Ah, the selfie. From showing off cute outfits to skydiving, flying fighter jets and chillin’ in outer space, it seems that no time or place is too crazy for us to snap a quick shot of ourselves. Even the President and Vice President of the United States are getting in on the action.

Not that I don
Not that I don’t indulge, as you can see from this “ParaSelfie” I snapped in Mexico

Mobile phones are responsible for a huge percentage of the images that make up the fabric of the Visual Web (in fact, various incarnations of the iPhone hold four of the of the top five slots for the most popular cameras on Flickr) and selfies account for a significant portion of these. In fact, our research reveals that on Instagram alone, there are more than 169 million photos posted to #selfie, and more than 283 million to #me.

To facilitate our love affair with taking pictures of ourselves, smartphone manufacturers are designing their latest generation of devices to be better at snapping selfies. On the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, for example, Apple has included a new front-facing “FaceTime HD” camera with a sensor that will capture 81 percent more light, a new image processor for face detection and HDR video. They have also also brought burst and timer modes to their “selfie cam.”

To help you take better selfies, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus include features such as Burst Selfie and self-timer modes (image courtesy of Apple Inc.)
To make taking selfies easier, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus include features such as Burst Selfie and self-timer modes (image courtesy of Apple Inc.)

Apple is hardly alone in releasing devices with selfie-specific features. With their new Galaxy Note, Samsung has weighed in with a 3.7 megapixel front-facing camera that includes a “wide selfie” feature which allows people to bring more of their friends into the shot. They’ve also made it easier to snap a selfie, as users can now just tap the heart-rate monitor button on the back to take a shot (FYI, the heart-rate monitor button will only function in that mode if the front-facing camera sensor “sees” a face.)

Not to be outdone, Nokia has dropped an A-Bomb in the selfie-feature arms race with its Lumia 735, which they tout as being “built for selfies and Skype.” Like Samsung, they’ve included a new, powerful forward-facing camera with a wide-angle lens, but they take it a step further with their “Lumia Selfie” app which helps users edit their selfies to make them look even more awesome.

Image courtesy of www.nokia.com
Image courtesy of Nokia

 

The Key Takeaway: What All of This Means for Brands on the Visual Web

For brands marketing on visual networks, these new hardware features are great news.

“Selfie-optimized features in hardware devices will accelerate selfie sharing, and photo sharing in general on Instagram and other visual moment sharing channels, such as Snapchat,” said Sharad Verma, CEO of Piqora. “And this may even lead to entirely new visual networks.”

One benefit of these new features is that they can help generate higher quality user-generated content, which your brand can then harvest. A great method for gathering great UGC is through a photo contest, so check out our Definitive Guide to Instagram Photo Contests for more information. Selfies offer the lowest barrier to entry of any type of photo, so contests that feature them will naturally have a higher participation rate. And with their new cameras, the photos your fans submit will be more beautiful than ever, and can include more of their friends thanks to the wide angle lenses!

The key takeaway here is that people are taking more photos than ever on their mobile devices, and the fact that device manufacturers are coming out with selfie-specific features in their latest generation of devices means that selfies aren’t a fad. They’re here to stay, so brands should start to adopt strategies to harness this popular behavior.

“As selfies have become a huge part of our culture and how we share images, brands will need to figure out a way to express themselves similarly to stay relevant and resonant,” Verma said. “Employee selfies, brand selfies, and encouraging their community to incorporate logos in selfies via contests are just some of the areas that brands will want to look at immediately.”