Aaron Brooks
Feb 10, 2017

What selfies can teach digital advertisers

The desire to impress through experimentation and constant curation are key ingredients to successful digital campaigns, writes Aaron Brooks.

What selfies can teach digital advertisers

The first moon landing (whether you believe in it or not) is a story of three men, but chances are you have only heard of two of them.

This picture was taken by Michael Collins, probably one of the greatest photographers you have never heard of.

Collins took this photo of the Lunar Module, containing Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong with Earth in the background, on the Apollo 11 mission. It’s an incredible photo and is often captioned with something along the lines of, “The Lunar Module captured with Armstrong and Aldrin inside”.

But why does this matter? Well, this photo explains everything about the power of the selfie. Let me explain.

First, we have to understand today’s selfie generation. The selfie has become a synonym of digital advertising. Brands that can effectively tap into this generation and harness their selfie tendencies in their marketing strategies are ultimately going to be more successful and relevant. 

Think about how Google and Facebook advertising works. You put up an ad and it might work, or it might not. Often, you wished it had worked better. So, the ad is tweaked, new language and images are introduced, and over time the ads are polished to perfection. Leads flow in, sales progress and you feel proud. Competitors begin copying you, and you bask in your success until Monday rolls around and you start all over again. Such is the need to constantly stay visible and front-of-mind.

The selfie phenomenon follows the same process; publishing, learning and editing workflow in real time. And by selfie I’m not just referring to a happy, smiling face in a well-lit photo—I’m talking about the feed owner featuring in the shot in any way:

Selfies capture a human’s social desire to impress and fit in. To do this, a content creator or influencer carefully selects and edits individual photos (basically doing what your agency is charging you thousands to do.) This carefully curated feed is what you want to leverage—after all, nobody knows what grows their feed better than the selfie taker.

If a selfie doesn’t get as many likes as its predecessors, it’s either deleted or earmarked to never be repeated. Like cartons of milk past their used-by date, young social media users are constantly replacing – not adding to – their banks of photos.

Every post informs in visceral ‘like and comment’ feedback, showing you what resonates and what doesn’t in real time. Because of this, self-correction is inevitable—and this curation replacement rate is only speeding up.

This younger generation of power curators understand their community and what connects with them. With followers in the thousands and photos in single digits, it’s important to remember not to be distracted by the follower-to-content count. Numbers aren’t everything, and these quality curators know that. They care far more about the photos that make their narrative more engaging than a brand ever will.

Probably the biggest positive about influencer marketing strategies is that they are scalable. You can use many influencers at the same time, all briefed on the same messaging, but creating content in their own unique way that resonates with their audience. It’s authentic and cost effective, if you choose to upgrade your usage rights to paid advertising and owned media.

The power of this influencer-produced content is already being leveraged by the best brands across Southeast Asia. What other single activity ticks off market research, content marketing, conversion optimisation, consumer power and authentic marketing in one simple post better than influencer marketing? 

The key is in tying in brand promotion with matched self-promotion. Finding the best brand match before content is generated will create the kind of awe-inspiring content you wish your current advertising agency could do.

So, back to the photo at the start of this article and what it has got to do with selfies.

That moon mission and photo made history. It also arguably made Armstrong and Aldrin two of the most famous men in history.

Now imagine if Collins had placed his own face in the foreground of his photo. He’d probably be a household name, would have raked in the endorsements, and would have become as recognisable as the two other incredible astronauts he travelled with.

I bet he wishes he’d taken a selfie.

Aaron Brooks is co-founder of Visual Amplifiers (VAMP), a content and influencer marketing platform based in Sydney, with offices in Singapore and Hong Kong.

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