BIG PICTURE: Case study: How Flickr can work on a local government website

Good pictures leap from a page to celebrate, amaze and tantilise.

Poor pictures shout loudly. But not in a way you’d like.

One source of good pictures is the website Flickr which has more than four billion images. It’s something I’ve blogged about before.

What’s on there? Think about any subject and there will be pictures. A whole heap of them. And Flickr groups too. It’s the civilised corner of the web where people are constructive and are happy to licence their images through a Creative Commons licence.

Residents have self-organised and are daily taking an avalanche of brilliant pictures.

It can be a community around a love of countryside. Or of cats. Or a geographical community brought together by an area.

In Walsall, a borough of 250,000 near Birmingham in the UK that’s expecially the case. There are more than 100 members, 5,000 images and a vibrant Flickr group.

People like Steph Jennings, Lee Jordan, Stuart Williams, Beasty, Tony M, Nathan Johnstone and others do brilliant things.

At Walsall Council, we looked at their shots we wondered aloud how good it would be to showcase their shots on the council website.  After all, people taking pictures of the place they live and seeing them showcased on their council’s website HAS to be a good idea.

Our head of communications Darren Caveney and web manager Kevin Dwyer picked the ball up and ran with it.

As part of a web refresh, Kev designed a Flickr friendly header that woud apply across all pages.

Next the pictures. A comment was posted on the Walsall Flickr pages to flag up what we were looking to do. We asked people to add the tag ‘walsallweb’ to each individual picture if they wanted the shot to be considered.

We were staggered to get more than 400 shots tagged for consideration in three days. An amazing response that showed the community support.

The postbox shape of the header ruled out scores of images. We also steered clear of people shots because of any problems with permissions.

The first shot was a canalside image. By linking back from the council site to the original Flickr image we embraced the web 2.0 approach of sharing.

The image got more than 150 hits in just over two weeks.

This is the revamped Walsall Council website that celebrates our residents’ work.

SIXTEEN THINGS WE LEARNED…

1. Ask permission. Photographic copyright by default lies with the photographer. Even if there is a creative commons licence available I’d still ask. Just to be on the safeside.

2. Ask permission to name and link back to the original picture too. For some people photography is a hobby they don’t want publicity for.

3. Rotate images. Try and use pictures from around the borough. Not just the photogenic park.

4. Rotate photographers. Share the love around.

5. Use freelance pictures too. But ask permission. The licence you may have originally negotiated may only be for print use, for example.

6. Be seasonal. A cornfield in summer sun looks great in August. It may not be so at Christmas.

7. Change the shot regularly. Two or three weeks is enough to freshen up the site.

8. Stage a competition to encourage participation.  Post a topic.

9. Use Flickr images across the site. A cracking shot of a park would work well on the park pages, for example.

10. Be aware of your policies towards people. Do you need to get permission forms signed in order to use the image for publicity.

11. Join Flickr. Contributing to the Flickr community is a good way to build bridges and understand how it works.

12. Acknowledge using a shot via a comment under the picture from the council Flickr account. Comments are a social part of Flickr and a way to give praise.

13. Create a gallery. A page on the council website to gather the header screenshots.

14. Stage a Flickr meet. Generate content and allow residents to take shots of their landmarks and building.

15. Showcase your area. It’s a chance to really show off.

16. Skill up. Make sure there is the skills base for several team members to add content.

LINKS:

bccdiy.com – A website for Birmingham put together by bloggers that uses Flickr images brilliantly.

Lichfield District Council – Some lovely shots of the Staffordshire city of Lichfield using Flickr.

San Fransisco’s District Attorney’s Office – Great blog on how a US office is now using photo sharing.

LGEO Research – Good blog by Liz Azyan on how Lichfield used user generated content.

Coventry – How Coventry City Council use Facebook to showcase official images.