Does Flickr Have a User Engagement Problem?

Flickr users have made quite a commotion in the past couple days begging new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to make the photo sharing site “awesome again”, but how does one go about doing so? Mat Honan of Wired says that one of the site’s big weaknesses is user engagement, and conducted a test to prove his point:

I wanted to test out this notion. So at 3 p.m. on Tuesday I took a photo of a sticky on my desk and uploaded it to several photo-sharing services — Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Path. And just for kicks, I also uploaded it to MlkShk as an afterthought, almost a half hour after all the other platforms. MlkShk is a site with only about 20,000 users, but it’s a very engaged community.

[…] By the next morning Twitter was at 66, Facebook at 51, Instagram at 57, MlkShk at 46, Google+ at 19, and Path stalled out at 2. And Flickr, where it landed on the site’s “Explore” page that highlights the most interesting photos of the day? 23. Perhaps more damning than the poor showing in terms of up votes was how ignored it was in real-time. It was only even viewed a total of five times on Flickr in that first hour.

Online retailer Woot did a similar (unscientific) test earlier this month and also found that Flickr lagged behind the other social networks in terms of how engaged its users are.

Flickr’s Engagement Problem May Be Too Big for Even Marissa Mayer [Wired]

Image credit: Photograph by Mat Honan/Wired

  • Ivan

    “…and also found that Flickr lagged behind the other social networks in terms of how engaged its users are…”

    That’s perhaps 99% of people who have ever heard of or used Flickr consider it a photo sharing service, not a social network. For sure, everyone wants to be called a “social network” (well, cashing billions could be around the corner) but some sites are just not that or at least not primarily social networks. And speaking of photo sharing, that post-it note is certainly not an eye catching photograph, hence the lack of interest.

  • Tam Nguyen Photography

    Very good points.

  • Matt

    Nailed it. And, I’d like to add that making it “awsome again” does not mean making it a social network site. It means make it easier to share and organize your photos.

  • John Moyer

    their iphone app still sucks, which is a big reason why flickr use has dropped while other sites like Instagram, streamzoo and tadaa have taken off.

  • Albin

    I tried Flickr after an excellent friendly and helpful message board dedicated to my camera model shut down several years. Flickr was arguably in its heyday. I found the relevant discussion groups for my camera were more or less monopolized by a few users who had more or less nothing left unsaid about the camera and made a point of intervening and steering any new user to some dead thread of the past. I tend to doubt that Flickr is discouraging new users, more likely the already entrenched users are.

  • Nobody

    As one said below, it’s not a social networking site, and we, at least I, don’t want it to be. People aren’t going to view/fave a sticky note on flickr, the user engagement isn’t the issue IMO. It’s more simple then that, to me it comes down to 2 big things really;

    1) it’s a user-nightmare, basically its a fn mess. There is way too many drop downs, useless options, groups/tags,searches, etc etc etc. SIMPLIFY IT! It’s a headache to look at and on top of that it looks incredibly archaic still. Get rid of all the stupid award crap, don’t allow html or whatever in comments, add the option to “like” a photo instead. Take a page out of 500px’s book. SIMPLIFY.
    2) Get rid of the #%*^ty mobile app and don’t allow users to upload pics via their cell phone. This is not instagram and we don’t want it to be like IG. The amount of flood-craptastic photos that are streaming into flickr from 16 year olds with iphones is ruining that site. To find one good photo you have to weed thru 4 pages of crap. Please, take the IG out of flickr before it’s too late.

  • Ed Hoover

    Here’s another problem with Flickr: That photo got on Explore? Really?

    I’ve always known Explore was full of crap given its supposed purpose (of highlighting photos by “interestingness,” whatever Flickr’s algorithm deems that o be), but this takes the cake.

    Maybe that’s why no one engages anymore.

  • Fred

    It could also be that people on Flickr didn’t consider a photo of a post-it as a good enough photo to favourite.

    Perhaps people use Flickr primarily for photos and not (only) for jokes, and you’d get more views, comments and favourites with interesting photos.

    Perhaps people on other sites attach less value to favourites and ‘likes’.

    But anyway, it showed up on Flickr’s Explore, so that means people were interacting with it (“users were engaging with it”).

  • Chris Lyn

    Please don’t make flickr into a social network (aka popularity contest), that’s not what it’s supposed to be.

    Anyway, I see a ton of people’s photos with plenty of comments. The only reason it’s not as popular, is because its not the latest hyped up site.

    I think flickr needs to put the photo front and centre, they have to make it the star of the show.

  • Henning Nilsen

    It is already a popularity contest. Comment and like my photo and I’ll do the same for you herp derp.

    It’s the equivilant of Sub4Sub on youtube.

  • Johannes

    For me Flickr is a quality photo site for real photographers. When I want to see images that impress me, I go to Flickr and klick through the latest uploads of my contacts. iPhone photos can be nice and funny too, but that’s not what I’m after.
    Admittedly: The discussions in Flickr groups suck, they are almost dead, you can post something and the first response will come in a few weeks. Any dedicated photo forum on the net is more effective. Also the comments: 99% is “Great comp, luv the colors”, if it’s not a some blinking group badge.
    The “explore” feature is a mystery for me. I got only 2 images on explore in 5 years, thought I think my images are not too bad, compared to the average pic shown there.
    The Flickr app on iPhone is quite lame.
    Btw: they have a “like button” since forever, it is called “favorite”.

  • Richard

    Exactly right. This is what sucks about Path, which was a nice photo service before they turned it into Facebook lite.

    The entire reason I use Instagram is that it’s UI is better than flickr’s mobile app for uploading images to flickr. I could give a crap about Instagram’s social network, I just use the UI to post to flickr (and twitter).

    I’ve been on flickr since the Vancouver days and have made many friends there, some of whom have left for 500px, Facebook and other services. Almost every alternative to flickr puts social networking and “competition for clicks” above photography and sharing and I can’t stand any of it.

    If Mayer updates the flickr UI, builds a decent mobile app and hires some knowledgeable site admins and moderators I think flickr will come back to life.

  • Michael Verhoef

    But flickr was a social network site. Back when I first joined flickr it had a great sense of community – it was fun, the level of interaction between users was brilliant. Now it’s just a photo archive.

  • vanderschlecht

    The deal breaker for me in Flickr App is its a one photo at a time app. No continuous shooting. It forces you to go through a process of uploading with each shot. /uninstall