More than just a pouty face: ‘selfies’ do the marketing for you

Australian businesses are encouraging customers to take ‘selfies’ with their products and using the images to market their products for them – and for free.

The selfie – a self-portrait photograph that is typically taken with a smartphone and then uploaded to social media – has the potential to be a unique and relevant tactic for businesses to encourage their audience to engage with their brand, according to social media expert Catriona Pollard.

Fashion retailers have been jumping on board the idea in droves, encouraging shoppers and staff to model clothes and pose for the camera so that they can then post the images on their brands’ social media accounts.

Retailer Sportsgirl has recently begun using stickers on its change room mirrors that declare selfies are allowed and encouraged, with 94,627 posts on Instagram currently under the hashtag #sportsgirl.

Sportsgirl also regularly runs competitions on Instagram, asking its 96,000 followers to post images of what the brand means to them in exchange for the chance to win Sportsgirl products.

Restaurants are also getting on board, knowing customers frequently take pictures of their food, with Melbourne burger shop Huxtaburger encouraging customers with in-store signs to post images of their burgers on Instagram with the hashtag #huxtaburger.

Until recently, shops had generally discouraged the use of photography in store, partly because of privacy and copyright issues and partly because ‘selfies’ were seen as taboo.

But as the social media phenomenon becomes more ubiquitous, businesses are realising the potential of having a customer promote a brand.

Erika Geraerts, co-owner of coffee body scrub manufacturer Frank Body and of creative agency Willow & Blake, told SmartCompany businesses should look at customers as potential brand ambassadors.

“It’s the next step in the product placement we are used to seeing in movies—product placement in people’s lives,” says Geraerts.

Frank Body encourages its customers to post images of themselves using its coffee scrub products with the unique hashtag #thefrankeffect via flyers sent out with the products.

“We wanted to communicate what the product looked like and how it was used,” says Geraerts.

“We also wanted to make women feel more comfortable sharing their beauty regime. Frank has quite a cheeky demeanour… we wanted to make customers feel they were involved in that conversation and not make them feel like they were on the outer,” she says.

Geraerts says Frank Body has had an overwhelming response to the selfie campaign, with 42,603 pictures currently found under #thefrankeffect hashtag.

“People have been really open to it,” says Geraerts. “We want to push boundaries and ideas and for us, the only expense was time.”

Geraerts recommends small business play around with the ‘selfie’ idea and says almost every industry can benefit from the trend, pointing to “tradie tool” companies she’s seen try it out.

She also recommends following the progress of your hashtags with sites such as iconasquare.

“Peer recommendations are so important… The general public is a lot more accessible than a model or a celebrity, so it positions them on the same level,” says Geraerts.

And with a marketing tactic that costs next to nothing, there is nothing to lose and plenty to gain, says Geraerts, “It’s priceless.”

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