All Hail the Selfie – How Content Marketing Snaps into the Self Portrait Trend

You’ve seen them and you probably have a love/hate relationship with them. Some are funny, some are flirty, and some are downright distressing. Yes, we’re talking about the selfie — the self-portrait, usually snapped with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. No matter what your stance is on this online photo phenomena, it is a defining factor of cyber-life in 2014.

So much so that it was awarded the coveted Oxford Dictionary “Word of the Year” title in 2013. Language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors reveals that the frequency of the word selfie in the English language increased by 17,000% since 2012. That’s a big statement for such a small word!

Without a doubt, self-portrait photography has been around as long as cameras have. According to Social Media Today, the birth of the selfie can be attributed to MySpace, which requested users upload a “MySpace pic” to their profiles in 2006. As Facebook and the iPhone 4′s front-facing camera were introduced to the masses, the selfie matured. Then, Instagram and filtered photos hit smartphones in 2011, and the selfie craze exploded across social networks.

The Selfie Meets Marketing

So why should content marketers take note of this self-obsessed behavior usually attributed to Millennials? In recent years it has moved from a simple trend to full-blown social phenomenon. Now their growing presence across social networks means marketers can use selfies in a variety of creative campaigns. Of course, selfies may not be relevant forever (just like any online trend or meme), but their current popularity speaks to the growing influence of photo sharing and messaging.

Let’s break it down: If I post a selfie, there’s much more to it than the content (my smiling, shocked or disappointed face). There’s also the context — where am I, what am I doing, what am I wearing, who’s with me, what else is in the photo, and even the caption that goes along with the post. This is where smart content marketers can run with the selfie and be creative with their strategy.

Selfie Success Stories

You could argue that the culture of the selfie encourages social narcissism, but if you are a marketer who stays on his toes, it can also mean simple brand promotion by your fans.

Foodie Selfie
Restaurant chain Hooters encouraged customers to post selfies while enjoying their experience at the popular restaurant with the hashtag #stepintoawesome.

Zombified Selfie
Other brands took the selfie craze a step further and helped their followers create even more mesmerizing self-portraits. Producers of the hit TV show The Walking Dead created the “Dead Yourself” app, which lets users “zombify” their selfies and share the finished product online with the hashtag #deadyourself.

Selfless Selfie
Another app took a more selfless approach. Johnson & Johnson is using selfies for social good with its “Selfless Selfie” campaign. Participants subscribe to its free “Donate a Photo” app and for every photo uploaded via the app, the brand makes a $1 contribution towards a charity of the user’s choice.

Real-World Selfie
Dove recently launched their “Real Beauty” campaign where they asked high school girls to describe what they didn’t like about themselves physically. They followed up with selfies that were later displayed in a small gallery, where visitors posted sticky notes featuring encouraging comments about physical features they liked.

Selfie vs. Selfie
Turkish Airlines hit the jackpot with their “Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout” video. It generated more than 74 million views in less than a week through the power of celebrities and harnessing the fact that selfies are inherent social expressions that anyone can do.

Selfies and You

Have you participated in a selfie campaign or do you have ideas for a unique twist on the selfie? Discuss in the comments below!

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