INTERVIEW: “Social media’s a great opportunity, but also a great challenge” - Getty Images

You might not associate Getty Images with social media, but the two are increasingly important to each other. With imagery becoming the primary currency on social networks, Getty finds itself more and more in demand. Here, the firm’s head of social media, Zak Akhimien, talks about Getty’s social strategy.

¤ What is your role at Getty Images?

I'm the head of social media. I look after the social strategy for Getty as a whole. We have a large social offering. We have about 60 different accounts spread across 15 countries. We offer such a wide range of content – imagery, video and music – that is also split into verticals like sport, fashion, entertainment and so on, so there are a lot of different audiences.

¤ What is Getty’s social media strategy?

Social media is increasingly important to us because our customers are using content across social. We ourselves try to talk to all our different audiences across social media. We’ve almost become a publisher in our own right. That helps us to understand the needs of our customers better, when we look at how our audience is consuming the content across social media. We use social media in a number of other ways like content acquisition, social CRM, analytics and so on. We don’t just use it as a marketing channel.  

¤ How does Getty monetise social media?

We don’t use social media as a direct revenue generation source, but we use it in a number of other capacities. We’re a company driven by innovation, so products like the Feed (a platform thatscans social networks to match images for trending topics and events), use the social space to show how we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate the needs of our clients.

Content acquisition is a big part for us as well. That’s not revenue, but it is one of the more unique ways that we use social media, in terms of answering client briefs, putting it out on social networks and sourcing specific content. For example, a client might want a picture of a dam in Northern China and we might not have that particular image on file, but we’ll put out a tweet through one of our specific Twitter accounts and get on average 300 to 500 replies in a five-hour period with links to people’s Flickr sets and we can then select the image from there.

¤ How is the Feed progressing?

The Feed is really exciting. What is interesting is that when we launched it, a lot of people couldn’t anticipate what it could do for them and a year later we are seeing a lot more requests from clients for it as a tool. Since its launch in January we’ve also added new capabilities such as publishing to Tumblr or to multiple Facebook pages. People focus on the fact that it sources trending imagery, but they might not be as aware that it enables you to publish that imagery at volume onto social media.

¤ Does Getty plan to monetise the Feed?

Getty is always talking with clients and partners about how to use the Feed. We’re looking at how to optimise it, but definitely monetisation is in mind. When we launched it, it was essentially a showcase for our new connect API, but we’re always looking at how to extract more value from the service.

¤ How are tie-ups with social media platforms like Pinterest important?

We’re always looking for partners. There is no way you can be in the position we are, as a leading digital media company, and not look to work with social media platforms like Pinterest and find the best way forward that benefits the contributors, the platform and our customers. We’ve got a great history of partnerships with social media platforms so I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more.

¤ How does Getty see its role in social media evolving?

Social media is a huge part of what we do. We take great care and pride in how we safeguard the rights of our contributors. This is a continuing hot topic in social media. At the same time, we’re cognisant of the fact that we need to keep innovating. Social media is a great opportunity, but it’s also a great challenge for us and it’s one of the few areas in the company that everyone has an opinion on.