How Hammock.com uses Flickr as a marketing tool — and a content management system
(“How’d we do that?” is a continuing series that examines the creative ways we do things at Hammock. Sometimes, it’s hard to make things look easy. Warning: Don’t try these at home — call us.)
Back in early 2007, when we started talking about creating a new Hammock.com, we determined that it should be a laboratory in which we would test various approaches and technologies and demonstrate the results — especially approaches to web development about which we are enthusiastic, but maybe not quite ready to recommend to our clients. That’s one of the reasons you will — if you look closely — see us constantly adding and removing things from the site.
As part of our laboratory approach, we decided to do two things:
- Create the entire site using software and development approaches that were designed first for blogging, social networks, and other collaborative or conversational media. Whenever possible, we’ve opted for open source platforms or freely available (and sometimes free) services. We wanted to display how flexible and adaptive the software can be to a wide array of story-telling approaches.
- Utilize an approach to creating and managing content that will allow us to tell our story both here at Hammock.com and, simultaneously, at a wide variety of other places around the web. We’re constantly telling clients that “there’s a big conversation taking place out there and you need to be a part of it” — but we weren’t practicing what we preached. Related to this, we decided to put an emphasis on ways we could streamline the management of content so, whenever possible, content updated on place would be reflected elsewhere across the web.
We’ll be sharing several examples of such approaches in future “How’d we do that?” pieces, but it seemed obvious to us that this first look behind the curtain should be at how we’re using the photo sharing service Flickr on Hammock.com — and on Flickr.com/hammock — in a wide variety of ways that help us tell our story in a creative, efficient and, excuse our boasting, extremely cool way.
First, it might help to explain Flickr and why we chose that service to use in our experimentation. Now owned by Yahoo!, Flickr started out as features that were part of a multi-player online game. It may look like a place simply to post photos, but the service’s DNA is all about community and sharing and story-telling and discovery. We started using Flickr early-on. Blogging pioneer Rex was enthusiastic about the blog-like approach the service used to re-think how a photo-sharing service can work (reverse chronological display, commenting and RSS feeds were conventions Flickr launched with). The photos Rex hosted on his Flickr account — like, for instance, his photos of Nashville Greenways — have been viewed over 200,000 times.
At the same time, Patrick became a student of the way in which Flickr allows its data to be accessed and displayed in a wide variety of ways utilizing RSS feeds and (sorry for the geeky acronym) third-party developers who use Flickr’s API. For those not schooled in web-tech alphabet soup, that simply means Flickr allows its users to pull data (i.e., the photos stored there) and to display that data on other websites. The more open a service’s API, the more creative a web developer can be with data from that service. And Flickr is a good service when it comes to allowing a developer to build on its API.
Here are just some of the ways we’re using Flickr:
We’re hosting many of the photos seen on Hammock.com at Flickr.com/hammock. Typically, a web developer places images in a file, hidden away on a server somewhere. We decided that we wanted to use Flickr.com as another platform to show off our work and people and so, when you visit Flickr.com, you can browse around and get a good look at hundreds — and soon to be thousands — of images. In almost every instance, those images are also used here as part of our galleries or, well, almost anywhere you click.
We not only pull photos from Flickr, we pull text: We decided to use Flickr.com as a content management system (CMS) to handle the names and captions that accompany photos on Hammock.com. In other words, rather than entering text twice — on Flickr.com/hammock and on Hammock.com — any person on our staff can name and describe a digital photo, then upload it to Flickr. By utilizing Flickr’s APIs, we then display all of that information whenever a user clicks on a photo. Also, by thinking of Flickr as an easy-to-use content management system, we’ve now got a way that everyone — and we mean everyone — who works at Hammock can manage photos that appear on their people page. No one has to give any photos to a webmaster (what’s that, anyway?) to post or know anything about posting to their page. By just dropping a photo in a set on Flickr, their photo automagically appears on Hammock.com.
We decided not to reinvent the slideshow wheel. On the last iteration of Hammock.com, we had areas where a user could view our work as a Flash slideshow. We’re not big fans of having Flash all over a website, but we know, used correctly, it is a great story-telling tool. Because we were in the mindset of utilizing the tools already baked into Flickr, when the topic turned to displaying our work in Flash, we decided immediately to skip building out that feature ourselves.
There are a few other Flickr tricks sprinkled throughout Hammock.com — and we’re adding more all the time. In the future, we’ll use another “How’d they do that?” to review them.
For now, just smile and say cheese.