I'm a self-admitted old codger. I grew up before the internet existed. I can remember life before answering machines, and before today's ubiquitous smart phones. Talking about the new phenomenon of selfies, it's pretty easy to grouse that selfies represent the shallowest, most narcissistic tendencies of the younger generation (and many of my own generation), and to denounce selfies as the end of civilization! Fortunately when I launch into one of my "old man" rants, my kids will eventually tell me to calm down and take a deep breath. Actually, I've come to realize, selfies aren't the end of civilization. If anything, they represent mankind coming full circle, back to our roots, and businesses would do well to accept and embrace the new selfie phenomenon, which like it or not, is probably here to stay...
Cave drawings... the original selfies.
One could actually argue that selfies aren't a new thing at all, but rather they were one of the earliest forms of human communication. Remember the cave drawings you learned about in school? Before humans had written words, they were scratching images of themselves onto cave walls... the original selfie. And do you remember the Voyager spacecraft we sent traveling out into outer space and beyond in 1977, hoping it might be found by unknown life forms in a distant galaxy who might then contact us. What was the image that was included in the message on the Voyager should it ever be found? Leonardo DaVinci's iconic Vitruvian man, yet another "human selfie". Selfies are a simple, effective way of communicating and expressing ourselves. And maybe, just maybe, selfies really aren't such a bad thing.
The right way (and wrong way) to do selfies.
Of course, not all selfies are a good thing. There's a right way, and a wrong way, to do a selfie. As I wrote in a previous post here at Social Media Today, 20-year-old Jen Selter discovered the power of the selfie. She took a photo of her derriere in yoga pants, and now has more than 2.6 million followers on Instagram, more than 653,000 likes on Facebook, and 360,000 followers on Twitter. That's an excellent example of the right way to do a selfie. But there's also a wrong way to do selfies... just ask Anthony Weiner. Selfies may not be the end of civilization, but they can be the end of a political career!
Businesses should embrace selfies.
Rather than rant about shallowness and narcissism, businesses should recognize that selfies aren't such a bad thing (they worked for cavemen and Jen Selter, after all). Maybe instead, we can harness the new selfie phenomenon to promote our business. At my company which produces custom-printed trade show displays, we're developing a section on our website for "customer selfies". We'll ask customers to take a selfie of themselves at their next trade show with their Pinnacle Displays trade show display in the background, and then submitted the picture to us. We'll post the selfie picture with a caption including their company name and the trade show they're exhibiting at. It will show our product in action, and will be publicity both for our "selfie" customer and for us. It's the best form of marketing... a win-win. Consider this same "selfie" marketing idea for your own business. Ask customers to take a selfie with your product, and then post the selfies on your website or blog.
The selfie phenomenon is probably here to stay, whether we like it or not. It's not the end of civilization, nor is it the end of the world.
Don't fight it. Embrace it. And don't forget to smile and say cheese!