10 August 2017

Face value: UM researchers find three secrets to selfie success

Picture this: by following three simple rules, your just-for-fun selfies could help you make a name for yourself, and perhaps even serious money, on social networking sites. That is one of the findings of new research by Stefania Farace, a PhD candidate at the School of Business and Economics (SBE) at Maastricht University, who collaborated with her supervisor, SBE's Professor Martin Wetzels, and two UK-based academics, Tom van Laer and Ko de Ruyter.

Increasing engagement

According to van Laer, both individuals and organisations who want to increase social media engagement should deploy the full power of image-editing techniques such as emojis, filters and lenses, and tools such as selfie sticks.

“Social media influencers have been doing this for years and now brands need to take note, especially as the world of advertising and social media influencers becomes increasingly blurred,” says van Laer. More than 10,000 selfies featuring a Starbucks product, for example, are posted on Instagram every day.

Pitfalls

But could there be pitfalls for businesses aiming to tailor images for maximum social media consumption? After all, consumers are looking for accurate information about products before they make a purchase, such as via product reviews from other consumers. If brands use technical tools to create images that are not a faithful representation of daily life, or in this case a product or service, could online strategies backfire?

According to Farace, however, “It is important to keep in mind that pictures and text work differently in terms of how people process information. For example, text is processed sequentially (letters form words, words form sentences), whereas pictures are processed simultaneously, all at once.

“In pictures, the content (the character, product, actions performed) and style (be it professional or Snapchat-style) are processed all at once. There may be something related to the difference between product reviews (text) and pictures that could explain why consumers prefer images that do not represent a faithful representation of daily life.” This could be, Farace adds, a subject for further research.