Synergy: Making the Most of your Digital Assets
By Ilene France
At the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, we are learning that digital channels are most effective when they work together. When various online properties cross-promote one another, they create a synergy that maximizes impact beyond what can achieved through a single channel, thus allowing us to communicate with larger audiences, which furthers our mission.
NIAID’s Life Cycle of the Malaria Parasite image provides an example.
This medical illustration describes the life cycle of the mosquito-borne parasite that causes and transmits malaria. The image was launched on the NIAID website in January, 2008. When NIAID launched its Flickr photostream in October, 2010, the malaria life cycle illustration was included.
Over time, we began to notice that the Life Cycle of the Malaria Parasite illustration on the NIAID website was viewed with increasing frequency. We wondered why this illustration was becoming so popular, when we had not actively promoted it. Flickr statistics showed that this is the second-most viewed image on the NIAID Flickr site, with 584 lifetime views in mid-February, 2012. That seemed like a respectable number, but not large enough to account for the increased views on the public website. So, we did a little more investigation.
The Life cycle of the Malaria Parasite image has been on the NIAID Flickr channel for approximately 16 months.
- In the 16 months preceding its launch on Flickr, the image had been viewed 4,782 times on the NIAID website.
- In the 16 months after the launch, it was viewed 56,370 times on the website.
- This is an increase of 1,079%!
This increase, while astonishing, was also mysterious. Although it seemed that the availability of the image on Flickr was likely a major factor, the 584 views of the image on Flickr could not directly account for the more than 56,000 on the site during the same time period. Further, referrals to the image on the website were primarily from search engines and not from Flickr.
Further investigation revealed that actions we had taken on both Flickr and the NIAID site supported making the image more findable. As visitors found and used the image, others became more aware of its existence. As awareness increased, more people searched for the image; used it; distributed it; and perpetuated the cycle of building awareness, searches and views.
During the months that followed the Flickr launch, two simultaneous efforts were undertaken. We embarked on a project to tag Flickr images so that would rank highly in Flickr searches. As a result, a search on the term malaria displayed the Life cycle of the Malaria Parasite on the first page of Flickr search results. A search on the specific term malaria life cycle displayed the image as the first result.
At the same time, NIAID was improving search engine optimization on its website. Due to this effort, a Google search on the term malaria life cycle resulted in Life Cycle of the Malaria Parasite appearing as the first result on the Google page. In fact, referring searches to the NIAID website for variations of the term malaria life cycle have increased by over 500% since the image was launched in Flickr. The term malaria life cycle is now one of the top ten referring terms to the entire website.
The example of the Life Cycle of the Malaria Parasite illustration demonstrates that digital channels work best when they work together. As the image gained exposure through multiple channels, it was used and distributed, leading to increased awareness. Increased awareness leads to more searches, which in turn leads to greater exposure.
This type of cross-platform synergy makes the most of your digital assets.
Ilene France is a digital information specialist for the New Media and Web Policy Branch at the National Institutes of Health.
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