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Can Selfies Earn You Cash? Strengthen Brands? Save the World?

Written on
Jun 2, 2014 
Author
Richard L. Tso  |

ADOTAS – The ubiquitous selfie had made its way into our daily social feeds, but why do people have the urge to snap pictures of themselves and share them with the world? While there are differing opinions as to why people embrace (or shudder at) this social phenomenon, brands and ad technology platforms have been exploring ways to capitalize on this trend and evolution of user-generated content.

We can no longer escape it: Time Magazine picked “selfie” as one of the top 10 buzzwords of 2012. But if people are truly taking the time to document themselves using products, why shouldn’t brands want to tap into this viral trend?

The social platform Mobilizr enables brands to reward their loyal consumers for online social activities through its mobile app, which provides a forum for social media users to actively participate in brand campaigns and earn money for each engagement or photo shared with friends. The company believes that since people are already open to uploading photos of themselves next to products, brands or logos, why shouldn’t they get paid for their contributions?

Their selfie ad model aims to eventually replace traditional social media ad models.

Mobilizr allows people to become an integral part of an ad campaign for, let’s say, their favorite brand of soda. They are presented with the challenge of taking a picture of themselves on a beach drinking the beverage. By taking that photo through the Mobilizr app, consumers will be able to post it to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+, and earn money for each like, share, or comment generated, thus becoming a paid content provider.

“We are very excited to unveil Mobilizr to the world,” said Mobilizr CEO and founder Onyekachi Izukanne. “We believe that the power of recommendation and the rapid spread of information on social media are vital tools for a successful digital campaign, and our platform enables that. We are confident that the platform will act as a thriving ecosystem that enables a prosperous give-and-take relationship between brands and users.”

The Selfie Phenomenon and Why People Do it

While the term was coined by photographer Jim Krause back in 2005, the rise in popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even MySpace have pushed the phenomenon forward, offering self-publishing platforms for people to broadcast photos of themselves doing something fun or meaningful.

At the 86th Academy Awards, host Ellen DeGeneres orchestrated one of the most famous group selfie photographs alongside 12 formally dressed celebrities to pay homage to Meryl Streep’s record-breaking 18 Oscar nominations.  The result? The photo was retweeted over 1.8 million times in the first hour, becoming the most widely shared photo ever. In fact, as later speculated by ad industry reporter Suzanne Vranica of The Wall Street Journal, this may have been just a part of an elaborate and genius product placement ad initiative by Samsung to promote its Galaxy Note 3 Phone.

While some say the psychological drive to take and share self-taken photos stems from narcissism and the desire for people to shape their own self-images by sharing curated and flattering photos of themselves, other researchers posit that the trend is correlated with lower levels of social support with family and friends – meaning that people who aren’t receiving enough social and emotional support at home seek the attention of the world to validate their own actions and relationships.

While that may be true, there are others who simply don’t think about it too much or just emulate what they see others doing. Others may snap selfies to communicate a sense of belonging, wanting others to perceive them as being a part of something bigger than themselves. Still, there are some causes that are leveraging the selfie craze for good – like this social advocacy page on Facebook, “Selfi Poubella,” which encourages people to upload photos of themselves standing next to piles of trash and litter-filled streets in Tunisia. It’s all part of a cause to raise awareness and encourage government officials to take action to improve the country’s environmental initiatives.

“I wanted to show another image of Tunisia [to] show the leaders of Tunisia the true face of our streets,” according to BBC Journalist Cheker Besbes, who started the page. “This is the selfie that we should be doing: the selfie that shocks.”





Richard L. Tso is a reporter for Adotas and an avid writer covering the intersection of technology and advertising, fashion and music. With over 12 years of experience in the Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations industries, Richard has held executive positions at global agencies and technology companies and is founder of the interactive communications firm Pseudosound Consulting LLC. A classical cellist and painter, he believes that sometimes sound carries more weight than words. He is a graduate of Stanford University.

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