Selfie Culture: Branding Your Startup and Engaging with Customers

These days, everyone is a photographer, and it can be truly annoying to find yourself in the way of someone else’s selfie. Entrepreneurs are faced with camera-wielding customers (and employees) every day. Managing that can help. Much of this is part of a broader social media plan, so if yours is out of date, it may be worth spending some time on revision.

Photos are like any other tool: they can be used for good or for bad. Here are some ideas to help you manage the shutterbugs who come through your door.

Hashtags and selfie spots

If your small business has not already done so, get accounts set up on Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. This is a good project for a summer intern. Having them in place makes it easy for customers to do some of the work by tagging your business.

Then, come up with a hashtag. It could be as simple as your company name. Before promoting it widely, though, have a good look at it to make sure there isn’t a profanity or bad pun hidden in it.

Some companies take it a step further, creating selfie spots on-site. You may want to set up a backdrop in your waiting area or in a corner space to encourage people to take their pictures there. This can help you control your brand and manage some of the disruption in a selfie culture. For example, there is a huge privacy risk to selfies taken in dressing rooms or gym locker rooms. Get your customers to show off their potential purposes in good lighting and your gym customers to show their progress in front of a flattering backdrop, and you’ll get some promotional mileage.

Opting out of selfie culture?

Some small businesses don’t want customers snapping photos on-site. The reasons are excellent: preserving the privacy of other customers; protecting trade secrets; limiting showrooming; and wanting to create a phone-free atmosphere. To make an anti-selfie policy work, you have to communicate it to customers nicely.

Write out a policy and a script for employees to follow. A running store might use something like, “We’d love it if you’d mention us in your race photos rather than take pictures here.” A restaurant might choose, “We’re worried that it will bother other customers, but we’d love it if you’d send a tweet instead of a photo.” Otherwise, someone snaps “You can’t take pictures here,” and a potential customer leaves in a huff.

Engaging customers and employees

Some businesses are skittish about photos because of the many viral disasters out there. There are two ways to head that off. The first is to encourage employees to post pictures related to positive aspects of the business. Your business account can show people having fun on the job, doing community work or assisting customers. You don’t have to show off products or prices this way, either.

Another is to run contests for customers. Imagine if an airline offered 1,000 frequent flier miles or a free snack box to people who posted videos of employees doing something positive. In no time, social media would be flooded with happy stories to help offset videos of passengers being dragged down the aisle. If your customers are generally happy, you can use a small perk or create a fun promotion around your hashtag.

It’s sometimes easy to let social media fall by the wayside, but summer is as good a time as any to refresh your startup’s feed.

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