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Leverage the selfie to create deeper brand engagements

As the selfie becomes more popular, marketers should move quickly to tap into the trend as a way to drive consumer engagement before the quickly-evolving mobile space moves onto the next fad. 

The selfie, or a photograph taken of one?s self with a smartphone camera, has become a popular trend on social media, with consumers posting and sharing images of themselves in creative and fun ways. Marketers can take advantage of this trend by launching campaigns that integrate the selfie in social sharing.

?The selfie and other forms of user-generated content can be key elements to extend a campaign,? said Tom Edwards, vice president of digital strategy at The Marketing Arm, Dallas. ?Whether it's a form of submission for a promotion or recognizing a fan of the brand, tapping into a natural behavior and aligning it with the persona of the brand creates deeper engagement opportunities.?

Ahead of the game
A number of brands have already begun integrating the selfie into marketing campaigns.

They are asking consumers to take a selfie of themselves either with an item or in a specific location. Consumers will then be rewarded for sharing these selfies on social media.

For instance British retailer Ted Baker recently rolled out a campaign that asks customers to take selfies in front of digital displays and upload them to social media for a chance to win a prize (see story).

AT&T also ran the #BeTheFan campaign that incorporated selfies with college football. The campaign had actor Eric Stonestreet announce weekly challenges for users to submit user-generated content.

Selfie tips
When using the selfie, marketers should keep in mind the following best practices.

First and foremost, brands need to be aware of any legal issues involving selfies and user-generated content in general.

?Depending on how the content will be used, understanding individual brands legal requirements for terms use and waivers should be a key consideration,? Mr. Edwards said. ?With the introduction of direct messaging with Instagram and other curation platforms offering closed loop communication to get user approval it is becoming even easier to incorporate user-generated content.?

Once brands get the legal issues down, they need to make sure that the campaign is fun, creative and worth the consumer?s time.

?Brands can definitely leverage the popularity of the selfie to raise awareness for their brand through viral social media campaigns but they need to be smart about it,? said Alex Beim, founder and creative director at Tangible Interaction, Vancouver, Canada.

?For these campaigns to work, marketers need to make sure they are asking people to do something that benefits them ? is fun, cool, or memorable,? he said. ?If marketers do that, the brand will benefit as a result of this increased engagement.?

Mr. Beim advises that brands think about the consumer first before themselves. They should make sure that are asking consumers to be a part of the brand, not promote it.

Marketers should also make sure to review selfies for any inappropriate material that they do not want associated with the brand.

The future of the selfie
As with all trends and fads, the selfie will most not likely stick around forever, at least in its current form. Marketers should therefore jump on the bandwagon as soon as possible so that they can evolve along with the selfie.

?In 2014, people are going to get bored with seeing pictures of themselves and of seeing their friends? selfies,? Mr. Beim said. ?As the popularity of mobile increases and the use of mobile devices and apps matures, we are going to see things like selfies evolve. There will be some sort of evolution to the selfies, but we?re not sure what it will be.?

Sara Kowal, vice president of innovation at ePrize, Pleasant Ridge, MI, believes that the selfie will increase in popularity in 2014.

?As photo taking and sharing becomes easier and there are more and more tools (snapchat, Instagram, Vine) to share photos and videos, the selfie will continue to grow in popularity,? Ms. Kowal said.

?From our perspective, we help brands motivate consumer behavior and consumers love to create content,? she said. ?In fact, the creation of content and seeing it available on a brand page for your friends to see is sometimes all the motivation.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York