When we think of social media, what typically comes to mind? Facebook and Twitter. We do not normally think of photo-sharing sites when we think about social media. However, with the ability to add tags and descriptions for grouping, customization, and categorization of photos via Flickr, institutions can ensure that photos are visible to users searching for keywords related to an institution’s chosen tags.
An additional feature that is offered to Flickr users is the ability to upload photos to industry-specific groups, which if utilized appropriately, can be a useful public relations tool for enhancing relationships. If institutions optimize this feature by posting significant brand images in relevant groups within the industry, these efforts can be effective in positioning the brand, increasing brand exposure, and enhancing brand awareness within search engines. Flickr users also have the ability to upload photos to Flickr and Twitter simultaneously, send updates to Facebook when Flickr photos are added, and directly post from Flickr to external blogs. If managed correctly, Flickr can be a useful public relations tool for higher education in that it can provide two-way communication between the university and its audience. With this in mind, it is important for institutions to monitor activity and frequently respond to user comments.
With over 590 photos, “Texas Tech Today’s photostream” via Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/texas-tech/) consists of several photo groups, including categories ranging from campus events, history, and traditions, to public art, academic teams, and research projects. Flickr is a great way for colleges and universities to tell their story, giving prospective, current, and former students the ability to visualize the brand and the environment of the institution, as well as the opportunities and possibilities the school has to offer. From a public relations perspective, photo-sharing sites such as Flickr can also be useful for higher education institutions to occupy digital space, provide information for media, and provide additional information for interested publics to see behind the curtain and get to know the institution. With that being said, however, it appears as though the most recent TTU Flickr photo was taken in July 2011, which means the site administrator has not been actively uploading pictures this past year. Furthermore, I was able to locate a whopping total of five comments on the TTU Flickr site, none of which indicate any responses on behalf of Texas Tech Today.
What does this tell us about the involvement? What does it tell us about the Texas Tech public relationship that is being built via this network? What does it tell us about the amount of communication here? Does it do more harm than good to let social media sites float around without any updated content? Is there value in having a collection of older content and photos on a site with little interaction? Ultimately, is it better to have a presence within a social media network with lower levels of involvement and activity; or is it better to have no presence at all?