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‘Selfie’ is emerging as an effective PR tool?

(To celebrate ‘International Selfie Day’ today with BBC)

‘Selfie’ – the craze for sharing self-taken self-portrait photos – is clearly a super hot topic right now. Surprisingly, while it just was born in January 2011, over three years later, there are more than 75 million Instagram photos tagged #selfie. ‘Selfie’ has also been named the word of the year for 2013 by Oxford Dictionaries, due to research indicating that usage of the word has increased by 17,000% in the last twelve months and the phenomenon shows no signs of abating in 2014.

#Selfie Song

The leading US website Huffington Post predicts social media in 2014 won’t be about how many followers / fans or likes you have, but about engagement and generating quality content that grabs people. It seems like ‘selfie’ has gone into the middle of mainstream and been the latest in this major shift in content creation. That is to say, a picture is worth a thousand words and ‘show not tell’ is exactly what ‘selfie’ is doing. ‘Selfie’ can communicate much more effectively than any status, showing what you look like, your expression, where you are, who you are with, which makes it become a speech act rather than a standard picture. Moreover, in the ever-expanding digital space, a human face is a break in a constant stream of links, text and graphics.

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 3.48.09 PM

We have certainly seen the success of PR stunts utilising the power of ‘selfie’ across social media networks. From the Cara Delevingne’s ‘selfie’ at London Fashion Week giving Giles Deacon 2% of the Twitter talk to Ellen DeGeneres’s selfie in Oscar night with the tech brand SamSung behind which has become the most-retweeted picture of all time (over 3 million times).


Now we also have #nomakeupselfie which has raised £8 million for Cancer Research UK in just a matter of weeks. The campaign hasn’t remained within the UK only; it has gone worldwide. People all around the world, including celebrities, have been taking their make-up off and posting their #nomakeupselfie on their personal social networks. It the reason why until now, my Facebook and Twitter timelines are still full of ‘selfies’ taken by ladies wearing no make-up with the aim of getting involve the campaign raising awareness of cancer.

good pr nomakeupselfie

Obviously, these campaigns have proven to the world – yet again – the power of ‘selfies’ in particular and social media in general in the today’s PR industry. Simply put from PR perspective, it now is a great opportunity for any brands – whatever demographic they are targeting to use ‘selfie’ in viral campaign as a way to attract and engage with your followers / fans. But the most important point now is how can a brand compete and stand out from others since there will soon be a surge in the number of brands also being in the ‘selfie’ business in time to come?

In other words, it is easy for any brands to organise a ‘selfie’ contest and provide a platform for people to promote their ‘selfies’ through. However, in order to have a successful ‘selfie’ strategy, PR practitioners have to know clearly that the power of this emerging tool depends on the meaning of ‘selfies’ itself.

Brian Greene, (2013), in his article on PR News Online, has suggested three tips to design a good ‘selfie’ campaign:

  • Connect with your audience: It means that the concept of ‘selfies’ needs to be relevant to the brand’s target audiences with the aim of generating not only awareness and attention but engagement as well.
  • Have a message or purpose: ‘Selfies’ themselves often appear frivolous, lacking a serious purpose but if we want to persuade our audiences to take ‘selfies’ with the brand and spread them across social networks, we need to provide them incentives, such as a clear message or purpose.
  • Make it a human moment: By its nature, ‘selfie’ can be seen as a way for people to show what they are and how they feel. By putting emotional aspects to this tool, our campaign can trigger feelings within people and consequently receive their desired response.

So what now?

Whether you have already been a part of #teamselfie and whether you have posted #nomakeupselfie or not, I strongly believe you can’t deny the power of ‘selfies’ on social media today. In the light of this context, what you are still waiting for when not starting to experiment this emerging PR tool by yourself?


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