Flickr’s mantra of building online communities

Flickr is one of the most successful web2.0 companies. More than the product (and it’s features), Flickr’s success can be largely credited to it’s loyal community base. Flickr could have been easily turned into a porn picture sharing site, or anything else – but the founders played a huge role in defining the direction of the product as well as building communities.
BusinessWeek interviewed Heather Champ, Flickr’s community manager and here are a few interesting insights on how Flickr managed to build it’s community (a must read)

  • Engage
    One of the factors that differentiated Flickr from other photo-sharing Web sites—and endeared it to early users—was the active participation of its founders, Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake. They not just participated in the forum, but also drove the discussions.
  • Enforce
    Let the community help set standards and policies for appropriate behavior and enforce them – let them define what’s right/what’s not.
  • Take Responsibility
    Flickr makes a point of addressing the community directly when the team messes up and being clear and honest about the “whys” behind the scenes.
  • Step Back
    Flickr members will often answer each other’s forum questions as well or better than she could (she=community manager, Heather Champ)
  • Give Freely
    In 2005, Flickr told users that if they sent in a self-addressed stamped envelope, they’d send back some Flickr freebies. Within weeks, Champ says, the Yahoo mail room was inundated with envelopes (along with personal notes, photographs, and postcards) from thousands of eager users of the promotional products—many of whom later uploaded photos to Flickr.
  • Be Patient
    Champ says any online community could benefit by taking feedback from the first 48 hours with a heavy pinch of sodium. “Anything that is new and different can be difficult for some people,” she says, so gut reactions can’t always be trusted. “The feedback you get over the first two weeks is less reactionary and a lot more thoughtful.”
  • Hire Fans
    Make sure your employees are as passionate about your product as your community’s most die-hard fans
  • Stay Calm (Develop a thick skin)
    You have to take the praise and you have to take the frustration,” says Champ, who jokes that she wears “asbestos underwear.”
  • Focus
    “Would I rather have the team developing something fabulous and new,” she asks, or spending their time on a sign-in page that users step through in seconds? “I think it comes down to balancing where effort should be going.” – i.e. channelize your resources to built relevant products
  • Be Visible (Stay human)
    Employees are encouraged to actively use Flickr themselves, posting photos and maintaining profiles that other members can view. I think being present reminds the community that we are all real people with real feelings, not corporate peons.

If you are interested in social network phenomena, I strongly urge you to view the entire slideshow here.

Do you see any Indian social net even attempting to create a community? Or they are senselessly adding features to their product?

tags: social networking

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