How Flickr Gets It Right


The first time I logged into my Flickr account in 2013, the photo-sharing network had a holiday surprise waiting: three extra months of Flickr Pro membership, at no extra cost. As a paying member with an annual plan, my three months get tacked onto the end of this year I’ve already paid for, like an extension of my package; but for former members, those who’d let their accounts expire, the same offer also came, giving them three more months back with the network, for free, without any need to purchase anything.

And in doing this little gifting, especially right around the same time that Instagram was fighting a publicity nightmare, Flickr demonstrated the #1 way to build online relationships: generosity.

Let’s take a closer look at this concept and how following Flickr’s example could benefit your business!

Rewarding Current Customers

Flickr Gift

What Flickr’s holiday gift shows, according to Ewan Spence at Forbes, is that “Flickr is not only looking to gain new users, but to also build on the existing relationships with current and lapsed members” (emphasis added).  While using generosity to pull in new customers makes obvious sense, giving away a product to get a person to buy it later often feels less like generosity and more like a marketing tactic. That’s what makes Flickr’s initiative so unique—instead of just giving new users a three-month trial, they gave existing users three months of a bonus. Flickr went a step beyond the expected by giving its gift to current and past members, people who have already purchased from it in the past.

Flickr Gift Accepted

How Can You Apply This to Your Business?

Take a look at your current clients, and ask yourself: Are we rewarding clients for their loyalty or taking them for granted? What could we do to show generosity to the clients who are already making our business possible? Here are a few ideas:

  • A special discount for email subscribers
  • An unexpected free meal, as Red Robin did for a pregnant woman
  • Unadvertised exclusive subscriber-only content, like The New York Times gave readers
  • A bonus month(s) of service, like Flickr gave its users
  • Free tickets to another event for event attendees

In other words, by giving your current customers something small (but valuable) for free, you set yourself up as generous.

Reaping Business Benefits from Generosity

Why should you want to be seen as generous? How will that boost your bottom line and improve business over time? Let’s take a look at the real business benefits of generosity.

  • Generosity spreads (free advertising). When you surprise your clients with something of value, you give them a reason to talk about you to their friends. You create news that media outlets want to pick up (just look at the buzz surrounding Flickr’s gift, including this post highlighting the social network).
  • Generosity feels good (employee motivation). When business owner Natalie Peace launched a “22 Days of Kindness” campaign, encouraging her staff to perform random acts of kindness for customers throughout their work days, an unexpected benefit was the increased motivation and productivity in employees: “The staff loved it because they felt so good making other people happy,” she said.
  • Generosity builds bonds (customer loyalty). Surprising customers with some sort of gift or perk or kindness makes them happy, and happy customers are loyal customers. When you extend thoughtfulness to your clients, you build bonds that keep them coming to you in the future.

What do you think? Could some intentional generosity improve your business results? How might you show genuine kindness to your existing clients?

Must be a really fun and rewarding client for Flick’s PR firm over at Spark PR.

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