SOCIAL PHOTO: 11 groovy ways Flickr can be used by local government

There’s four billion reasons why Flickr is brilliant.

Four billion? That’s the number of images uploaded to it over the past five years.

Best bit? You don’t have to be David Bailey to get something out of it. You could be Bill Bailey.

What is Flickr? It’s a photo sharing website. You join as an individual. You upload pictures. You can add them to groups. You can comment on pictures too.

There are tens of thousands of groups on a bewildering range of subjects. Football? Check. Walking? Buses? Cricket scoreboards?  Clouds? They all have dedicated groups. There’s even one for Gregg’s shop fronts, believe it or not.

There are also geographical Flickr groups based on areas like the Black Country, Walsall or London.

Why bother with Flickr? Because a picture says 1,000 words. Besides, it’s a brilliant way to capture, celebrate and collaborate.

It’s a cinderella social media platform without a Stephen Fry to champion it. But there is a growing and exciting number of uses for it.

So what are the barriers for people to use it?

Like any platform, there are obstacles. None are insummountable.

There’s the usual cultural issues for an organisation using web 2.0. People can talk to you. You can talk back. You may have blocking issues too.

There may also be concern over images. Surely there’s room for dodgy pictures? Actually, not really. The Flickr community is a hugely civilised place. Your first uploads get checked over before they are seen. People comment constructively.

Isn’t it just for good photographers? No. Amateurs thrive here. Snap away.

How about copyright? Copyright is with the photographer. Even if you’ve commissioned it. Don’t upload someone else’s shots without their permission.

Eleven uses of Flickr in local government

1. Be a dissemenator – Stock photography – Newcastle  use it as a way of allowing stock photography to be disseminated. With photographers’ permission. Like Calderdale Council’s countryside team.

2. Be a campaigner – Create a Flickr group for a campaignWillenhall, Aldridge and Darlaston  in Bloom, for example.

3. Be a way to open-up museums – Create a Flickr group for a museum exhibition. Look at Walsall Museums.

4. Be an enabler – Set-up a Flickr meet. It’s a brilliant way to connect and collaborate.  Here’s my blog on this event from  a council perspective and from a Flickr photographer’s perspective from the excellent Steph Jennings and also Lee Jordan.

Here’s some shots from the Walsall Council House Flickr meet (see left) which saw the Flickr group invited into the Council House.

5. Be a Flickr Twitterer – Link to pictures via Twitter. Pictures are always more popular than straight forward links. They brighten up your stream.

6. Be a marketeer – Use Flickr pics for marketing. Leaflets can be brightened up with Flickr shots – with permission.

7. Be a Flickr webbie – Use Flickr on the council website. Like BCCDIY or Lichfield District Council, Brighton & Hove Council or the Walsall Council header.

8. Be a civic pride builder – Create a Flickr group for an area, like Sandwell Council did.

9. Be a picture tart – Post council Flickr pictures to different groups. Shot of the town hall? Put it in the Town Hall Flickr group.

10. Be a stock photography user – the Creative Commons is a licence that allows the use of shots with certain conditions. There is a category that allows for not for profit use, for example.

11. Be a digital divide bridger favourite walks or a way to celebrate heritage is an excellent way to encourage people to log on.

There’s eleven. That’s for starters…

Steph Jennings from the Walsall Flickr group and the Lighthouse Media Centre in Wolverhampton made some excellent points at Hyperlocal Govcamp West Midlands on how Walsall Council used images on their website.

This YouTube clip helps explain it:

This blog is based on a session at localgovcamp Yorkshire and Humberside in York (#lgcyh) which also had input from @janetedavis, @allyhook and @barnsley55.

Much kudos to the Walsall Flickr group and to the inspirational @essitam and @reelgonekid.

Creative commons: Smiling blonde girl Pink Sherbert Photography.

Flickr screenshot from the Walsall Flickr group pool.

Other pics by Dan Slee.

Join the Conversation


  1. Last year I hosted a regional library photo competition using Flickr. It was a fantastic way to engage with non-librarians and it is something which can easily be adopted by other council departments such as parks and leisure.

    In Solihull we have also used Flickr very successfully to help identify pictures from our Heritage & Local Studies collection. Flickr is great as it allows the public to comment freely on a picture, helping us to reach a consensus of opinion, check out SolihullHLS for more.

  2. dviner – that sounds like a brilliant way of using Flickr. The heritage idea is particularly interesting. It was mentioned at localgovcamp Yorkshire & Humberside but I’m struggling to find a link.

    The idea that was mentioned was siting down with older people and images and capturing their memories on Flickr itself.

    Do you have a link at all?

    1. I don’t know about that particular project but I can ask our Heritage & Local Studies Librarian if she knows. Was it done through libraries?

    2. Sorry for the late input but was the heritage initiative History Pin – ? I found it in my notes from the conference. Lady championing it was a heritage advisor called Janet (surname I can’t remember) and her work was based around the Tyneside area.

  3. Very useful post Dan! I was after some examples like this a few months back.

    We currently have Flickr blocked and I have written a paper with colleagues in HR and IT which covers the business case, benefits and potential risks to the Council of unblocking it. I had quite a few of the reasons listed above in the paper I have written but you’ve provided a few more ideas. I had also used some screenshots of group pages (taken at home) as evidence of good practise. Fingers crossed we get it unblocked 🙂

  4. Forgot to mention that when I set up a group the other day I noticed that the Flickr Terms currently state that they currently only allow individuals to use groups:

    “Flickr is intended for personal use only. This includes groups. Any commercial use must be pre-approved by Flickr at its sole discretion. If you’d like to create a group for your company or to run a contest, please contact Flickr first. If you don’t, Flickr may terminate your group without warning.”

    I know there are many groups on Flickr that have been created by organisations so I’m interested as to whether this policy is ever enforced or not. Any views?

  5. Hi Michele,

    Hope you get Flickr unblocked, first off.

    You make a really interesting point about only individuals being able to start groups.

    Certainly, there are a fair few examples of organisations who have a Flickr presence. The Met Office have one with shots of ash clouds as well as sunny pics fropm festival goers.

    Maybe this is a law observed more by breaking it rather than a closely policed initiative. I think I may be right in thinking that Facebook also had a similar policy long, long ago until they realised the business opportunities that they can present.

    The only Flickr group I’ve created for a work purpose has been through my own Flickr account. I’m more relaxed about doing that than I would be to create something through my Facebook or Twitter presence? Why? I’m not expressing ideas or opinions or giving away lots of personal information. They’re just pictures.

  6. We’ve got a corporate account – that is, using the communications email address – and I think there’s quite a few other councils that do.

    Perhaps buying a Flickr pro account persuaded Flickr to ignore the rules. 😉

    We use it to supplement press and publicity photos, but I’m more interested in using it for photo sharing – its intended use.

    We’ve got a number of groups, one of which – – gets a couple of contributions every day.

    North Devon Council
    (and beyond)

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply