Strike a pose – why the #selfie matters


The humble selfie is everywhere – even in the Oxford Dictionary, where it is described as ‘a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website’. However, you will struggle to find a photograph of me online, let alone a selfie. Those on Snapchat and Twitter know I prefer to post selfies of my dog or pics of my TV (usually showing Catfish or EastEnders) but it seems I’m rather alone on the global phenomenon that is the #selfie.

I got to thinking about the selfie after reading the story of David Slater, a British nature photographer who attempted to take the perfect shot of a monkey while travelling in Indonesia in 2011. One of the animals came to investigate and hijacked the camera taking hundreds of (very cute) selfies. One of the images ended up online on Wikipedia and the organisation refused Slater’s requests to remove the image which has been used without his permission stating that because a monkey pressed the shutter button it should own the copyright.

Last year, selfie was named word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries editors after the frequency of its usage increased by 17,000{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} in 12 months. Its origins can be traced back to 2002 when a young Australian first used the term in an online post to describe a self-portrait photograph he had taken after falling over whilst drunk.

However, the first ever selfie was taken in 1839 by Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer in photography who took a self-portrait – one of the first photographs of a human to be produced. Little did Cornelius know how the selfie would evolve and become part of everyday life.

Selfies are a consistent feature in our news agendas too. When Ellen DeGeneres posted a selfie of her and some famous friends at this year’s Oscars, it became the most retweeted post with over 2m retweets. It’s not just celebrities getting in on the selfie action; President Obama, David Cameron Ed Miliband and even members of the Royal Family are regulars on the selfie circuit. The selfie has even reached space! Astronaut Aki Hoshide took a space selfie in 2012 but veteran astronaut, Buzz Aldrin recently tweeted that his was the first ever space selfie during a Gemini 12 mission in 1966.

Selfies are a huge part of our digital life; they’re a reflection of self-expression, but their power in our working life is not to be understated. That now-famous Oscar selfie looks like a bit of fun but with a Samsung Galaxy Note in plain view, was it a coincidence or a very successful marketing stunt?

Companies are cleverly using selfie marketing to their advantage and building a message which ties into trending topics to grab their customers’ attention. GoPro used the selfie to demonstrate the power of their product by getting customers to post photos taken with their GoPro cameras in some of the world’s most exotic places.

And nobody can deny the success of Cancer Research UK’s #nomakeupselfie campaign which raised £2million in the first 48 hours.

The selfie analogy can be put into context within marketing campaigns. It is important to remember it is all about the content and companies need to ensure that the content is about their customers and their interests and not themselves.

So there is more to the selfie than it first seems, it does matter and perhaps you will be seeing more of me online #selfie.