Five ways to bring the Pinterest-and-Instagram-fueled image-sharing trend to your intranet2012-07-12
Visual communication has grown into a bona fide social trend. Most trends that take root on the web ultimately find their way onto intranets. That hasn’t happened yet with the compulsion we have acquired for sharing images. The fact that tools aren’t available yet to integrate into your internal platforms shouldn’t stop you, though, from tapping into this increasingly common behavior.
Photo sharing has been around for a long time. A number of photo sharing services came and went while the mainstays struggled to find both a niche and revenue models. Yahoo has allowed Flickr to languish even as companies used them to create photo archives, while Google ultimately folded Picasa into its fledgling social network, Google+.
It wasn’t until Pinterest and Instagram came along that image sharing acquired a certain cachet. Pinterest, in the short time it has been part of the public consciousness, exceeds Twitter, StumbleUpon and Bing for referral traffic, and even tops Google’s paid search. Instagram, meanwhile, has attraacted 40 million subscribers, adding 10 million in the first 30 days after Android users got an app of their own. Despite the fact that neither service has a clear revenue model, investors bolstered Pinterest with $100 million in funding a few months ago and Facebook notoriously bought Instagram for a cool $1 billion.
Dozens of services have jumped on the bandwagon in the wake of Pinterest and Instagram’s success, some copycats, some leveraging the basic concept with a different spin or twist. SocialCam is essentially Instagram for video, for instance, while Gentlemint touts itself as a sort of Pinterest for guys. Pinterest alternatives have names like Looqiloo (video), All I Really Want, Main and Me, Jux and GetVega. For Instagram, you’ll find Hipstamatic, Snapseed, Pixlr-o-matic and Hipster. The fact that most of these services allow you to share what you’ve done on Facebook or Twitter hasn’t hurt the adoption curve.
While Instagram is almost entirely a mobile utility while Pinterest still hasn’t released an app of its own, the services share a few common features that have helped propel them, leaving Flickr and its brethren in the dust, including ease of use, ease of sharing and sociality.
But the two characteristics that have catalyzed the image-sharing trend satisfy basic human desires that Flickr just never addressed. First, there’s the longing to experience the world visually. Photographer Trey Ratcliffe, during a guest stint on the podcast This Week in Tech, explained that people once walked through the world and took it all in, but modern life has confined us to homes and offices. Scrolling through recently photographed images rekindles the wonder we once saw in our surroundings, only now we’re able to do it through others’ eyes.
Second is the serendipity of discovery. Looking at a Flickr album, you pretty much know what you’ll find, but clicking through pins or scrolling through Instragram, you never know what you’ll see next. Even when searching, Pinterest delights with the unexpected delights you’ll uncover (“I found the most amazing TARDIS dress while looking at Doctor Who pins the other day!”)
Marketers and communicators have tapped into these innate desires; the best of them understand the idea of a “wow” or “ah-ha” moment that also reinforces the brand and even increases a product’s desirability.
I can’t say what percentage of Instagram and Pinterest users (and users of similar services) work for a living, but it’s fair to say it’s approximately a lot. Employees in your organization undoubtedly are among those consuming, sharing, repinning, liking and otherwise engaging with images. That passion for images can be applied to internal communications goals, even if the various employee communication platforms haven’t introduced apps or tools to enable it. And, heaven knows, employee communications departments have yet to embrace smartphones and tablets as a primary channel.
Here are some of the ways you can bring image-sharing to your internal communications efforts:
- Photo blog—If you haven’t seen The New York Times Lively Morgue, go there now—assuming you have some time to kill. Each day, Times editors select a photo from the newspaper’s rich history and share it, along with a description and the ability to see the notes and stamps on the back. If you like it enough, you can buy a print. Sharing on Facebook and Twitter takes just a click. The experience is dramatically different than perusing the archives themselves, where a lot of images are lumped into collections. Here, you never know what tomorrow will bring, just that it will be amazing. Your company probably has a photo archive of its own, and sharing a single photo each—and letting employees share them with one another—can spark interest in a brand, a person, an issue or the company’s history in general.
- Employee contributions to Instagram and Pinterest—If your company already maintains Pinterest and/or Instagram accounts, reach out to employees to contribute their own images for sharing through these services. You can maintain a site of all the shared images and (if you’re using any gamification techniques) award points to employees whose contributions are chose for sharing with the outside world.
- Internal Pinterest—With the right coding chops, someone in your company (or an external contractor) can cobble together a site that works just like Pinterest, but available only to employees. While some employees may wind up sharing non-work-related images, most will focus on jobs and company shots. Meanwhile, the internal communications department can both share its own images (linked to stories, driving traffic to narrative content) and discover new content opportunities based on what employees have contributed (not to mention what other employees have found most interesting).
- Photo sharing on employee profiles—Employee profiles are one of the hottest social parts of intranets. Allowing employees to share photos through their profiles will add a new discovery dimension to those who are seeking colleagues based on specific criteria. Make the photos sharable and you enhance the serendipitious discovery of other employees who share common interests, leading to new points of contact that can easily result in business value.
- Photo contest—It’s an old standby. After all, companies have been sponsoring employee photo contests since the days of print publications. Inviting employees to view images as soon as they’re contributed, vote for them, comment on them and share them adds new vitality to these programs. It’s also another way for employees to discover one another and enhances job satisfaction.
Keep your eyes open for updates to your company’s intranet platform for the introduction of image-sharing functionality. And, as your organization begins adapting internal communications to mobile devices, consider investing in an app that lets employees capture and share images with others in the organization.
Is your company enabling image sharing that goes beyond uploading a picture to the photo library?