The other day when I was procrastinating about a rather dull project, I surfed over to Google and looked up my name. (Come on, admit it, you've looked up yours, too.)
I was expecting some pages from Sherpa to pop up along with a few other press quotes. So, it was with great surprise that one of the top links was to photo-sharing site Flickr.com. There's a photo I didn't know out there on the Internet?
Yup -- there I am in all my six-foot-tall glory looming over WSJ.com's head of marketing Jennifer Singer, who is maybe 5'2" in heels as we prepare to speak on a stage in NYC. Turns out one of our MarketingSherpa Summit attendees snapped the shot and posted it.
Then, completely coincidentally, I got an email from a marketing pal at Burpee who said, "Hey, go look at our company photos at Flickr!" They'd posted a bunch of stuff, including old catalog covers and even their favorite customer letters. And, because surfing Flickr is based on tagging, the results page also gave links to hundreds of Burpee-related photos that consumers had posted independently.
A complete brand photo library had blossomed on the public Internet, much of it without the knowledge of the brand itself.
Coincidences run in packs, because a few minutes later our own head of graphics Betsy Kreiner asked me, "Where should we put all the company photos from Summits and stuff on the intranet?" "Don't," I replied. "Put them on Flickr instead."
Why not? There's nothing secret, just various snaps from our Summits, plus several photos of what appear to be me abusing a cat. (That's Pete, our office cat, and I'm carefully placing him in a fleece-lined container so he won't make noise during an important conference call.)
One lesson learned -- tagging is harder than you think. The graphics team uploaded photos by using words they would find useful to find them again. Terms such as "WL0589R-b2b" as well as our company name without caps. I guess that wouldn't be too bad on an intranet section only they used. But it drove me nuts.
So now they are re-tagging everything, plus adding in people's names, etc. There are several hundred pics, so it could take a while. By the way, if you are pictured in there and no one has posted your name to your photo yet, please forgive us. We're working on it. You can post your name via a comment tag, too, if you want.
In the meantime, consider two things for your own brand -– first, remember to search sites such as Flickr occasionally to see what images are tagged with your brand. Second, consider if like Burpee you should take advantage of this platform to share more of your in-house photos with the world.
***Follow-up note: We received this letter from a Sherpa reader:
"You know the Flickr thing really brings up a privacy question I have been wondering about.
It used to be, someone took your photo at a party and the most you had to worry about was that they might show it to their friends in their (printed) photo album.
Then, with the advent of digital cameras and camera phones, it could possibly show up attached to a post party email, SMS, or perhaps posted on their private webpage, with funky photo number tags which would never be indexed for your full name anyway.
But sites like Flickr mean that you completely loose any say over how your photo and name are used. What if I take photos at my company’s DMA cocktail hour and add names as tags in Flickr? Now, the client list become public knowledge, or a job seeker from a competitor gets questions about why they are at our party, etc. Or, you end up unintentionally endorsing a particular company because you are listed and indexed as being at their event. (I won’t even mention the whole “here is a photo of Chris snapped at a NY event with their arms around someone who is not their spouse…and Chris didn’t even realize the photo was being taken.”)
I have no hard answers here – but it sure does bring up some questions. Perhaps the issues are not quite as salient in the business world, but our professional and business worlds continue to blur."
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