A Case Study on How Popularity Works on Flickr

Came across an interesting study on Flickr from my flickr friend verner_oscar™. The study is by Christophe Prieur, Dominique Cardon, Jean-Samuel Beuscart, Nicolas Pissard and Pascal Pons, and was done for Université Paris-Diderot and Orange Labs.

As part of the study the authors group Flickr users into small and heavy users and discuss what contributes to popularity on Flickr. They also discuss some of the statistics behind private and public photos and different ways how people use Flickr.

The study estimates that no more than about a third of photos on Flickr are private and that likely 2/3 of the photos on Flickr are public. Another interesting finding is that while only a small percentage of Flickr members have paid Pro accounts, this small group dramatically represents the largest number of photos on Flickr. The study found that while only 3.7% of Flickr users have paid Pro accounts, that these users represent almost 60% of the photos presently on the site.

The fact that Flickr limits free accounts to 200 photos while giving Pro accounts an unlimited number of photos would seem to contribute to this trend in my opinion.

As part of this study 50,000 heavy flickr users were analyzed. On average these users had 915 photos in their stream (with a maximum by one user of 75,737), 181 contacts, 270 favorites given, 307 favorites received, 775 comments posted and 751 comments received.

The study also concluded that 39% of Flickr users seem to be totally inactive. These users do not use any of the public features of the site and have no public photos on the site.

One of the more interesting sections of the study deals with the “Flickr Star System.” Here the study concluded that, in part, social activity played a large role in how stars rise on Flickr. In terms of reciprocity and attention on Flickr, the study seemed to suggest that if you want popularity on Flickr the three most important things to do are (in this order), comment on other’s photos, fave other’s photos, and participate in groups.

The study also concluded that an “editorial ecosystem” also exists around Flickr where blogs, groups, user made algorithms (with the Flickr API), etc. promote the most popular or what the study referred to as the “creme de la creme” of Flickr.

“So making oneself visible by posting a lot of comments, and a
lot of photos into groups, is one of the keys to success on Flickr.
Fame and recognition can also be earned or maintained in the
editorial ecosystem developed around Flickr: a large variety of
blogs, groups, user-made algorithms, work at extracting the
crème de la crème of Flickr, providing selection of photos,
interviews with Flickr artists, thematic selections, etc. In return,
stardom on Flickr leads the elected users to intensify their
practice. For some users, Flickr fame is converted into real-life
recognition and benefits, like publications in magazines,
exhibition, and professional opportunities.”

There are lots of other interesting facts in this study to sink your teeth into.
You can download the study and read it for yourself here.

Related post: Top 10 Tips for Getting Attention on Flickr.

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28 Comments

  1. Ulrich says:

    Popularity on flickr is a waste of time. Especially ‘working’ one’s photos and photostream into popularity is a waste of time.

    It might be by coincidence that some magazine sees photos on flickr and buys them or offers a job. But commercial success of a photographer results in own activities of that photographer outside of flickr most of the time.

    So if a photographer wants to achieve anything, be it commercial success, recognition, own development, whatever, flickr spoils respective endeavours with its ‘popularity system’ rather than it helps.

    At best it produces photographers that appeal to the masses and do not develop a view of their own.

    I know there are exceptional photographers on flickr but as I say they are exceptions and that their photographs are exceptional is not the result of the photographs being published on flickr.

    From the perspective of the photographer flickr is a waste of time for anything else than sharing photos with family and friends. Popularity on flickr is worth nothing.

    Robert Capa said “You are doing this for the commendation? How boring.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    So does this study tell us anything new? Sadly, yet another study to confirm the obvious.

  3. Eric says:

    I’m not sure what’s new here… participation and reciprocity have always been known to be the drivers of popularity. That goes for just about any social activity on the web.

    I found this bit interesting though:

    As part of this study 50,000 heavy flickr users were analyzed. On average these users had 915 photos in their stream (with a maximum by one user of 75,737), 181 contacts, 270 favorites given, 307 favorites received, 775 comments posted and 751 comments received.

    If only because it makes me such an extreme outlier with 1800+ photos and 10,000+ faved photos and nearly 8,000 comments. And while I haven’t received nearly as many as I’ve given (though I can’t find a total)… I do exceed that average just by totaling my top 10 photos.

    What’s weird is I didn’t really think of myself as that exceptional till now…

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    If only because it makes me such an extreme outlier with 1800+ photos and 10,000+ faved photos and nearly 8,000 comments. And while I haven’t received nearly as many as I’ve given (though I can’t find a total)… I do exceed that average just by totaling my top 10 photos.

    I know the feeling Eric.

    My stats.

    12,867 photos
    36,368 faves given
    3,902 comments given (or best I can tell).

  5. Aaron says:

    The numbers are interesting to see, and the observations mostly reflect what I’ve seen. As other commenters have noted, popularity on Flickr does not necessarily translate into commercial success and isn’t really a measure of anything other than popularity on Flickr. There’s a certain type of photo that does well on Flickr… and there’s a lot of darned good photographers who may not have the “wow” factor on the site but still have some great work.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Tom,

    Thanks for the link. Here’s another flickr study. This one is from the University of Sheffield in the UK.

  7. […] the other hand, it may only take a tiny percentage to paid users to make it profitable. One study showed that 3.7% of flicker’s members had upgraded to the Pro account. Suppose Twitter grew […]

  8. jd says:

    all flickr is is just a bunch of whoring…

    granted there are some excellent photogs but they are few and far between..

  9. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  10. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  11. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  12. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  13. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  14. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  15. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  16. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  17. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  18. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  19. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  20. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  21. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  22. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  23. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  24. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]

  25. […] has been built to encourage reciprocation. In fact a recent study cited reciprocation as the number one key to popularity on Flickr. Every single time you fave or comment on someone else’s photo you are giving them a link back […]