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2013 has been big for the selfie. In August it was officially added to the Oxford English dictionary and yesterday it was dubbed Word of the Year.
Selfie beat out such top contenders as binge-watch, bitcoin, showrooming, and twerk for the title. In a blog post, Oxford Dictionaries said that the use of the word ‘selfie’ has increased by 17,000% in the past year.
Ten selfie-related hashtags are responsible for more than 41 million photos on Instagram. The most popular of those hashtags is #Selfie (of course) with 34,900,000 posts as of October 2013. A study by Curulate found that duck-face selfies received 1,112% more likes than traditional selfies.
Selfie also won because of the multiple offshoots and cultural movements created by the word. Countless memes have gone viral because of selfies. Just last week the tumblr page Funeral Selfies was circling the Internet, which showcased people taking selfies and using all kinds of cringe-worthy hashtags like #RIPGrandma and #Funeral.
While the general public continues to pucker for selfies in their bathroom mirrors, marketers have been trying to harness this trend for their social media efforts. Few have succeeded.
Freefold is trying to promote their new suit-folding system that keeps business-wear wrinkle-free during the morning commute. Oftentimes people want to cycle to work, but can’t because they arrive feeling sweaty and sticky.
They asked people to upload selfies to Facebook when they arrive to work – looking as gross as possible. Whoever fans decided looked wheely bad would receive a prize at the end of the week.
Johnson & Johnson created the Donate a Photo app where they donate one dollar a cause of your choice whenever you post a photo. Users can upload one photo a day, which quickly adds up. Their causes range from helping African communities get access to clean water to restoring public parks and preventing bullying.
According to their site, more than 101,000 photos have been donated so far. 7,446 children received eye exams, 40,008 mothers have kept their babies HIV-free, and 45 kids have had cleft lip surgery.
When people take and upload a #selflessselfie they raise awareness for the cause they’re supporting with their entire social network. The photos don’t have to be related to the cause, they don’t even have to be selfies. They were going to take a picture anyway, why not help girls in Liberia while they’re at it?
Fashion and selfies go together like peas and carrots, people love dressing up and taking a pic of how awesome they look. Bloomingdales noticed this natural relationship and created the #Bloomieselfie campaign that asks fans to upload photos of themselves with a chance to win a $1,000 gift card.
Here’s the caveat: they were asked to include a beauty or styling tip in the post. This took the campaign from a collection of fans uploading selfies to a group of people sharing advice. There was more value to the photos, which made other fans more likely to check the hashtag and interact with it.
These campaigns harness user behavior and channel them to help a company’s marketing efforts and beyond. They take a seemingly-shallow concept and add value to it by making people laugh, offering styling tips, and donating to causes. They’re about more than the actual selfies.