Social + Mobile: Shaping The Future Of Photo Sharing

Last September, flickr announced their 5 billionth photo upload. More than 100 million photos are uploaded every day to Facebook. Instagram’s 2.2 million users upload 3.6 million new photos per week and HP’s SnapFish is home to 70 million registered users. Color, the real-time location-based mobile application, received $41 million in funding before it was even launched.

The momentum behind photo sharing is astonishing. Thanks to social media and the evolution of smartphones, it’s now a daily activity for millions of consumers and trends indicate this is only the beginning. Barriers for consumers to enter the photo sharing market are as low as they’ve ever been. Entrepreneurial start-ups are creating mobile applications that take advantage of advanced smartphone cameras while making sharing photos via social media virtually effortless. Photo sharing is a naturally social activity and emerging technology empowers people to share photos instantly and easily. For many brands, this is an area bursting with opportunity for exploration and experimentation.

Consumer + Technology Trends

Even though we’re seeing a substantial amount of consumer interest in the photo sharing market today, there’s still significant room for growth. In 2011, eMarketer predicts that nearly one in four people in the United States will have a smartphone. By 2015, one in three people will have smartphones. A larger population of smartphones, combined with improved smartphone camera technology and applications and the expansion of cellular coverage, will guide us into a market where photo sharing will be more prevalent than it’s ever been.

But photo sharing has become more than just a consumer with a smartphone. We also need to consider trends in tablet adoption and the emergence of Internet-enabled television. In 2011, eMarketer predicts that 24 million tablets will be sold in the United States. By 2012, the total number of tablets sold is expected to be over 40 million. Moving forward, most tablets will include high-quality cameras, as with the iPad 2, installed to capture both photo and video.

As camera technology in smartphones and tablets evolve, companies such as Google and Apple are also working to make the photo viewing experience as user friendly as possible. Once consumers have taken their photos, Internet-enabled television makes the viewing experience that much easier. Both Apple and Google TV include flickr applications that automatically import photos simply by logging in to a flickr account. Partnered with the smartphone, the tablet and Internet-enabled television are lowering the bar even further for consumer entrance into the photo sharing community.

Key Considerations for Marketers

The stage has been set for brands to join and lead the photo sharing community. Here are three key considerations for marketers and brands contemplating how to leverage the photo sharing momentum.

Customization

Marketers now have every opportunity to create a customized social photo sharing experience given the API-driven transportability of new mobile photo sharing services. Earlier this year, Pixable did just this by integrating Instagram’s API into their service, allowing users to easily discover, view and interact with millions of Instagram photos via Pixable’s Photofeed interface. As with Pixable, open photo sharing APIs represent one key opportunity for brands as they allow for customization, integration and scalability across multiple platforms.

Connection

When creating a photo sharing experience for your brand, make sure to maximize its ability to be spread across the major social network properties. This could mean implementing a Facebook social plugin to allow users easy access to their existing online photo collection. Considering 99% of people using Facebook have uploaded at least one photo, Facebook integration must be a priority. Or it could mean having developers leverage Twitter’s OAuth functionality so that users can sign in to Twitter without leaving your branded photo sharing experience. Whatever you create, develop use case scenarios that outline the end user’s interactions with social media to ensure simplicity and usability. 

Participation

Photo sharing is a friendly way for brands to ask for people’s participation and generate positive brand awareness. PepsiCo’s Lipton’s Brisk ice tea recently took advantage of photo sharing’s participatory nature by teaming up with Instagram at SXSW. The campaign encouraged Instagram users to tag photos with #briskpic and tweet it out, with the lucky users getting their pictures inscribed on one of 4,000 limited edition Brisk cans distributed at SXSW. By connecting photo sharing services into their websites, mobile applications and social media profiles, brands like Brisk are able to deliver product messages in a relevant and meaningful way throughout the photo sharing process.

Regardless of your level of involvement in photo sharing, marketers can capitalize on the trends of today by focusing on creating customized photo sharing experiences, connecting them across social media and encouraging participation to drive awareness.