Why #NoMakeUpSelfie should inspire charities to cash in on social vanity

NoMakeUpSelfie: trend recently swept Facebook
NoMakeUpSelfie: trend recently swept Facebook

We've all moaned quietly at how Facebook seems to be filled with an increasingly narcissistic group of so-called friends, keen to tell us again and again about their incredible lives or show off that holiday snap tagged only with the caption 'bliss'. Pass the bucket.

This is the new age of the old social, where platforms like Facebook have grown up, matured and are now in the post-modern post-social era designated to carefully manicured profiles, highly orchestrated updates and specifically created new online characters for all. Like a sort of digital dress-up box with a public facing full-length mirror. 

That’s why when genuinely viral memes and initiatives like the NoMakeUpSelfie do take off, it is surprising - but also a nod to how in keeping this is with modern culture and existing online behaviour. 

What is perhaps more interesting is how this might be a first look at successful charity social initiatives of the future, where smart charities and organisations can tap into this inherent ever increasing online vanity of their potential audiences and convert that into cold harsh cash for their good causes. To translate the whims of the vanity masses into support for the many who need it is a rather exciting value exchange none of us might have expected.

As we know, Facebook is now becoming part of the social old guard. It looks as much like a TV broadcasting model as anything genuinely about interaction or discussion. The few elements which can organically spread away from being supported by millions of media dollars then really stand out from the crowd.

The NoMakeUpSelfie took off like wildfire, aided and abetted by a keen attitude of woman young and old riding a selfie cultural tidal wave. It is a natural behaviour, piggy-backing off an existing phenomena and something which they’d perhaps do on a daily basis anyway. Albeit wearing more make-up.

Simple snap

The beauty of the mechanic - and it is beauty - is the simplicity of it. A simple snap which triggers a nomination to multiple friends is the perfect sharing device. We’ve all been making ‘send to a friend’ ideas and ‘member get member’ solutions since the end of the nineties, and this is almost the perfect alien hybrid of all that has gone before.

Now the world of social is no longer dominated by just one beast, and erasable media entities like Snapchat are building their own cases to be kings of communication. This is where smart agile charities of the future can look to really exploit behaviours and push their causes on the public in increasingly inventive ways. 

How so? Snapchat is a platform on rocket fuel, and a particularly interesting area is how users are creating and overlaying disposable ‘art’ over their real world imagery. Such a technique understandably comes with influential snappers too, so you can see in an instant how charities can work with this, building instant legitimacy and reach with every communication push.

Imagine how apps like Draw Something first took off, where the exchange of your personal art challenge helped create a huge volume of exchanges back and forth in a very short time. It doesn’t matter that it might not have the legs to last, as the behaviour is now learned and effect is absolute. This is so instant, so disposable, so fresh, so simple and so now that it feels only a matter of time before a brilliant charity decides to look to this so-called ephemeral platform for this kind of social push. It is still all about you, your own personal creation, so still tugging at your vanity strings.

Imagine the RSPCA leveraging people's obsession with owners' cat or dog pictures as a comical tease to a larger campaign

The same can be said for tease and reveals too. Snapchat has already proven itself quite the hit, lifting the skirt on content fleetingly before disappearing in front of your very eyes. What could be more alluring and appropriate for our vanity obsessed audience than giving glimpses of themselves in their chosen poses as part of a mass participation push - all on behalf of the next worthy cause.

For example, imagine the RSPCA leveraging people’s obsession with owners’ cat or dog pictures as a comical tease to a larger campaign. Or your child’s genuine crude but cute crayon drawings being used briskly as part of a build up for coverage of an NSPCC piece. Whatever the charity focus, you can see how the attraction of Snapchat’s teasing motif can appeal even more when it is about you, your family, your loved ones or even your pets. Vanity still rules.

In all this hyperbole, it is refreshing to hear that ideas like NoMakeUpSelfie brought in an additional £8m worth of support for cancer charities. In a time where the role of social and its effectiveness for brands is continually interrogated, it is heartening to see how the most elegant simple mechanics can create such immense value. So if that means capitalising on the vain state of this socially self-obsessed nation, then we’re going to be all the better for it.  

James Kirkham is the global head: social & mobile, Leo Burnett and co-founder of Holler

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