A prefect's musings on digital and social media

Category Archives: Opposition to Social Media

Are selfies the new Marmite? Some people love them and some people hate them but one thing is for sure – selfies are here to stay. There’s even been a song written in homage to them.

Warning: extremely catchy and there is a medium to high possibility of your eardrum breaking.


Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now, to truly understand the obsession and recent social acceptance of selfies we’ve got to rewind to where it all began…. 1839. Yes that’s right, selfies are not a 21st century discovery. In fact we actually owe our current obsession to Robert Cornelieus, an American pioneer of photography. Oh Robert, some would argue he started a surge in self-confidence whilst others would say self-obsession.

Despite the first official selfie being taken in 1839 the trend only really burst onto the viral stage in 2012. By the end of  the year, the Times Magazine had declared the term ‘selfie’ one of the top ten buzzwords.


Shocking selfies

Many people have their doubts about selfies, with some even going as far to say that they can lead to severe problems such as anorexia and depression.  How can a simple selfie be capable of such damage? Recently, news broke of a teenager, Danny Bowman, from Newcastle upon Tyne, who attempted suicide after struggling with crippling body image and anorexia. On ITV’s ‘This Morning’, Bowman said his decline into body obsession originated with selfies. Here’s a video of Danny Bowman on ‘This Morning’ explaining how his obsession with selfies had major consequences…


Statistics from the National Children’s Bureau were incredible,  with seventy per cent of adult women and forty per cent of adult men feeling pressured from television and magazines to have a perfect body. Selfies and these statistics are contribute to this pressure and desire to look ‘socially acceptable’ in this new and obsessive culture.


Impressive Impact

However, there is always a positive and selfies are no exception. These controversial photographs can be snapshots and memories just like normal pictures; selfies are just the modern 21st century update.

In fact, selfies have achieved much more than previous crazes. In March 2014, Cancer Research launched the campaign ‘No make-up selfies’ on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. In six days women took selfies without makeup and uploaded them to social media sites and then donated to the charity via text. These quick, easy and simple selfies raised £8 million. The campaign went viral as women uploaded their selfie nominating others to continue the chain.  All of this was achieved through the medium of selfies. A rather impressive feat for ‘just’ another viral phenomenon.

no makeup selfies

Top: Michelle Heaton, Holly Willoughby and Kym Marsh in their no-makeup selfies. Below: how they usually appear

cancer research

Cancer Research Representative

Selfies are part of our viral existence and despite negative drawbacks, selfies have achieved a lot more than other previous crazes. I mean, even Oscar winning celebrities have gotten in on the act.  This is probably the most famous and record-breaking selfie  with an incredible 3, 404, 230 million retweets!


Selfies have made it. Made it through the one-hit wonder auditions. Made it into the semi-finals of up and coming trends. Finally, selfies exploded onto the final viral stage alongside hashtags and tweeps before taking home the grand prize of social acceptance.

Congratulations selfies –  you’ve made it.



Today we have a guest post from our wonderful intern Will, about the challenge digital marketers face in reaching him via Social Networking channels…..

The rise of facebook as one of the most popular methods of communication with friends (surpassing face to face contact time in many friendships) has not escaped marketing boards: facebook is obviously one of the best ways of reaching an audience, particularly young people; they cannot look away from the screen as they can when watching TV and most importantly they spend an inordinate amount of time on it. But just how effective is social media advertising? Do people really spend as much time on facebook as it is claimed?

I would say that my facebook consumption is fairly representative of people my age: although I go on it a handful of times per day, it is generally only for a minute or so; if there is nothing of interest (this is the case the vast majority of the time) then I will promptly log off. Admittedly there are some zombies who somehow spend hours perusing the endless streams of statuses, photos and videos, but I think that for a facebook advert to be effective, it needs to stand out quickly or risk being overlooked.

To examine how effective facebook advertising really is, I’m going to examine and review 3 facebook adverts that catch my eye.

The first is an (at first) compelling ad for studying law at Northumbria University. It claims that it is the “highest ranked mondern law school” in the UK. It’s simple, effective and the link leads to the course info page on the university website. It’s not asking me to like anything, or offering me slightly dodgy sounding rewards but simply showing me concise information about their product…Although I wouldn’t use it myself, it’s a good advert and a good product, although I feel that it should be targeted at older people as to my knowledge people of my generation don’t go in for distance learning courses. Sadly I feel it is completely ruined by the spelling mistake which calls into question their original claim…

Ad number 2 is for the film Contraband which is apparently now available on iTunes…this one strikes me as much more professional (correct spellings do help) but in terms of the link it is on a par with the previous one: it is clear, gives me all the info and further links I need to see (e.g. buy now) straight away and doesn’t come with any annoying extra pop ups. In terms of the market I’d say it is well placed: I do have a soft spot for action films and the fact that the page the ad is linked to has visible positive reviews helps the overall persuasive effect and does make me slightly want to watch the film. Finally the link to the trailer will (hopefully) close the deal for most people who have got this far, even if they decide to wait and buy the film on DVD for a more reasonable price.

Finally ad number 3: A compelling Sky package offer which offers a £100 M&S voucher if I were to join now online. The link is once again good, with additional details given to me such as exactly what SkyTV involves and how much a monthly subscription is. At the top and middle of the page are large ADD TO BASKET buttons and at the bottom are several reasons in large print why I should switch to or join Sky. Overall a very compelling deal, and with thought the market choice makes sense: the Sky channels appeal to me and the voucher to my parents: therefore household arguments over the deal are likely to be few and far between.

It would seem that (at last) advertisers have begun to learn that popups, requirements to access my information and demands to like things are bad and put me, the challenge, off. For me and for most people, clear concise information and a minimalist approach to web pages make for an attractively presented, and therefore much more compelling facebook pitch.

But the questions remains: would I ever ‘in real life’ have clicked on these adverts? The answer in this case is no, in fact I cannot remember ever clicking on random facebook ads and I confess I don’t really notice them…But it would seem that I am in a minority as this form of advertising is apparently extremely effective, and if ever I see an advert that interests me I certainly won’t avoid it out of principle.

Only a fifth of marketers in organisations including Coca-Cola, RBS and the COI view social media as a core element of their marketing strategy, according to a study by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

I hate to harp on a point (I just can’t help myself), but perhaps the distinction here is the use of the qualifying ‘core’ element.  Should social media be a core element of a marketing strategy or complimentary to it?  Once again, I would suggest the latter in most cases (though there are always exceptions)…

Perhaps more worrying and in need of clarification is the fact that a third of respondents believe that some responsibility for social media lies with the PR department, 12% that the research department should be involved, and 7% that IT is best placed to deal with social-media strategies.  Social media has still not found its home within the marketing mix and until it does so many companies will remain ‘skeptical’ of it. 

It is up to the social media champions amongst us to investigate, understand and demonstrate to our companies and clients how it can effectively work for them.  Social media can offer brands a wealth of opportunities, try exploring them before being skeptical.

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