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Watch Yourself: When a Selfie Becomes a Situation

obama-red-sox-baseball “Have smart phone, will photograph self with others, and post online immediately.” This seems to be the prevailing attitude among Americans. According to, a million plus selfies are taken each day. We appear to be a nation obsessed with taking selfies and posting them online. As I travel around the country introducing associations to Fonteva For Associations, I have witnessed this phenomenon first-hand in airports, restaurants and other venues. Many associations are encouraging their members to take selfies during their major meetings. Even President Barak Obama has been caught in the act. He received negative press attention earlier this year when broadcast reports from Nelson Mandela’s memorial service captured him as he appeared to be taking a selfie with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British PM David Cameron. Another recent selfie taken with the President has also caused quite a stir. During a White House ceremony to celebrate the Red Sox World Series win, slugger David Ortiz took a selfie with the president and posted it to his Twitter account. Boston Globe writer Michael B. Farrell reports that Ortiz’s selfie was retweeted 40,000 times. Who wouldn’t grab the opportunity to take a picture with the President? Most of us would. The difference is probably none of us is a paid social media ambassador like Ortiz, who has a contract with Samsung.  Of course the company posted the photo on its own Twitter account. When the “spontaneity” of his actions was called into question, Ortiz insisted that taking the photo with Obama was his idea and not a marketing ploy orchestrated by Samsung. Certainly, the President wasn’t aware of the player’s relationship with the company, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney. I would agree with Farrell that this scenario raises some important questions about the role of social media in marketing:
  • When is a social media moment also an advertising event?
  • Are the celebrities genuinely excited or motivated by money?
  • Should people be wary that every celebrity selfie is an endorsement of some kind of another?
These questions are becoming increasingly relevant for professionals working in all sectors, including association executives. For instance, let’s say your president or CEO takes a seemingly innocent selfie with a vendor at your annual meeting. If that vendor Tweets the photo, could that be construed as an endorsement? You’ll likely need to think about how your organization wants to address yet another complexity of social media. Watch yourself out there!  
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