need to do considerably better than average if you hope to see that photo in Explore.
Photos are also constantly dropping in and out of Explore. I've got 157 photos in Explore at present but I've had 446 that have appeared in Explore at one time or another. You can check out which and how many of your photos that have been showcased by Flickr in Explore here. Just change my Flickr ID at the link above for your own.
6. Groups. Speaking of Explore, if you really want to get a particular photo in Explore consider adding it to a group that encourages tagging, faving and comments of photos. Photo critique groups are good examples of this. Some of the photo critique groups play games where tagging and commenting on a photo are part of the game. Flickr does not distinguish between a photo that has been commented on or tagged organically vs. one that is included in some sort of photo critique game. If you want to boost the likelihood that your photo will be selected for Explore consider putting a strong photo into one of these pools. Photo critique groups on Flickr run the gamut from nice and friendly photo critique groups like TWIP's, to hostile and brutal photo critique groups like DeleteMe Uncensored (note NSFW and maybe not the best group if you are easily offended).
Whatever the case, the key to groups is participation. If you simply dump a bunch of photos blindly into random groups you will likely not get much benefit. In fact, Flickr actually penalizes photo rank if someone posts their photo to too many groups. But posting your photo to selective groups where you participate will encourage activity on your photos and photostream.
7. Tag for Exploration (especially your most popular photos). Why has this photo of mine been viewed over 27,000 times on Flickr? Well in part because it shows up on the first page search results on Flickr for the search term guitar. And why does it show up in searches for the word "guitar?" Because I've got the photo *tagged* guitar. By tagging your photos appropriately you can ensure that more people will see them in search. Think of other ways that you can tag your photos. Are all of your photos taken in San Francisco also tagged "California?" They should be. Are all of your photos tagged "self portrait" also tagged with your name? Again, they should be.
The better you keyword and tag your photos, the more likely they will show up in searches that take place on Flickr. Even if you think that your photos will never be popular enough to rank highly in search, remember that there are other ways that Flickr users can filter search. You can search just by your contacts photos on Flickr for instance. So even if you don't have the most popular sunset photo amongst millions on Flickr, you might have the most popular sunset photo amongst your contacts because you tagged it.
A note that I've seen some people on Flickr abuse tags. They will tag every photo with girl, sunset, cat, etc. Even if these things are not in their photo simply to try and trick people into getting to their photos through search. This sucks. I'm not sure what/if/how Flickr penalizes people who do this, but it's a crappy thing to do and ruins the search experience for everyone. Tag early and often, but only tag your photos with tags that truly are accurate and descriptive.
8. Geotag. One of the more interesting ways to find photos on Flickr is through exploring photos that are geotagged on a map. When I'm going to a new place that I'm not familiar with, frequently Flickr's "Explore the World Map," is one of my first destinations. But of course your photos will not show up here if they are not geotagged. The best way to geotag your photos is actually at the file level before you upload them. I use Geotagger on the Mac which allows you to use Google Earth to geotag your photos. You can also download the free software program from Microsoft Pro Photo Tools to geotag photos on a PC.
Check what Flickr considers your most popular photos and make sure that you geotag (and more descriptively tag) these photos especially -- even if you have to geotag these shots on Flickr using their tools. Geotagging has been documented by Flickr staff as increasing the Flickr "interestingness" rating of a photograph.
9. Consider creating a few "best of" sets and feature them prominently on your Flickrstream. Frequently when people first discover your photostream they don't have time to check out your entire stream. But if you make it easier for them and create a few sets that highlight some of your best work they may stick around longer. I've created two such sets myself. My 10 faves or more set and my 25 faves or more set. These sets highlight what are some of my best work according to the Flickr community and are my two most visited sets on Flickr. As my photos are faved 10 or 25 times I add the tag fav10 or fav25 to these sets and then use SmartSetr to automatically generate these sets.
10. Tell everyone you know about your Flickrstream. Are you active on other social networks? Is a link to your Flickrstream prominently displayed on your blog? On your Facebook profile page? Be sure to include a link to your Flickrstream in every profile that you are on with other sites. Consider buying Moo cards (even though Moo.com has been lousy for me lately and won't let me buy anymore cards from them) which highlight your photostream that you can give out to people that you run across while out shooting. Tell your friends and family and your offline "real life" contacts about your Flickrstream.
Bonus tip: Reciprocation. Above everything else, perhaps the most important thing about Flickr is that it is a community and a reciprocation based community. If you think that you can just post your photos on the site and they will garner thousands of faves and views simply because, you are wrong. Even the best photos on Flickr will not get very much attention if you simply upload them to the site and never participate.
Flickr has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else's photo you are giving them a link back to your own photostream. While you may not have the time to check out *everyone* who faves your photos, spend time each day faving and commenting on other people's photos on Flickr. By sharing with others the fact that you appreciate their photos they will return the favor. Be generous with your faves and comments. Remember, other people like the attention as much as you do.
Update: An interesting link to comments Flickr staff have made about the Explore algorithm here. Thanks, Ole!