The rise of photosharing – Flickr, Pinterest and Instagram

A trend has rapidly developed over the last number of years in online marketing; the use of images on social platforms to enhance the appeal of an organisation. Of course Facebook has been utilised for some time now in this capacity, but since the turn of the decade especially, there has been a high number of those using dedicated photo sharing sites such as Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest.


Flickr was launched in February 2004 and is basically a smart way to store your photos (in the cloud) and share them easily. Acquired by Yahoo in 2005 (for $35million), it allows a user to store images for free up to a limit and thereafter pay for unlimited storage. (You can also store videos up to 90 secs long). In 2011 Yahoo reported that there were 51+million registered users; received 80 million unique visitors; and that it hosted more than 6+billion images.

The ease of Flickr is that it allows you to access your pictures no matter where you are or what type of device you are using; plus…it lets you share those pictures – no need to burn a CD or save them on a flashdrive to share with your family. You would literally just send your Flickr address and that’s it. Oh, and a good point to note – Flickr can act as a backup for your images.

Flickr is widely used by bloggers to host the images that they embed in blogs and social media. There is a slight “social network” element to Flickr – because you can add friends and they can be subscribed to your stream of pictures straight through Flickr (and the associated mobile device apps) – or subscribe via a RSS feed. Your friends also have the ability to comment on your pictures.


Launched in Oct 2010 – Instagram is a useful Smartphone app (only available on Apple or Android mobile devices), that allows you to create special vintage effects (17 filters) on your photos that you take and then share them with your friends on your social networks.

You have to create an account to use Instagram because it is also a social network which basically means that you can follow other people’s photo streams, or they can follow yours. You have the ability to “Like” and “comment” on them.

Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1billion, and since then Twitter revoked access of Instagram user to their Twitter accounts via the app – to which Instagram responded by disabling the ability for Instagram photos to be viewed in the Twitter stream). At that time, there were 30million users and 5 million pictures were uploaded every day.

President Obama joined Instagram to communicate images of his re-election campaign of 2012.


Launched in March 2010 (invitation only – in beta) it is a Pinboard style platform, arranged in theme-based image collections. What is interesting about this platform is that people actually follow interests (as opposed to heavily person-centred profile following). You “Pin” original images from websites or web content that you like – so in essence are bookmarking them. Why bookmarking? Well, because when you or anyone then goes back to click on that Pinned image…it will take you straight back to the original webpage or web content that it came from. You can also upload your own images (although be sure that they are your images) to boards as well. There is also a capability to also “Pin” videos to the boards.

You can follow people (i.e. all of their boards) or just one board that belongs to someone, and you have the capability to “Tag” another Pinterest user; re-Pin an image you like from someone else’s board; and/or just simply “like” or “comment” on images.

Pinterest is a full blown social network of its own (ranked in the top 10) and businesses are becoming more and more prevalent, especially with the launch of Business Accounts. The interest lies in user interaction/recommendation of images which bodes very well for ecommerce (driving interest to online shopping).

So, basically you need to revisit what you do with images in your business (or personally) and work out if there is value in leveraging them properly, because there may be user generated content you can get from using them. Or at least you would be best placed to pay attention if you haven’t before, because these picture/photo sharing opportunities are heavily on the increase, especially through mobile devices.
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