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The Selfie: Should You Use It In Your Business?

Selfie of Grand Duchess Anastasia
By now you’ve probably heard that the Oxford Dictionary word of the year [1] for 2013 is “selfie.”

What Exactly is a Selfie?

A selfie is nothing more than a self-portrait photograph that you share via social media.

Of course, the selfie isn’t new.  The black and white photograph above is a selfie of Grand Duchess Anastasia of the Russian Romanovs (yeah, that Anastasia) from 1914.

Apparently 100 years ago girls were just as into themselves as they are today.  They simply didn’t have Facebook or Instagram to share their selfies on.

But it wasn’t as easy to shoot selfies back then.  You had to aim a camera in the mirror to shoot a selfie in those days.

Today, with ubiquitous camera phones and front-facing cameras on laptops and tablets, it’s incredibly easy to take a selfie.  It’s become a cultural phenomenon and a form of entertainment.

There have even been a number of quick-to-arrive  and quick-to-go fads when it comes to posing for selfies.  “Duck face” is the term used to describe people who pucker their lips for their selfies (usually young women trying to look like Angelina Jolie).  But for those keeping track, there’s also the sparrow face (wide eyes, lifted brows); the frog face (tongue out); and the trout face (open trout-like mouth) — among others [2].

And then you have the weird penchant for taking selfies at funerals — something that Jason Feifer, a Fast Company editor, chronicled at Selfies at Funerals [3], a Tumblr site he set up.  The fad prompted this hilarious headline at the Huffington Post,  “Funeral Selfies Are The Latest Evidence Apocalypse Can’t Come Soon Enough [4].”

And finally, you have three heads of government taking a selfie at a memorial service for the deceased Nelson Mandela:

Obama selfie

Some speculated that First Lady Michelle Obama was angry due to her husband laughing with the blonde Danish Prime Minister.  I think the answer is simpler.  Mrs. Obama, with her dignified demeanor,  just had a better sense of decorum.  She didn’t look angry to me — just like she hoped nobody would notice she was with those other three!  She was mindful of the time and place.

As a business owner, when it comes to selfies, it’s also about being mindful of the time and place, and how others will react to your selfie.

Should You Use The Selfie in Business?

I’m going to go with “No” on this 90% of the time for small businesses.

Let’s face it:  most selfies are horrendous — the kind of picture only a teenager’s friends can appreciate.  If you have a traditional small business and are thinking a duck-face selfie of you as the owner will somehow bring profitable attention to your business, well … it probably won’t.

However, there are exceptions.  Sometimes selfies can be good.  So let’s take a look at some times when selfies makes sense and can help your business:

Smoothie selfie

What if you’re not an entertainer or personality, but run some other kind of traditional small business?  There’s still room for selfies.  Here are some ways other types of small businesses can leverage selfies:

For more ideas, see 25 tips on using Instagram — Instagram is ground zero for selfies.

The point is, keep your customers top of mind  as to what you think they would want to see or find interesting.  If use of a selfie would be welcome by them, or benefit them, or cause them to think better of your business interests, then by all means go for it.

As marketing firm Hero Farm says, make sure your use of selfies “goes beyond feeding egos.” And always remember to be mindful of the time and place when sharing selfies.

Images: Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook