Flickr offers one of the largest image archives and communities online and one that is often not targeted because most small businesses aren't yet good at creating the one thing they need to have credibility in Flickr … high quality non-marketing images.

This is a big deal because Flickr is not just a community of photos, it is a community where high quality photography is appreciated. Sure, people use Flickr to share their point and shoot photos with family, but the power users of Flickr and the communities that you would care about as a marketer are usually looking at very high quality images.

So before you try to use any of the techniques in this insiders guide, you need to make sure your photographs are actually good enough to bother. Assuming they are, here are a few tips for how you might use Flickr for marketing

  1. Share quality photos – As mentioned above, the most important tip when it comes to Flickr is to actually share good photography. This doesn’t mean going out and getting a professional photographer. Those images are great for your website, but Flickr works best when you share more authentic “real life” photos. To take great ones, you may want to upgrade your point and shoot to a real Digital SLR camera with a high quality lens. With photography, the quality of your camera can often be the only change you need to make to dramatically improve your photos.
  2. Go Pro – Getting a Flickr "Pro" account is like the green fees in golf. Of course, you can upload up to 200 images for free and have an account without paying, but you don't get the "pro" icon next to your name and your account doesn't have the same authority for members of the community. If you are going to use Flickr to do any marketing, put up the 25 bucks and get yourself a pro account. (PS – I'm not getting any commission from anyone for telling you that!)
  3. Create Collection homepages – Flickr photos are arranged into sets and collections. Sets are like photo galleries or albums, and collections group various photo albums together. As you organize your photos, think about how to make each set about a certain them, and then group them together into collections. Once you have a collection homepage, this can be the public URL that you send people to. This way, you could use the same URL even while you add new galleries to the collection each day.
  4. Think thumbnails – Sets, collections and individual images are represented by thumbnails. These are the visual elements that need to engage someone before they are inspired to click and delve further into your account. When you take and crop your photos, paying attention to how the thumbnails look matters. More importantly, whenever you create a new set the thumbnail is set by the first image. Make sure you change it to the one that offers the most compelling reason to click and see the rest of the set.
  5. Tag properly – Tagging sometimes seems like the online equivalent of going to the dentist, you know you should do it but always manage to put it off in place of doing something else first. On Flickr, tags are a big reason that people can find images and tagging yours properly is a necessary step. Use the right descriptive keywords, but also check and see what people are already searching for and see if any of those tags may apply to your images. Aside from direct links, many of your image views on Flickr will likely come from people searching for these tags.
  6. Share real time – One of the most powerful benefits of Flickr is that when you are at an event or something current that people are likely to care about in a particular timeframe, speed of getting photos online matters. If you have a blog, configure it to work with Flickr. If you are using a computer, use the Flickr Uploadr tool to get your images online faster. The closer to your event you can get your photos up, the more likely it is that people will use them to refer to, share with others and drive traffic to.
  7. Join and contribute to groups – No matter what you are taking pictures of, chances are there is a Flickr group with others who are already sharing photos of it. People who are active in Flickr groups tend to also be some of Flickr's most active (and often influential) members. As a result, joining groups not only lets you be part of a greater community and conversation on a certain theme, it can often give you a direct connection to Flickr users who really matter. Remember, what you post into a group must be relevant and on topic or else you risk alienating yourself and your brand.
  8. Actively promote and approve reuse – Lots of services, bloggers and media are now using Flickr images to power their own stories and media. Once you start getting your imagery noticed, you will likely start to receive invitations for permission to reuse your photos. This means your photos are gaining traction. Try to approve the requests quickly and encourage more people to use your images … and credit you properly for them, of course.
  9. Enable stats – Flickr has a great tool which allows you to get deeper metrics on your photos. With these stats, you can see which ones of your photos proved to be the most popular or shared from person to person, and also what sites are driving people to your photo collections.
  10. Keep going – Once you start using Flickr to promote your business, the toughest thing can be to keep uploading good content. Doing this means that you need to treat almost every event as a chance to create more images for your gallery, from participating in conferences to everyday life. If you start to use Flickr for marketing, your ongoing challenge will be to avoid having one big spike and then no more activity.

WARNING: It is important to note that Flickr is NOT a tool for corporate use and the entire site has been set up for personal users only. The techniques above are meant to help you get more from your PERSONAL account on Flickr and NOT as an encouragement to break Flickr's Guidelines and create a business account or use it solely for marketing.

NOTE: This post is part of Small Business Friday (SBF) – a weekly feature to share marketing ideas for small businesses and was originally published on the Amex Open Forum site.