Advertisers Turning to Selfies

Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2013, “selfie” is now not only a recognized noun but a movement. Scroll through various social media outlets and you will inevitably run across multiple personal snapshots, most proclaiming themselves as selfies in their captions.

The intention, of course, is to show off a new hair style, jewelry accessory, etc., or to simply make a declaration of confidence to your group of peers known as your “followers” or “friends.” But advertisers have realized the potential that selfies and other personal photos hold for marketing purposes.

An article entitled “Why Advertisers Can’t Wait to Get Their Hands on Your Selfies” outlines some of the initiatives already in the process for using personal pictures for marketing research.

Advertisers see immense potential in these photos to reveal information about consumers. The pictures we take and post represent our interests and passions — insight that marketers are eager to obtain. Posts can even uncover a person’s brand affiliations.

Examples of such technology include VisualGraph, which Pinterest has bought and can use to advertise to users based on photos they pin. Vicarious, an artificial intelligence firm that utilizes image recognition, has investors such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg and Tesla founder Elon Musk.

Directing ads based on photos would move advertising from demographic-based targeting to interest-based. However, it’s estimated that only 15% of photos provide substantial clues. Additionally, this invasive method of marketing could scare people.

Regardless, I think it’s an interesting prospect. As someone who has minimal posts on her social media accounts, I’m not too concerned about advertisers gleaning much information at all about me through my scarcity of pictures. But I don’t think most of us realize that what we post represents so much about us, or at least we don’t often stop to think about it.

Advertisers have recognized the trove of information that we make available about ourselves on a daily basis through our posts, and I think that can serve as a reminder to be aware of what we put out there for the world to see.