I'm not a big fan of photos of myself. I always see flaws that are probably not obvious to anyone else and most of the time, I'm happy to enough to live with the version I see of myself in the morning mirror check. Generally, I would say this attitude is reflective of most people I know - but most people I know aren't millennials, where the 'selfie' has grown into one of the biggest digital trends of recent memory.
If you look up '#selfie' on Instagram you'll be bombarded with millions of matches to scan through - more than 88 million to be precise. Everywhere you go you'll see people, arm stretched out in front, hand hooked round their phone, pouting and flashing peace signs. It's become so normal that no one even looks twice anymore, there's a general understanding of the selfie process. And with so many selfies being taken, it's a no-brainer for brands think about how they can utilise that trend for exposure. And many have already done just that.
Brands and Selfies
There are already a raft of examples of brands building campaigns around selfies, some successfully, others not so much. As with any trend, businesses will seek to access a ready-made audience, but it also takes a level of comprehension on how best to do so - as with all aspects of social media, understanding your audience is critical to success. There is definitely opportunity within the selfie trend, but brands have to establish the best way to realise it, what will resonate with your target consumers. This requires listening, monitoring trends to know what your audience will and won't engage with. But it also necessitates an understanding of the psychology of selfies, of why people engage in this activity in the first place.
Selfies and Self-Esteem
There are basically two schools of thought on the psychological reinforcement of selfies.
One is that selfies are actually good for self-esteem. This makes sense - if the culture of selfies is instilled at a young age, then people are growing up taking photos of themselves. Theoretically, this will make them more comfortable with their own self-image, which could lead to a more resilient self-esteem overall. There's also those that post selfies for the positive re-enforcement - in most cases, these people are already going to have relatively high self worth. Selfies provide the latter group with an opportunity to get comments and 'Likes', building their ego and underlining that confidence.
The second school of thought is that selfies are sometimes taken by those with low self-worth, people in need of approval and validation, whose self-esteem is based on 'public contingencies', how they are perceived by others. This group will often present themselves in a more sexualised way, geared towards gaining as many comments as possible to prop-up a more fragile sense of self.
Definitely, both of these aspects are represented amongst those regularly posting selfie images, which raises the question of how best to utilise this trend for marketing, and then, with the latter group, is it ethical to do so?
Successful Selfie Campaigns
Some brands have seen great success in selfie campaigns, reporting significant increases in user engagement. Axe Deodorant recently ran a selfie campaign to coincide with Valentine's Day, in which users were tasked with submitting photos of themselves kissing with the hashtag #kissforpeace. The campaign garnered more than 10,000 tweets, with similar numbers on Instagram. Fashion brands encourage the use of selfies, which they then post on their own blogs or Pinterest pages. Jewellery companies regularly call on users to submit their best images of them in their designs to be shared from their social media profiles and broadcast to their many fans.
There's a clear sense of validation with all these promotions, a boost people get from being able to share their own images. It would suggest, too, that the people taking part in these promotions are more likely from the first group - those with high or stable self-esteem who are keen to get a boost from having their image broadcast. Ideally, that's the target audience your seeking in any selfie campaign, those who are confident, and who will gain more confidence from your promotion. Selfies can have a healthy psychological impact, and that's the aspect you need to reinforce.
Notes for Using Selfies in your Social Media Marketing
- Behavioural research indicates that people in the target mindset (high or stable self-esteem) are generally associating purchases with image benefits. If your product can be associated with terms like 'sparkle', 'slimming', 'exciting' and 'fun' then you should consider trying out a selfie campaign.
- Consider your position in the well-being of participants in your campaign - are your images likely to empower the participant, give them a boost? If so, it's worth investigating, but if you're seeking sexualised or exploitative images, it's likely those participants would fall into the latter category of those with lower self-esteem, and it may not be the best route to go down.
- Products like jewellery, make-up, physical additions that make people feel good about themselves - these are things people want to show off, and giving them the opportunity to do so is definitely a good basis for a selfie promotion. Also consider the activities of those who are in the target categories - those with healthy self-esteem might go to the gym, eat a more balanced diet, take care of themselves a bit better to maintain that self-image. If that's your audience, you're likely to get a good response.
Many of these notes are somewhat obvious, but as with all social media campaigns, you need to know your audience and what they'll respond best to, rather than simply tagging onto the latest trend. Selfies have the power to encourage self acceptance and boost people's confidence. In order to use them best, in a marketing sense, these are the elements you should keep in mind. Helping people feel good about themselves is a great way to enhance your brand community, and used intelligently, selfies can play a significant part in spreading a positive brand message.