A few months back I wrote a post “Flickr is Dead.” When I wrote that post I didn’t mean dead literally, I just meant that the soul of social photo sharing was migrating away from Flickr over to Google+.
Over the past few months the tide has begun shifting even more. Photographers are moving in mass from Flickr to Google+ as their primary photo sharing network.
Just like the social crowd moved from Webshots and Fotolog to Flickr a number of years ago, the social photography crowd is now moving from Flickr to Google+.
There are a number of reasons why this is happening and in this post I’ll outline some of the key ones.
1. Google+ has momentum, energy, excitement and has captured the imagination of photographers all over the world. Social photographers want to be a part of something big, something that is growing. People feel that energy and want to be a part of it. It’s hard to actually understand this social magic, but Google+ clearly has it right now for photographers.
2. Google employees are actively engaged with the photographic community. A ton of Google employees are working both online and offline to engage the community. They post their own photos and they interact with other photographers. They use their streams to promote the work of newcomers in the community. They attend photowalks. We just did a Death Valley trip and I think 8 or so Googlers showed up for the trip. They are visible engaged evangelists promoting social photography at Google both online and in person. When was the last time you actually saw someone from Flickr show up for a photowalk?
By the way, you are coming on our Google+ San Jose photowalk on December 8th, right? 74 people have already signed up for it. 🙂
3. Google has better tools to manage your social experience. The biggest problem at flickr right now is that the tools to manage your social experience are weak. At Google when you block somebody, they are really and truly blocked. You don’t see them ANYWHERE on the site. Trolls, griefers, stalkers, harassers, etc, can be instantly zapped out of existence on the site with a touch of a button. They can’t see you (unless they log out) and you don’t see them *anywhere* on the site. They become totally invisible. It’s so perfect.
Flickr doesn’t realize it yet but they have a BIG problem with harassment. Blocking people at flickr is weak and ineffective. They still can post on your friends’ photos so that you’ll see them. They still can post in groups that you’re a member of. This is a poison that I’ve personally watched drive many of the best accounts away from Flickr.
4. You get far, far more engagement on your photos on Google+ than on Flickr. It might take a little bit of work and interaction, but once you engage on Google+ you’ll find that every possible metric to measure (number of followers, number of views, number of comments, number of +1s, quality of interaction) is far superior.
I think part of why this is so is because that in addition to photographers being on Google+ there are also a ton of non-photographers. These non-photographers never would have come to flickr in the past because, well, they’re not photographers. On Google+ they are on the site for different reasons but still end up exposed to your photography. Because of this, you reach a much larger audience in the end.
The day before yesterday +Maria Bartiromo reshared one of +Trey Ratcliff’s photos. I doubt Maria Bartoroma would ever have an account on Flickr, but she’s a top account on Google+ and as such is being exposed to great photography every single day.
5. Hangouts are like social superglue. Flickr recently launched this sort of lame feature where you can share your flickr photos with other users and text chat about them — super, super, super, super lame. Nobody wants to do this. Nobody is using this. Text chatting only is so “you’ve got mail” AOLish — it belongs to the last decade, not the next decade.
Google+ photographers are interacting in real time, live with video and audio. I hosted a hangout the other day and over 60 people showed up during it to socialize. +Trey Ratcliff is doing fun and interesting broadcasted hangouts (I’ll be on Trey’s show tomorrow night at 7pm PST btw). A bunch of the female photographers on Google+ just launched a new hangout show called “Life Through the Lens” photography from a woman’s perspective.
On Google+ I can watch +Scott Jarvie edit his photos live in real time. Jarvie generously shares with the rest of us his tips and techniques. I can learn about +Paul Roustan’s body painting photography and how he prints his work and gets it in galleries. Last night I got to hear +Michael Bonocore explain to me how he made this shot with fire and spinning wool.
Hangouts can be planned or spontaneous. When you connect with other photographers it’s connecting with them on a whole different level when it’s face to face and with audio and video. Flickr’s groups helped flickr create small intimate experiences, hangouts are like that x 1,000.
Also because people are nicer to each other when they interact face to face than via text, the whole tone of photographer interaction is enhanced by this tool on Google+.
6. Shared circles lets the community promote great photographers. I’ve shared my photography circles a few times now. People are sharing circles every day. When we share circles it massively promotes other photographers on the site — they get new followers (hence more momentum). An audience for your work can be built so much faster as people end up frequently sharing great circles of talented photographers. Here are two of my posts where I’ve shared my own circles for you to find some great photographers that I’m following too.
7. Circles are smarter contact management. At flickr you just get two buckets. Your friends/family and your contacts. And yet sometimes you need to categorize your friends differently than just those two buckets.
For example: the weekend before last 55 or so of us spent that amazing weekend shooting in Death Valley. With Google+ I was able to create a Death Valley circle and use that to broadcast updates just to that group of people. You can create circles of San Francisco Photographers, Best Friend Photographers, Neon Shooters, Night Photographers, Detroit Photographers (for when I visit Detroit in Jan), etc. The ways to organize your contacts are limitless.
8. Strong Curation and Resharing. Explore is a joke. Even though I’ve been unblacklisted from it now (thanks +Zack Shepard!), I still never go there. The photo quality is poor. You get lots of watermarked photos and sort of less interesting artistic stuff. Rather than have to look at photos supposedly selected by some hokey donkey on flickr, at Google+ if something is particularly good it gets reshared and I get to see it from the people that I follow. These people have much better taste than Flickr’s dumb algorithm.
Also when something is featured on Photo Extract or reshared by your friends you don’t get all those dumb sparkly gif awards all over your photo or people begging you to add it to a bunch of dumb groups.
9. Google owns the future of search. No doubt about it. Yahoo is on the way out for search. They tried to partner up with the Bingers but everybody still uses Google. Already Google+ entries are starting to index very highly on Google. If you care about search, if you care about SEO — if you are a professional photographer especially and want to be easily found on Google.com, Google+ is your best way to try and promote your work.
10. Innovation, Innovation, Innovation. You just can’t beat it. People started using hashtags on G+ and Google stepped up and linked them. People were having a problem with trolls in some hangouts and we got a tool to block them right there from the hangout. When +Vincent Mo first built the lightbox view he forgot to give us a button to +1 photos from there. BAMM it gets fixed, as smooth as apples and steak.
(Remember +Vic Gundotra, +Vincent Mo, +Dave Cohen and +Brian Rose should all get hefty bonuses this year, plus +Ricardo Lagos even though he isn’t even on the photos team, oh wait and +Chris Chabot too, and lots of other good Googlers).
Google is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Google+ and the entire company is focused on it. Contrast this with Yahoo who spent last Christmas laying off flickr employees at twice the rate of the general company layoffs. Flickr has stagnated and is not innovating. Google is aggressively expanding and growing Google+.