If there was one item that seemed to be on everyone’s Christmas list last year it was the selfie stick. The gadgets allow smartphones to be extended further than the length of a person’s arm, so we can take wider group shots and get more of our surroundings in too. And they’ve taken off to a staggering extent. Everywhere we go, it seems, somebody around us is whipping out the selfie stick to capture the moment. In fact, they’re getting so ubiquitous that some football grounds and music venues have banned them, as they might be a safety risk in a crowded environment.

So what does the rise of the selfie stick tell us about the mindset of the British public – and does it reveal something that marketers should be aware of? Samantha Hauser, communications and content marketing manager at real-time content marketing and engagement platform Livefyre, believes “both the sales and buzz around selfie sticks is staggering”. But she also thinks their appeal represents the “validation of an even bigger phenomenon: the international obsession with selfies”.

“While this might at first sound like we’re a bunch of narcissists, what it really shows is the way we absorb content has become more self-involved,” Ms Hauser commented. Indeed, she said much of the media people consume is personalised and interactive, from news feeds to social media updates. “And if we like something we see on those feeds, we expect to engage with it, share it, comment on it or even contribute to it,” Ms Hauser stated. “We’re no longer satisfied with simply looking at content – now we want to be a part of it.”

Is your brand acting accordingly?

These fundamental changes in how people interact with content are irreversible, so if you want your brand to engage with them effectively, it’s time to take appropriate action. While this might sound daunting at first, Ms Hauser believes the steps firms should take are actually pretty straightforward – and can pay off handsomely.

“When you involve or highlight an individual in your community, you appeal to that person’s need for self-involvement within the content they’re consuming, ” she said.

“You upgrade that person from merely an audience member to a contributor. You give them a sense of ownership and a sense of importance. And that is what builds a truly loyal community, selfie sticks not required.”

So here are a few recommendations for brands to bear in mind …

Get audience involved in storytelling
The surge in user-generated content means brands could invite existing and prospective customers to take part in telling a story. Ms Hauser believes this could focus on anything from a specific marketing campaign to an item of hard news.

Ask audience to upload photos and updates to your mobile app or website
If our consumption of content really has become more self-involved, then it makes sense to make the consumer feel it is all about them. What better way to do that than to create a mobile app or page on a website where audiences can upload their own pictures and updates? “And if you can, let them know they’ve been featured,” Ms Hauser advised.

Use surveys and reviews
Ms Hauser noted that there are many online engagement applications, such as review sites and survey platforms, available right now. These, she said, give companies another means to ask their customers to contribute to what they are producing.

Get insights with social curation tools
Businesses could make use of social curation tools to “gain relevant photos and updates from real people”, Ms Hauser added.

Of course, some traditional marketers might feel uncomfortable with the notion of getting the public so heavily involved in their campaigns. But if the rise of the selfie stick tells us anything, it is that people are more obsessed with themselves than ever before, so brands should probably tailor any promotional drives with this firmly in mind.

The ’selfie stick’ revolution and why marketers should care, IAB UK

Posted by Robin McCrink