We live in a world where everyone takes selfies. I take selfies, my mum takes selfies (featuring my sister and I and terribly fun Snapchat filters) and you most likely take selfies. What exactly is a “selfie”? A selfie is a photograph that one has taken of themselves, often to be uploaded and shared on social media sites. The term was first coined in 2002 by a drunk Aussie who took a photo of his busted lip, captioning the picture “sorry about the focus, it was a selfie”. Just to be clear, a selfie is not a photo of one person that has been taken by another. Here is a selfie you can’t have missed- Ellen DeGeneres and all her celeb pals!
Anyone can take a selfie. You don’t have to be a celebrity or professional photographer- most people who take selfies are amateurs. In fact, 92% of Facebook users upload selfies. The increasing popularity of social media has resulted in the emergence of a generation obsessed with taking selfies. Spending you day off at the beach? Take a selfie. Sick of doing uni work? Take a selfie. Are you a fan of your makeup today? Take a selfie. But why are we so obsessed with taking selfies?
According to Senf and Baym, selfies have 2 functions: they are an everyday practice and are also an object of “politicising discourses about how people ought to represent, document and share their behaviours” (p.1589). The way in which people choose to represent and share their behaviours online often leads to the creation of an online persona: a branded self.
The rise of selfie culture and prevalence of social media has resulted in the emergence of the branded self. Anyone can create a sense of themselves as a brand. But how? Simple. Select a few characteristics to present and craft your social media pages to reflect these characteristics. This is how many people who have created a branded self have become “micro-celebrities”. These people have carefully crafted online personas to attract attention and gain followers. For example, Kurt Coleman’s flamboyant personality, narcissism, spray tan and disregard for any “haters” has earned him over 162,000 Instagram followers. There is no shortage of selfies on his Instagram page! He has crafted a persona centered around his narcissism and consequently has become a micro-celebrity- he has actually been recognised on the street. Australian health and lifestyle blogger and model Steph Smith is another well known micro-celebrity. Although her Instagram page is not full of selfies, many of her posts feature tags of relevant brands e.g. Aussie Farmers Direct, Adidas and Tribute Boxing. Her branded self includes fitness and fashion.
Due to their large follower count and reach, micro-celebrities are often targeted by companies to promote their products. For example, many celebrities and micro-celebrities are currently promoting Sugar Bear Hair Vitamins. They are utilised as influencers to encourage people to try certain products. From a marketing perspective, this is an extremely effective strategy. As micro-celebrities are not Hollywood celebrities, they are automatically perceived as being more relatable. When we as an audience feel we can relate to someone, it is easier to trust them. If a micro-celebrity with damaged hair takes Sugar Bear Vitamins and says they notice a difference, their audience would be more likely to try the product. It is also cheaper for the company to use micro-celebrities as in most cases, companies send micro-celebs their product in exchange for a social media post or feature rather than a sum of money.
Will micro-celebrity status eventually overtake celebrity status? Will the number and power of micro-celebrities continue to increase? Will the selfie remain a trend? We’ll find out someday!
Baym, N & Senft, T 2015, ‘What Does The Selfie Say? Investigating A Global Phenomenon’, International Journal of Communication, vol. 9, pp. 1588 – 1606.
Branson, J 2015, ‘Why is this person famous? Kurt Coleman and social media fame’, Sneaky Magazine, viewed 21st March 2017, http://www.sneakymag.com/life/person-famous-kurt-coleman-social-media-fame/.
Sutter, B 2016, ‘What You Need To Know About Marketing With Influencers’, Forbes, 8th April, viewed 21st March 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/briansutter/2016/04/08/what-you-need-to-know-about-marketing-with-influencers/#498dabcd167b.