How Marissa Mayer Can Make Flickr More Awesomer Again
The internet has spoken and earlier today Flickr officially responded. Their response pretty much sums up the biggest challenge for Flickr/Yahoo going forward, getting people to work there. Flickr desperately needs four things right now: money/resources, engineering talent, design talent, and community management/marketing talent. Money/resources is the easy part, hiring the talent may prove more difficult.
The trend is not Flickr’s friend. According to compete.com over the past year Flickr’s unique U.S. visitors have dropped about 22%. The sad slow decline of Flickr in many ways mirrors the sad slow decline of lots of other properties at Yahoo.
So why should Marissa Mayer make Flickr awesome again and how should she do it?
The number one reason why Marissa should be focusing on Flickr right now is that it is highest visibility, most beloved Yahoo property of all. You didn’t see mass users taking to the internet to tell her to fix Yahoo Finance, or Yahoo Sports, or Yahoo Real Estate. No. They came cheering for Flickr. Flickr has deeper emotional and social connections to users than any other Yahoo property. Reinvigorating Flickr should be Marissa’s highest priority because it represents the best possible way for her to send the most visible message that Yahoo is in fact changing, that Yahoo is back in the hunt, that Yahoo cares about their users. It’s going to take work and money but it can be done.
Here is how.
1. It has to start at the top. It’s embarrassing that according to a public search Mayer still doesn’t have a Flickr account. Not only does she not have a Flickr account, she’s using one of Flickr’s most public competitors to share her photos personally. This fact was not lost on me and it wasn’t lost on the financial or tech press. From Bloomberg: “…and, like any proud parent these days, the photo-sharing site she linked to wasn’t Flickr—she used Instagram.” From Wired: “But that’s going to take commitment and outreach from Mayer who, right now, doesn’t even have an account there.” Dog fooding is important. If Flickr Mobile is broken, then Mayer needs to suffer through it with the rest of us and hopefully get it fixed.
2. Flickr needs a big hire in an evangelist role. They need to hire a very visible name that will make the press. Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, Trey Ratcliff, Chase Jarvis, or someone of this caliber. They need to make a big splash and they need not only a very visible hire, they need someone who is maniacally (in the good way) connected to social media. They need someone who will eat, breath and sleep Flickr and who will be out promoting the brand everywhere on the web and in person. This person should also host at least one major photo walk in one major city a month. Flickr and Yahoo should leverage their resources to make these walks big splashy public events that make people sit up and notice that Flickr has their mojo back. This person will not be cheap. Yahoo will have to pay up and Mayer herself will probably need to help recruit them.
3. Along with a new Flickr evangelist, Mayer should work with them and Flickr head of product Markus Spiering to heavily and personally recruit some of the top engineers and designers to come to work on Flickr. Flickr should not just be hiring regular old engineers and designers. They should be hiring engineers and designers who are the rock stars. Again, they will have to really pay up for these people — right now the rock star talent wants to work at Facebook and Google, not Yahoo.
If they can get 4 or 5 of these rock star types though they can then use these individuals to recruit even more talent to the Flickr team. Flickr needs to be careful here and not just hire any old engineer who wants a 9 to 5 job. They need to recruit engineers who, like Marissa apparently, want to work it 24/7 and are amazing. They should be rewarded very well and Mayer should use her personal connections to get the right people in these seats.
4. Flickr should begin a structured engagement program with their top users. They should use their internal data at Flickr to see which users are engaging the most and are the most engaged with on Flickr. They should personally contact each of these individuals and make them part of the process for improving Flickr. They should set up a private invite only group where they invite the elite of Flickr, those most heavily invested in Flickr engagement, and personally make them a part of the process going forward.
5. Flickr should set up an ambassador program. They should pay ambassadors $1,000/month (these would not be Flickr employees) to represent Flickr in their respective cities. Part of that responsibility would be to host a photowalk at least once a month (if not more). They would also breath new life into the geographic group best represented on Flickr for their area. Flickr might consider inviting them to San Francisco for an offsite once a year.
6. Engineers/Designers should start working on these problems right away: porting Flickr’s new justified pages to the rest of the site, developing circles for your Flickr contact management, giving people better blocking tools on the site, giving people better filtering tools on the site, creating a cross group subscription system that would aggregate all of the threads you are following in all of your groups and managing these threads as a single forum for you personally, building a first class mobile experience on par with Instagram, and a lot of other things. They should position flickr as a fast moving, innovative, perpetual beta team and Yahoo execs and PR should be cheerleaders with every innovation going forward. Want to see how this is done, just watch Vic Gundotra’s Google+ stream.
7. Yahoo should begin re-evaluating their relationship with Getty Images. Their goal should be to get more photographers paid more money and have more of their photos represented in the Getty Collection. If Yahoo cannot improve this situation in a meaningful way they should consider terminating the Getty relationship, acquiring a smaller stock photography competitor and building this in house. Stock photography should not be considered for what it can add to the bottom line, but for what it can do to recruit the best photographers in the world to post their work on Flickr.
8. Yahoo should heavily promote Flickr with it’s other brands. All other Yahoo properties should begin thinking of how they might incorporate Flickr photos into their properties. Image Search seems like a no brainer. It should be a Yahoo goal to double the amount of Flickr photos in their image search results in the next 60 days. Every site that uses photography on Yahoo should be charged with figuring out a way how to increase Flickr Images in their products. Yahoo may need to develop a sort of opt-in structure for this type of promotion (or better yet an opt out) to deal with photographer’s rights issues and grumpy photographers who might not want their work better promoted and represented on Yahoo, but many will enjoy the extra attention and views and it’s a natural place for Yahoo to go to for imagery.
Mayer needs to hold her new team accountable for the performance of unique users at Flickr. Flickr has been losing unique users and if Flickr is going to seriously compete in the new great big photo sharing world of the WWW, they need to let the photographers of the world know that they are back in a big way and are here to win. Success at Flickr should then be highly promoted by Yahoo PR to show that Yahoo does indeed have their mojo back and that Mayer is in fact winning. More than anything this is the reputation that Yahoo needs to change — excelling at Flickr is one of the best ways that Yahoo can illustrate that to the world. If Yahoo can’t do this then they should just call it a day and sell Flickr to Google now. They will just continue to bleed users and it will be a sore reminder that Yahoo is still languishing every time some new meme about making Flickr awesome again catches the internet’s attention.