What your business can learn from Selfies

Editor's Note:  OK, I'll admit it.  I've always thought selfies were a slightly annoying vain personal expression. Now we learn it can be important for our business or organization and it's a "big deal"!

Selfies have become a dominant force worldwide. The word was named the Word of the Year 2013 by Oxford Dictionaries after there was a 17,000% increase in the use of "selfie" over the course of the year. In August “selfie” was accepted into the ultimate word bible: the Scrabble dictionary. On Twitter, #selfie yields thousands of results each hour. And whether or not your business has any reason to post a selfie or use the hashtag, selfies prove the power in following trending topics and finding opportunities to enter popular conversations.

But whether or not it's a fleeting trend or here to stay, the selfie is much more than a vain expression of ourselves. Its virility, its ability to engage wide audiences, and the way it humanizes even the most polished personas offer three lessons for your business.

Selfies humanize us

Perhaps the best part of a selfie is its ability to humanize. Even if you take 20 selfies to get the perfect shot, it's a low-budget shot compared to a posed, propped, and preplanned photo shoot. The fact that it's usually taken with a cellphone or webcam only adds to its down-to-earth quality.

Last year in a New York Times article, Jenna Worthman wrote, "We are swiftly becoming accustomed to—and perhaps even starting to prefer—online conversations and interactions that revolve around images and photos. They are often more effective at conveying a feeling or reaction than text." She also mentions the feeling of connectedness that we have over even the briefest video chat. "Receiving a photo of the face of the person you're talking to brings back the human element of the interaction, which is easily misplaced if the interaction is primarily text-based."

Your customers want to engage with humans. As a business, posting a lighthearted selfie can show the real people behind your organization (it's not robots running your social channels!), and also provide a behind-the-scenes look at the environment you work in. It's a sense of seeing something you normally wouldn't get to see; the same reason reality television is so popular. Of course, posting a selfie may not make sense for your business, but you can strive for authenticity by remaining transparent and talking to your customers in ways you'd want someone to speak to you.

Selfies engage us

The genius of the #SELFIE music video is that it features user-submitted selfies, giving numerous people their 15 minutes—or nearly 210,000,000 YouTube views—of fame. Crowdsourcing selfies from your fans and followers showing how they enjoy your product or service is an easy way to get customers to interact with your brand.

Everyone wants to feel like they're part of something, and engaging followers in this way can show the value your business plays in day-to-day life. When customers see something they can relate to (i.e., "Hey, I use that same product in the same place!"), it validates their decisions, while seeing new ideas gives customers additional ways to use and return to your product.

Selfies go viral

Some would argue that there's a science—a special formula—to creating viral content. But at the end of the day, what goes viral is what people find interesting, whether it’s because it's funny, informative, entertaining, controversial, or any combination of these. Take what some have dubbed the best selfie ever. It features a regular teenager who just happened to be in the right place at the right time: when Warren Buffett and Paul McCartney sat down for a chat. This selfie in particular captures a too-good-to-be-true fleeting moment, andpeople share it because it blends that wow-celebrities-do-normal-things feeling with the positive, good-for-this-kid vibe.

For a business, it's important that every employee be always on the lookout for the next opportunity—and you don't let it slip by. To achieve this level of agility, employees need to feel like they can act quickly, before that moment in time loses relevance. People will share selfies—even if they are of people they don't know—because a selfie has the potential to show that human side we may not always see. It can capture vulnerability, humor, or the unbelievable.

Find ways for your business to relate to your audiences and engage with them in human ways. This can go a long way to creating these feelings and positive interactions that will make your customers feel more connected to your brand.

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