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.
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.
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.
Top: Michelle Heaton, Holly Willoughby and Kym Marsh in their no-makeup selfies. Below: how they usually appear
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.
Views, likes, shares and tweets – If your campaign is going to succeed these near sacred words are going to define it. In a media climate in which everyone competes to carve out a digital presence, ‘going viral’ has become the foundation of many marketing strategies.
The essence of creating a viral campaign is the ability to make something shareable. This necessity for the content to be organically shared from person to person usually means it has to be amusing or shocking in some way.
Although this may sound obvious this simple fact has completely changed the style of mainstream advertising. Traditionally adverts were often based around a sense of aspiration, whether its scantily dressed supermodels parading around or coffee being served in the house of your dreams, products sat upon this glossy pedestal. Although this element of aspiration still underpins the messages of modern campaigns, increasingly adverts are tailored for virality by being controversial, funny and most importantly raw.
A good example to illustrate this change in style is delivered by the evolution of Pepsi adverts:
Here you can see the clear difference the Internet has made. Video hosting platforms, such as Youtube, are at the heart of this change not only in terms of how the advert can be shared but also the aesthetic style of the advert. Very often viral campaigns are centred around a first person or fly on the wall style, tapping into real life experience and ultimately allowing a much more intimate relationship to be made between the brand and the consumer.
As well as Youtube, social media platforms, such as Twitter, act as important catalysts in the modern viral process due to the hash tagging function. This is used to great effect by Pepsi as they deliver their homemade style advert coupled with the hash tag #gordontestdrive. Creating this allows your content to ‘trend’ which essentially means the content becomes popular within twitter, with the activity accumulating under this particular hash tag category. This functionality can be seen below where the ‘Trends’ column shows live updates of the most popular hashtags, whilst the search for #gordontestdrive shows how Twitter users have interacted and shared the content:
Aside from the advantage of having your message and product rapidly shared across the world, viral PR campaigns are comparatively cheap to make whilst being far more engaging.
To summarise, the most important way to make your material viral is to make it engaging. We all share videos with our friends and family, think of the style of content this is usually comprised of; whether it’s a cute dog doing a trick or someone hilariously falling over, the content is usually relatable, shocking or believable. When it comes to creating your own promotional material the most important thing to remember is to be innovative and imaginative, the sheer scale of platforms such as Youtube means that material quickly becomes copied and indistinguishable, how are you going to make your message stand out?
Whilst I was studying for my PR certificate last fall, we were required to put together a hypothetical PR plan for the (deep breath now!) international association for the measurement and evaluation of communication’s (AMEC – phew!) fictional conference which was designed to raise awareness of the Barcelona Principles. I felt that now would be a good time to spill the insights I gleamed from this assignment…
What are they?
Firstly what are the Barcelona Principles? They are not the rules to a Spanish drinking game (disappointingly) or the latest Mediterranean fashion trends; they are actually a set of guidelines designed by chaps like the CIPR, PRSA and ICCO at AMEC Barcelona Conference in 2010, which encourage PROs to produce more vigorous and quantifiable methods to evaluate and measure communication, something especially important in this social media age.
If Moses had been a PR man, this is what the big cheese would have said to him on Mount Sinai about communication measurement:
- Goal setting and measurement are important
- Media measurement requires quantity and quality
- AVEs are not the value of public relations
- Social media can and should be measured
- Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring media results (outputs)
- Organisational results and outcomes should be measured whenever possible
- Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement.
What does this mean for PR?
Well, one thing is for sure, these principles definitely put the last nail in the AVE coffin; advertising value equivalent, AMEC argues, is an inaccurate and old-fashioned mode of evaluating PR activities, (think more old-school mad men) and it is no longer enough to attribute advertising value to how many column inches you secured. We were taught that PR campaigns must have clearly defined goals which can be measured from the outset – whether that be how many key messages were included in an article or how many followers commented on a blog post.
