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Are you feeling selfish?

Isn’t it crazy to think that none of us knew what a selfie was five years ago – now they are arguably the most common form of user-generated content. But why are they something your business should embrace? 44’s Elizabeth Mullenger comes out in praise of the humble selfie…

We’ve all taken a selfie. Ellen DeGeneres broke the internet with hers, astronaut Tim Peake (probably) made his mum cry with his and even politicians are getting involved. The word ‘selfie’ is now in the Oxford English Dictionary, there’s a selfie song, and recently Kim Kardashian – who arguably popularised the whole idea – took things to a whole new level and published an entire coffee table book of selfies. But more about that later…

Supermodel Cara Delevingne’s career was undoubtedly enhanced by her clever embracing of social media and the selfie trend. Delevingne’s famous eyebrows churn out new image posts, posing behind various props and disguises – the more creative the better. Her Instagram account has more than 30 million followers, featuring 3,092 uploaded images at the time of writing – a contrast of professional shoots alongside ‘off-duty’ selfies.

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Rival selfie taker, the aforementioned reality star Kim Kardashian, has taken the trend one step further – producing an entire book devoted to the art. ‘Selfish’ was initially seen as a bit of a joke to many – but the glossy tome is now in its fourth print run, and has received widespread critical acclaim.

Pam Stommers, Executive Director of Publicity at Rizzoli, said: ‘The book is, in fact, a significant success story as a benchmark of the phenomenon of self-portrait in the digital age.’

Self-promotion

Selfies can propel their owners to worldwide exposure on a scale PR teams can only dream of. The simple action of a celebrity taking, or appearing in, a selfie quickly results in vast media coverage; prompting conversations and encouraging discussion across the globe. And the volume of selfies within social media platforms is growing every day. They are used to raise awareness of charity campaigns, as a PR tool for celebrities and politicians, and have actively encouraged debates over both the positive and negative impact on body image.

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And it’s not just the celebs; your customers are creating content every day too. A recent Ofcom survey showed that consumers are posting ever more photos and videos online. This trend means that there is an abundance of user-generated images out there which can be shared by brands to inspire and tempt other users. ‘Social media is inherently self-promotional, so these types of campaigns capitalise on the instinct to self-brand and share,’ says social media expert, Sue Reynolds. Advertorial imagery can seem unachievable and hard to relate to; but a photograph taken by a genuine customer is much more believable, allowing other consumers to see themselves with the product or service.

Self-analysing

The concept of selfies being used as an artistic tool to provide a specific persona, carefully created to demonstrate a view, a point or make a statement, was mirrored in the early 20th Century when Expressionism developed in Northern Europe. This description of the movement, taken from ArtyFactory.com, shows how eerily similar expressionist art is to the humble selfie:

‘[Expressionists] chose to look inwards to discover a form of ‘self-expression’ that offered them an individual voice[..] It was this more subjective search for a personal emotional truth that drove them on and ultimately paved the way for the Expressionist art forms of the 20th century that explored the inner landscape of the soul.’

Self-expression

Selfies seem to be the ultimate example of modern self-expression; they are a consistent style of photography that has a goal, a meaning, and a following. Initially fobbed off as self-promotion, they are slowly being recognised as legitimate tools to express emotions and beliefs and to develop confidence, self-worth and acceptance. Selfies give power to the individual; we choose how we want to be seen. We can accentuate our ‘best bits’ and airbrush away the parts we don’t like.

So next time you mock a selfie, just take a moment – you could be witnessing a great artist at work, an act of self-validation, or a powerful communications tool in action…

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