The Nature Conservancy has used Flickr Group to host a photo contest on its Web site. Here's an interview with Nature Conservancy staff members Evan Parker and Susan Citro about how the organization is using Flickr.
Why did your decide to set up a group on Flickr?
We have long known that our members were passionate about photography, and one of their strongest ties to the organization was through the photography that we use on our web site and in our publications. Looking to tap into this, we launched a photo contest where the prize would be featuring the winning images along side the photography that they have told us they like so much. (The grand prize for one category is being featured on the home page of Nature.org, and the winner of the other category is featured in the Conservancy's annual calendar.)
We started the group in the summer of 2006, and have 6,400 members and 64,000 images submitted as of this morning. The group takes in about 80% of the images for our contest, with the rest coming via email. We could have run the photo contest without Flickr, but we were interested in the Flickr community, but also to give our existing members another way to interact with us. We have had really great success on both fronts.
What is your best advice on using groups?
Keep up with the discussions often, but not too often -- We have someone who looks at the postings everyday, but we try not to jump into the threads unless there is something only we (as the organization) could contribute. Our community really is self-managing. If someone has a question or says something out of line, the community rises up and handles the situation, and usually before have the chance to jump in. We like to wait for the community to self-manage because it keeps our group authentic.
Keep them engaged. Our flickr group started around a photo contest which runs about 4 months a year, but we try and feed smaller activities (such as submit a nature photo for mother's day, or submit your favorite marine photo) in the other 8 months of the year to keep the group active. They aren't as robust, certainly, but it keeps our most active group members engaged.
What is the work flow to make it successful?
We use the discussions area and the group home page announcement space to keep the community up to date on the latest way to engage with the Conservancy.
Each time we ask for people to submit photos, we tell them how they are going to be used as part of the announcement. We then only use photos that have the specific tag attached ("BestNature-TNC07" or "MothersDay-TNC07"). This allows us to assume that if they put the tag on their photo, that they have read the announcement well enough to know how it is going to be used.
For smaller contests (marine, mother's day) we just review the images through the Flickr site, but the larger contest have enough contributions (15,000 this past year) that we have to use an offline workflow (ie. Adobe Bridge) to route the images through all of our judges.
We've had great luck with Flickr, and love it as an engagement device. The only gotcha that comes to mind is that it's not terribly easy to get large numbers of photos out of the system (such as downloading 15,000 images for offline review) so people should factor that into their workflow.