Online Community Lessons from Photojojo

If you received a dollar for every online community idea that has been tried on the Internet for the last decade, you’d probably be a very rich person by now.

Launching an online community it’s quite easy.

The options to launch an online community are endless: you can create a Ning community, launch a Facebook Page or Group, use a simple online forum, create a Myspace page, etc.

However, the hard part comes when it’s time to keep your community members engaged and interested enough to let others know about how cool your community is.

On this post you’ll learn from the experiences in running an online community by Photojojo’s Founder, Amit Gupta.

Why Photojojo?

Because they are able to attract over 158,000 unique visitors in March 2010, have almost 22,000 readers via Feedburner, over 10,000 fans on Facebook, almost 32,000 followers on Twitter, and this is all before talking about the tens of thousands of people subscribed to their photo-tastic e-mail newsletter.

So, yes you can learn a thing or 2 from Amit Gupta. Amit is an entrepreneur that lives in San Francisco. He takes photos, twitter, and sometimes blogs. He runs Photojojo, it’s about photography + awesomeness. Here is an interview that I ran when I was the head editor of Bacon Lettuce Photo. [Thanks to the incredible Joe Philipson for interviewing Amit.]

Tell me about the beginnings of Photojojo.

Photojojo started as a fun side project, I felt like there’s some interesting stuff to do with photography and crafting and I figured let’s launch it and see what happens.

Do you have a personal interest in Photography?

Yeah! I did a lot of photography in High School I actually got into video photography. I’ve been shooting for 14 years and I guess to me I like to take photos casually and I’m an amateur. When I got to New York I got my first Digital SLR because NY is incredible it’s hard not to be really excited about photography when in NY.

Where did you get the idea for Photojojo?

I saw a lot of interesting stuff going on in digital photography, a lot of my friends were taking lots and lots of photos when they got their digital cameras, usually hundreds and thousands of photos a year. The photos would just pile up and get forgotten about on their computer. It’s kind of sad that we’re generating and recording all these happy moments and never looking back because theirs just too many photos to keep track up. I also noticed a lot of people getting excited about DIY (Do it yourself) and crafts and customized products and making stuff come alive. Seemed like an interesting place to cross those two, digital photography and having people get more into making stuff again.

You guys seem to have a lot of great ideas, are those user submitted or do you come up with those on your own?

A little bit of both, some ideas we come up with originally and some we get on the web or our friends and readers submit things, we try to credit them when that happens. It’s a good mix.

How large is your staff at Photojojo?

We are 4.5, and the half is my mom who helps part time. Most of our photography and digital photography are shot with my Nikon D70 which definitely fits the bill for online stuff, works great for shooting with the web which is what we’re usually doing. A lot of our photographs for our book were shot on the same camera and a Canon Rebel XTI. All these cameras are not huge monster cameras, they’re the bottom when it comes to digital SLR’s. Yet I’m not a real big gear head when it comes to that, I’m all about what you can do with what stuff you can do with your photographs and not so much the gear used and lens comparisons. You could really take great photographs with just about anything, I use my iPhone’s camera more then any other camera and I get some good stuff out of it.

What do you think about photo communities like Flickr or Picasa? Have they reached their potential or do they have room to grown and where do you think Photojojo has a place in that?

I’d have to say there’s a lot of potential for these to grow, I think Flickr is great and is probably my favorite online photo community. I think Facebook’s got the most potential for doing something interesting just because they’ve got a larger space and a broad spectrum of users. It’s not just professionals but amateurs…Facebook hasn’t done much with photography but I’m hoping that they’ll look at that…when it comes to integrating a lot of social apps I think they have a lot of interesting things they can do.

If you could magically improve photo communities worldwide what would you do? Would you like to expand and grow the photo safaris you do now?

Yeah, like with anything else though, as a small company we have to be cautious about where we spend out time and resources but we definitely want to do more… we have to strike a balance between what we do with events, and the store, and the book that’s coming out. But definitely is a different experience when we bring people together that have a common interest in the real world instead of online it brings and and creates a much stronger relationship with people. We’d love to do that more. The ones that we have done so far are in New York and Las Vegas and we’ve really enjoyed them.

What is your favorite type of camera?

Small. Smaller is better. I honestly wish if I could just have a camera that was as good as a DSLR but could fit in my pocket I’d be just so jazzed about that. I think the best camera is the one that you have with you all the time. I’m actually in the market right now because I spilled some water on my camera at PMA and it stopped working and I’ve been looking around and I just wish there was something small and wonderful like on my phone so I wouldn’t have to have a second device to carry around. The camera on the iPhone is too crappy.

Conclusions + Takeaways

  • Create a community about something you are 1000% passionate about. Running the community shouldn’t sound like work, it should sound like a whole bunch of fun.
  • Don’t micromanage. Learn to delegate. Give a fair chance to those who you delegate to.
  • Strive for user created content as much as possible.
  • Do one thing and do it very well. Photojojo publishes an insanely great newsletter on photography.

Damian Davila

Ideas and concepts from Damian Davila, Ecuatoriano thriving in Hawaii. Pro marketer and blogger. Find him at @idaconcpts on Twitter.