Photo Sharing’s Next Race Begins at the X-Games

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter.

I had planned to continue last month’s meet-up theme with a “live report” from our online marketing conference setup, but I’ve decided to postpone that in favor of even more timely news. I just completed a successful app prelaunch for last weekend’s X-Games, produced by ESPN in Aspen, Colorado. I thought this project would be especially interesting to you—not just because it relates to apps and mobile marketing, but also because this app gives social photo-sharing a completely new focus.

In the past couple of months, NSI has spent a lot of time researching and testing new developments in photo-sharing. As I write this, The Next Web is reporting interviews with experts who believe this week’s $15+ million bet placed by Kleiner Perkins, Benchmark and others in next-generation photo sharing is a picture-perfect view of the changing landscape.

Social photo sharing has been around long enough that marketers are starting to figure out how to leverage it. (That’s the difference between second-generation and first-generation technologies). And when technologies start this second lap, you need to begin to adapt your marketing plan.

So, here’s an illustration of what’s coming up that will make photo-sharing a serious marketing tool:

  1. Presented Content: Pictures help make a visual connection. For example, if your online staff directory only lists names and titles instead of smiling faces, you will seem more removed and harder to reach.
  2. Pulled Content: Pictures have always been worth at least 1,000 words. They tend to be harder to convey, but as technology continues to make communicating more and more of a snap, images—both stills and video—are worth accommodating.
  3. Pushed Content: Flickr has seen phenomenal growth (500 million uploads in its first 3.5 years), but not nearly as phenomenal as its next-generation cousin, the online photo-editing softwarePicnik (well over one billion in a similar time frame, but just a couple years later), according to Gregory Huang, National IT Editor for Xconomy. To leverage photo sharing services such as Flickr, Picasa and others (Picnik works directly with those and more), upload your images, then tag and interact for added exposure. Increase inbound links to the content you’ve posted to boost SEO, and join several relevant groups on the top-tier photo-sharing sites.
  4. Proximate Content: Images are always local and provide added connection to a place and its particular buzz and, by extension, to your important local-marketing efforts (see “Every Organization is Local”.) This is especially true if the photo is geotagged, which is happening more often.
  5. Progressive Content: Just as keywords hyperlink together across the Internet, so too will photos and videos, telling their own stories in a media-rich stream from content loaded by millions of smart phone users. This visual content stream will gain coherence as applications are developed that use not only increasingly sophisticated taxonomies and algorithmic sorting, but bundle in existing technologies such as facial recognition, crowdsourcing, QR-coding and time-stamping. Inserting your organization into these photo streams will become very important, like inserting yourself into today’s newsfeeds.

Last week’s X-Gamers got a taste of proactive image content through our client’s innovative new app that works with smartphones and cameras. Needless to say, we used photos—sourced from our street team and the app’s live feed—to get the word out. It seemed a no-brainer to use Facebook, which has seen much of its phenomenal traffic gain fueled by photo-sharing. Plus, Facebook offers marketers a sophisticated pay-per-click ad tool that enabled us to target contest prizes to sports enthusiasts. Our calls to action focused on getting Facebook users to “Like” the Application Profile Page, then download a companion Facebook app that enhances the photo-sharing experience.

It was challenging to introduce and brand a new concept in the short four-day time frame of the X-Games, but X-Gamers are already active photo-sharers and open to experimenting with new ways to communicate with fellow enthusiasts. Twitter and strategic social-media partnerships bolstered the prelaunch. We also used radio and a heavy local-marketing component, since most of the photos were taken just before delivery of the marketing message, and were shot in Aspen, where the recipient was located.

The pace of this project seemed to us as breathtaking as the X-Game competitions themselves, but we crossed the finish line with the three things we came for: a new fan base; the tremendously valuable user and social feedback we had actively sought; and a sharper picture of how photo-sharing is changing the social landscape.

Michael is responsible for client SEO work, reporting, FB ads, and web hosting. Prior to joining NSI Partners, Michael received his Bachelor of Science in Business Management Information Systems from Liberty University, and worked at the school’s Network Operations Center. Michael resides in Lynchburg, VA, with his wife, Megan. His hobbies include gaming, watching Atlanta Falcons football, and reading.

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A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.

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