FINE PIX: A basic guide to Flickr in local government

Brighton beach shot posted to the Brighton and Hove City Council

You know why Flickr is great? Because all you need is an ability to look at a good picture and say ‘wow.’

Slowly but surely Flickr is starting to spread across local government.

It’s a site that’s a brilliant mix of social and creative.

It’s also a place to celebrate the place where people live.

It’s something I’ve blogged about before with 11 suggestions how it can be used in local government.

This is a basic explanation sprinkled with a few good examples.

What is a Flickr photostream?

Anyone can take out an account free of charge. This let’s you post around 200 images.

Go past 200 and it starts to get trickier and you can’t always see your shots in the one place. Here’s mine as an example. There’s lots of pictures of a place called Beer in Devon. I went there for a week and went a bit bananas with my cheap Fuji camera that cost £70.

Fisherman's cottages posted to the 'Proud of Devon' group.

What’s a Flickr pro account?

For less than £20 a year you get analytics, better tools to upload and the ability to keep your shots in the one place.

How does the social part work?

First, when you create a Flickr stream you can make ‘contacts’. That’s the photo equivalent of a follower on Twitter. Thanks to this route you can see the image stream of your contacts. You can also comment on pictures and favourite them.

What’s a Flickr group?

Anyone with a an account can create a Flickr group on any subject or geographical area they care to. There really are some varied ones that cover all types of hobbies and interest. Big fan of canals, Roman history or gritters? There are groups for you, believe it or not.

Should a council create a geographical Flickr group?

There’s no reason why not but you may want to check to see if there’s not already one.
In Walsall, where I work, there is an excellent Flickr group who work with the council already. There’s no need to create an area-themed one.

But, heck. What do we call it?

Try and avoid the word ‘council’ if at all possible. It turns people off. Proud of Devon which is set up by Devon County Council is a perfect name with some great images.

What does a good geographical council Flickr group look like?

Brighton & Hove City Council with more than 1,100 items and more than 80 members is a worth a look. Not sure about including the word ‘council’ in the title.

However, it also runs in parallel to the long established Brighton group with almost four times as many members and a staggering 56,000 images.

There is the argument that if there is a residents’ group already then don’t muscle in and set your own ‘official’ one up.

A good user generated Flickr group is almost always the best one.

Go to where the crowd is if you possibly can.

There’s a fine example of a geographical Flickr group created by residents themselves. It’s packed with creative commons images of the borough of Sutton.

What if there is no geographical Flickr group?

Sandwell Council was formed in the 1970s merging West Bromwich, Wednesbury, Tipton, Cradley Heath, Old Hill and Oldbury. While people are proud of their town borough pride is slower to develop.

A Sandwell Council Flickr group works because it fills a gap.

How about a themed group?

The Winter Photos of Dudley Borough is excellent. With 160 members it has captured popular imagination.

It’s also a source of photographs with the clearly marked disclaimer telling people that submitting an image means Dudley Council can use it on the web or in print.

What about content forn our photostream? What can we post?

You can post stock images and commissioned shots – if the freelancer who has taken them is fine with it. You can post pics taken by staff. You can post pictures taken by residen ts for competitions too. That’s something Barnet do.

Can a public sector employee use Flickr?

Absolutely. San Fransisco Attorney Dennis Herrera has a Flickr stream which aims captures his office’s work.

What other areas of local government work on Flickr?

Unsurprisingly, its the visual that works well. Finance scrutiny do a fabulous job. They just don’t make interesting pictures.

The Black Country Museums sees museums across Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell join together for an interesting and varies collection.

Walsall Museum also has its own stream. It’s a great way to capture exhibitions to showcase what is on offer.

Wolves Parkies – the Wolverhampton parks stream – has an excellent stream with shots capturing nature and the seasonal changes.

Can it be used as a photo library?

Coventry City Council – real innovative users of social media – use Flickr well. They have a photo stream that acts as a photo library and a storehouse of stock images. When commercial image libraries cost thousands to use and operate every use theirs cost less than twenty quid. Hows that for value?

Media outlets as well as hyperlocal sites can go straight to the Flickr page rather than use poor quality images.

Coventry’s shots are largely tagged ‘creative commons.’ This means that they are available for re-use under certain circumstances.

How about campaigns?

Lancashire County Council’s libraries have a Flickr stream linked to the Lancashire Lantern initiative. This puts old pictures over current views rather like the rather brilliant History Pin.

Creative commons

Brighton: Henrike Godoy

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