Kate MacArthurBlue Sky Innovation
President Barack Obama does it. So has the Pope and even the Mars Curiosity rover. Millions do it every day, yet it’s an oft-reviled practice. You could call the selfie our most popular guilty pleasure.
But for one Chicago startup, it’s a medium. Pay Your Selfie last week launched an app out of beta that lets everyday people earn cash for their selfies while providing consumer insights and advertising opportunities to brands.
Michelle Smyth, co-founder and CEO of the company, explains the new app and why selfies unfairly get a bad rap.
Q: How does it work?
A: We provide a lot of fun tasks and you’ll see that those are the lower-priced ones, 20 cents to 40 cents for each selfie. Our branded selfie tasks are usually $1 and could be more. When you reach $20 in your piggy bank, you can cash out and get a check in the mail.
Every Saturday we have Selfie Saturday that is a $1 selfie. When you sign on, it’s $1 as well. We will soon have a refer-a-friend program, too. For every friend you refer, that will be another dollar, so you can really hasten the $20 payment.
Q: How do brands use this?
A: We consult with brands to understand their marketing objectives. We’ll craft a selfie task that would underscore that objective or pull in information that they’re looking to understand or deliver the brand engagement that they want.
If we did a branded or sponsored selfie, the brand gets to put their logo on a task. We put their messaging in and have a consumer engage in that task. It’s better than just visibility with an ad.
Q: How did you build your strategy to have users engage with advertisers without turning them off?
A: For example, Zipfit Denim is a custom, tailor-fit, men’s jeans retailer. We have fun, quirky tasks for them: Take a picture of your worst jeans ever. We see holes. We see acid wash and trends that that have been long gone. As soon as they take that picture, we bounce back an inbox message giving them 10 percent off their next purchase.
Q: What did you learn from your beta?
A: We would do tasks every week. What we're learning is that people will take the selfies right away so we want to move toward the daily selfie offer. We also discovered that it is a great way to learn about what charities or causes people care about.
That inspired us to launch the “Selfless Selfie” campaign. It’s all about partnering with a charity or nonprofit and offering a selfie task. Instead of contributing to a user’s piggy bank, we will donate a dollar for every selfie to that charity at the end of that campaign. We pass the money straight on. We hope brands might sponsor that ultimately.
Q: What’s your take on the selfie trend. Is it narcissistic? Why have they become so popular?
A: The first selfie I have was when I was 13 at camp with my best friend and I had my favorite candy sticking out of my mouth: Wacky Wafers. It’s not like I loved my own photo. But it was an easy way to take a great close-up.
Selfies get such a bad rap. We take these pictures when we feel accomplished, when we’re with our friends and those we love. And that’s what we’re all about, capturing those moments of emotion.
Q: How do you know that this trend is sustainable?
A: We’re not limiting ourselves to selfies, but pictures with you in them. It’s a trend now but we’re such an image-based society. We’re taking pictures of ourselves all the time. So there’s going to be no shortage of ways to use them in exchange for compensation.