Is your brand ready for its ‘selfie’?

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The “selfie”, Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year, became the international symbol of carefree, irreverent fun when President Obama snapped one with the Danish Prime Minister last year. 

Ellen Degeneres topped this at the Oscars recently. Her now infamous photo broke records and Twitter, and became the social media update heard around the world. Ellen’s Oscar feat was not just about fun - it was also a deft display of marketing, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.  The seemingly spontaneous act was actually part product placement, PR stunt and social media marketing, all sponsored by Samsung.

Yes, selfies sell, and so do other types of images; you may have noticed that marketing has suddenly become much more visual. However, tapping the power of pictures is not necessarily easy.  You need to understand which ones are effective, and how to integrate them into the marketing mix.

Is your brand ready for its close up shot, the literal or figurative selfie that can capture attention and customers?  How can you put visual content to work?


The growth of imagery in marketing

The growth of selfies and other imagery in marketing is no surprise, as we love taking and sharing pictures. Communicating with images and short videos can be easier than writing a post or tweet. They offer a nice diversion in a busy social media environment.

Tech companies have fed this trend, with social networks and apps that are all about visual content.  Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram have taken off in recent years; SnapChat recently shot up from out of nowhere; and the major social platforms are featuring more support for rich media (e.g. Twitter Vine, Facebook Timeline, Instagram Video, and LinkedIn Portfolio).

Pictures can draw people in, tell a story, and communicate complicated information in an easy-to-understand way. The right image can trigger feelings and emotions, and make people more receptive to pitches.

A lot of this gets to the psychology of marketing. It has been shown that images trump words when it comes to penetrating our defenses; they appeal to the part of the brain that holds sway over emotion and logic. Pictures can be a powerful way to communicate brand attributes and drive engagement too.

A great example was reported in The New York Times. Bolthouse Farms (a Campbell’s company) is using imagery to promote healthy eating. Their campaign tracks mentions of foods on social media, and presents alluring photos of nutritious alternatives on FoodPornIndex, a website that was created for the campaign.  The imagery and engagement pull users in and educate them, while reinforcing brand values.

But image selection might be a real mystery for many. How do you go about finding the right images - the ones that will pull in, interest, amuse and delight your prospects?


Use the right images to draw and engage Users

First the basics: you want to use images that complement your piece and are in synch with brand attributes. They should attract attention and provide helpful visual info.

Other tips: avoid lame, purely decorative images. Don’t make the viewer work too hard through subtlety, or cleverness. Use pictures that capture emotions and tell a story.

As Marshall McLuhan famously said, the medium is the message; so, it is important to consider the ins and outs of the networks you use for sharing images. Instagram is all about immediacy and telling brand stories through photos; Pinterest features eye candy; Facebook is about fun, and LinkedIn tends to be more buttoned down. Twitter users often share images from events, and infographics.

There are many details to take into account for effective use of imagery in social media marketing, in general, and over specific networks. I suggest you check out the following article for more information: How to Choose Images that Really Work for Your Social Media Campaigns, on Social Media Today.



I started out the article by talking about selfies, and will finish by sharing the story of GoPro, makers of wearable cameras for extreme sports.  According to Digiday: “Selfies align perfectly with the brand’s core image — and offer users a compelling way to engage… self-shot videos and photos garner several hundred favorites and retweets with each post to its 880,000 followers.”

It is another great example of the use of images in marketing. 

I hope these tips have been helpful.  Is your brand ready for its close up, selfie shot? 


About Bob Geller

Based in New York City, Bob Geller is president of Fusion PR and Social Fluency. He is a veteran of tech sales, marketing and PR and has developed best practices for working social media and content marketing into the PR mix. Bob has been covered in publications such as PR Week, PR News and Bulldog Reporter, and writes and speaks frequently on social media, content marketing and PR.

He posts on Flack’s Revenge, Fusion Forum and Social Fluency and has contributed to Cision Navigator, CommPRObiz, Ragan’s PR Daily and Handshake 2.0. Bob also regularly writes a column on content marketing for Maximize Social Business.

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