Last October at BlogWorld & New Media Expo, Kris Krüg and I spoke about using photography to improve your blog. One of the suggestions I gave was to offer a way for your readers to submit photos that might become part of your blog’s community. While this won’t make sense for everyone, for some types of blogs it’s a natural fit. If your blog has a geographical focus, readers could offer photos of the city, neighborhood, or region that you cover. Perhaps you blog about a product or brand; I’m sure it would be great to see how folks would capture that in pictures.
The idea is great, but setting up and managing the infrastructure for reader-contributed photos could be a lot of work. Here’s an easy solution: use a Flickr group.
The primary feature of a Flickr group is the photo gallery. You can configure it such that members can post photos and optionally set restrictions on the number of photos that a member may post in a given period of time. Flickr groups may optionally have a discussion board, or you might choose to direct your community to participate in discussions elsewhere if you’d rather have those conversations in your blog’s comments or forum. Anyone may join Flickr for free and you can configure your Flickr group to allow open membership or be moderated.
Your reader’s photos can provide a good source of material for your blog as long as you’re up front about using them. When I ran the Flickr group for OurPDX (a now-defunct group blog focused on the Portland area), we indicated to members that by posting photos posted to the group, they were granting OurPDX a license to use that photo on our website. One of the options in a Flickr group is to present a set of “rules” to a user upon joining; we included this in the rules as well as in the description of the Flickr group.
Once you have a set of photos from readers, use those as a point of engagement. You might pull photos from the Flickr group into your blog’s sidebar, or perhaps you’ll want to occasionally pull one of the photos in as the focus of an article on your site. Behind the scenes, you might find someone with some photo talent that might become a great resource for other contributions to the site.
To create a Flickr group, head over to the Flickr groups page and click the “Create your own group” link in the upper right. It doesn’t take long to set up a group, seed it with a few photos, and then announce it to your audience!