Selfie Mining: What’s Really Going On?

Selfie Mining: What’s Really Going On?

By: Cortland J. Fondon

You might think that picture you snapped of yourself in the car while you were waiting for the light to turn green was just for your friends on Facebook or Instagram, but that’s not the case. Not anymore. More people than you ever dreamed of are seeing your pouty lips or exaggerated smile. Is that a good thing? Well, that’s up for debate. How is it happening? Marketers are grabbing these images for research. It’s called selfies mining and it’s happening all over the Internet.

When we take a picture of ourselves we do so without promoting a specific product in mind – at least most of the time. But marketers have found a way to glean information from these selfies that is very important to businesses. Think about it. The clothing we wear, the drinks and food we consume, the locations we travel – all these things give insight to about what we enjoy. A clothing company would love to know that the line they just put out is successful. It would entice them to create more products for that line in the new release. Can they learn all that by just seeing a little piece of a blouse? Amazingly, the answer is yes.

With these new way of gathering market research comes a new industry created to support it. There are companies that mine for selfies, companies that gather clothing and material data, logo assessment, and those that analyze popularity trends of the span of months. There are marketing firms that specialize in compiling this data and reporting findings to businesses that then use it to send targeted ads. The service from which the picture was grabbed (think photo sharing services like Flickr) shares these images hoping for advertising dollars from the companies whose logos and products were worn or used in the pictures found on their website. These selfies mining companies use APIs to access the images and the owner of the image is blissfully unaware.

Free market research – that’s how marketers position the information gleaned from selfies mining. What better way is there to find out what people like- what they really like and not what talking heads say they do – than by their own promotion? Very much like word of mouth marketing, selfies, whether intentionally or unintentionally, promote whatever you are wearing or are sitting near. How many times have you looked at a picture of a couple standing neat the Eiffel Tower and said thought about visiting there? The same theory applies to mining selfies. If the person in the selfies is holding a can of soda, fans of that soda will notice. If they are wearing a fashionable outfit, someone will want it too. If they are standing near a restaurant, people might seek it out to find out what its like. The caption under the selfies doesn’t have to mention the product; the mere image of it will be telling enough.


If this is new to you marketers out there, you have some catching up to do. Marketers have been at this for a while. For those of you who thought your selfies were protected to some degree, think again. There aren’t any laws governing the use of public images and a selfies, whether you knew it or not, is public. Food for thought the next time you take a selfies in front of a clothing store holding a bottle of water and wearing a name brand sweater.

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