Selfie marketing: The white-hot trend for brands

Tying the ubiquitous behavior to consumers’ longing to identify with something ‘famous,’ this tactic gets your fans to promote your product or service with little cost and huge ROI.

From Pope Francis to Darth Vader, from President Barack Obama to Kim Kardashian, everyone is taking selfies.

Ellen DeGeneres tallied 33 million views and 2.4 million retweets for her Oscars selfie. Oxford Dictionaries even announced “selfie” as the Word of the Year in 2013.

Whether you like it or not, the “selfie” is here to stay.

I find selfies fascinating. Not so much for myself, although I do take them now and then, but for marketers. The selfie provides a terrific opportunity for marketers to support something people are already doing and integrate themselves into ongoing conversations in authentic ways.

With selfies, brand managers can encourage fans to become part of an insta-community built on an activity or theme that is on brand and serves a specific strategic purpose.

Here are four examples of great selfie campaigns.

Hostess capitalized on the fact that Minions look just like Twinkies, partnering with Universal to create to give fans a chance to win a trip to Paris.

Fashion designer Marc Jacobs put out a casting call to find the “Next Face of Marc Jacobs.” To become eligible, fans posted to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #CastMeMarc. Within one day, the brand received 15,000 entries, and by the campaign’s end it reported a total tally of 70,000.

Beats held a campaign called Solo Selfie to promote Solo2. With the support of major celebrity talent, Beats asked consumers to take a video selfie from one side of the headphones to the other and post using #SoloSelfie. More than 9,000 users participated.

California Pizza Kitchen designed What We Do For Love during Valentine’s Day and tapped major players, including top talent from “The Bachelor,” to post what they do for love along with #CPKLoveSweeps.

Participants vied for the chance to receive free California Pizza Kitchen food for a year, and all images were pulled into a feed gallery app, creating an insta-community centered on the brand and Valentine’s Day. The restaurant chain followed up with a “Dear Mom” sweepstakes that asked fans to post selfies celebrating their moms for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas.

How powerful is selfie marketing, and how do you measure it?

In today’s cluttered world of advertising, brand managers must build connections with consumers so they’ll engage with branded content. Paid media presence is not as effective as it once was.

The best marketers are coming up with ideas to encourage customers to market their brand to their friends in fun and entertaining ways. According to Nielsen, impressions have three times the value of ads and sponsored posts, as there are few things more valuable than referrals coming from people we know.

Ninety-two percent of people believe in recommendations coming from friends, and only 47 percent and 33 percent believe in TV ads and banners, respectively, according to the Nielsen Global Advertising Trust Study.

The easiest way to measure selfie media versus paid media placements is through cost per engagement. Our company’s selfie and influencer campaigns report CPE rates in the 20- to 30-cent range, which is one-half to one-third of what we see with paid placements.

As for impressions, it’s a little harder to measure, but one way to look at the analysis for Instagram is to tally the average number of friends (843) and use an estimated reach of friends. Tap Influence estimates this number at 35 percent.

What are best practices for selfie marketing?

The idea: Tie the selfie to an activity or theme that is simple, fun and shareable and promotes your brand. The aforementioned California Pizza Kitchen campaigns are good examples.

The incentive: Provide motivation to post and #xyzSweeps to encourage people to participate. The best incentives are those that money can’t buy, such as the Marc Jacobs modeling contest.

Feed app: Use a feed app that collects all the submissions in one destination (via a hashtag), creating a community that allows you to display and promote all the submissions in a tab or microsite.

Content license: Set up the terms and conditions of your program so that you have the licensing rights to the posted content. The more unique the URL, the easier it will be to claim the rights.

Content approval process: Use a feed app that enables you to approve or reject the content. Though you can’t prevent what people post to their own pages, you can be selective in what you include on your own page through a content management system.

Photos versus videos: Though we are fans of video submission for the right campaign, it is a higher bar to clear than submitting a photo. More often than not, photos will generate more participation, more shares and more reach.

The right social networks: Encourage consumers to use Instagram. Unlike Facebook, whose algorithm limits views to 10-15 percent of a friend base, Instagram posts reach a much higher percentage of friends, estimated at 25-35 percent. Vine is also powerful if you are focusing on video and a younger demographic.

Promote your campaigns: Use paid placements and influencer marketing to promote the campaigns. Influential people lend tremendous credibility to campaigns and encourage others to participate. Remember that every user engagement will be amplified so that your advertising and sponsored content dollars can go even further.

Selfie marketing is hot and is still new, which means it’s the best time to jump in. Getting users to participate is easier than you think, and few things are better than watching your customers endorse your brand to their friends, while having a ton of fun doing so.

John Bohan is CEO and founder of Socialtyze. A version of this article originally ran on

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