Similarly, there has been a clear shift to measuring the outcomes of a campaign not simply the results; how many people changed their behaviour patterns is a better method for evaluating the success of a campaign over how many followers you achieved or how many pieces of coverage you secured. Lastly, adopting the same approach to measuring PR activities is crucial for creating robust and credible evaluation.
So there you have it –a summary of what makes good measurement!
Yesterday I received a very poorly targeted piece of mobile marketing, a text message from a company called H&R (whom I have never heard of…but do feel free to enlighten me if you have) saying ‘now that the kids are back to school it is time to think about YOU. We have plenty of packages for YOU time at H&R, call xxx’ etc. etc. You get the general idea.
So why was this so poorly targeted, I am after all very keen on ME time. What H&R had neglected to notice is that I do not have any children…I may have a requirement for me time, but this has not been as a result of a hectic summer holidays with the kids at home (the closest I get to kids in my household, my boyfriend, has in fact been very well behaved throughout the summer holidays).
Mobile marketing, which is widely credited as beginning in 2000, is not distinct from many other forms of marketing in the fact that it can often fall foul to poorly targeted marketing. But this is somewhere that social media marketing in particular (and arguably mobile marketing as well) must get it right – because it is encroaching on people’s personal domains. Facebook profiles, in particular, are often very personal arenas – they are places where we socialise with our friends, share pictures of nights out, post updates on our day to day activities. They are certainly NOT places where we want to be spammed with inappropriate and irrelevant content.
Perhaps this is where Facebook’s profile targets advertising (e.g. advertising targeted at your interest) comes into its own. Initially people were wary, but would you not rather receive an advert for something that is relevant to you than targeting men with feminine hygiene products, for example.
Companies should also be bearing this in mind when targeting consumers through social networking sites with their own profile pages and news feeds. The golden rules being:
- Make sure information is correctly targeted
- Ensure that information you are supplying is both relevant and interesting to your audience
- Make sure it is accessible (e.g. can users easily identify what you company does and how it might be relevant to them)
Helen Edwards’ column in this week’s Marketing magazine really struck a cord with me “your social media strategy comes back to basic brand strategy”. It also emphasises the importance of integration – remembering that often social media will drive traditional campaigns or visa versa.
So when implementing your digital strategy you should adopt a back to basic approach and not neglect the following:
- When implementing a traditional media campaign, always think of the potential applications and additional possibilities offered by incorporating social media into your campaign;
- When implementing a social media campaign, always think of the potential applications and additional possibilities offered by incorporating traditional media into your campaign.
It sounds simple but often PR professionals lose site of this – social media may be (relatively) new and exciting, but it should not come at the expense of your existing media and brand strategy – it should enhance it.
Clever and effective media campaigns will be talked about online…but similarly clever and effective social media campaigns will probably feature in print as well…
The dawn of social media has opened up a sense of community amongst colleagues and public relations companies… the old adage ‘knowledge is power’ will no longer wash. In order for us all to keep up with the exceptionally fast paced evolution in digital marketing we have to collaborate and share knowledge in order to keep up; no [wo]man is an island and all that, and this is particularly true with social media – there is so much to learn that we simply cannot do it in isolation.
With this in mind, at Twelve, we have recently started ‘Digital Wednesday’ (which interestingly enough took place on a Thursday this week, we like to be quirky). This gives us the opportunity to discuss digital developments that we have heard about during the week, share interesting social media campaigns and discuss how we can utilise these developments for our company and our clients.
But the collaboration doesn’t have to stop within your company, and in fact it shouldn’t. The current hot topic of various networking events at the moment is ‘social media’, encouraging people to share ideas and examples of best practice. But whilst this is creeping in, I don’t think that we are yet making enough of the opportunity to share and learn from others about their own social media ‘finds’.
So this is a call to action…a virtual invitation to our Digital Wednesdays: use this blog to share your latest discoveries in social media, talk about campaigns or ask advice.
I love to get on my DigitalPrefect soap box and blog about social media, but please do feel free to share your knowledge with me too…after all, that is what social networking is all about…collaboration.