It’s all about the souvenir photo when it comes to conferences and festivals these days. It seems that any and every gathering worth its digital weight is incorporating the hashtag printing station. Not only are they turning up everywhere; but the station and its surrounding vicinity is like a magnet, attracting people from the time the venue doors open to the time they close. This is all thanks to a little piece of technology known as the hashtag printer. But why, in an era that promotes an ephemeral tech experience, does the contemporary event attendee love a tangible photo-to-go, and how did this small bit of technology get on the “it” list?
It’s an interesting question given today’s fast-paced world. As focused as an attendee may be on speed-networking, dart-in film viewing, and drive-by panel listening, people will stop and actually take a photo at a designated location if they know that once they place that photo on Instagram or Twitter with a previously assigned hashtag, they can also obtain the same photo from a station in their hands within just seconds. Call it the Hashtag Printer Effect which, although such printers have been on the scene for a bit, seems to be growing in popularity and a making its way as an emerging trend just the last few months.
Here’s how it works. Though there are some variations, basically there is software that speaks to a printer. Not just any printer, mind you. It’s a printer is specifically made to connect to the Internet. The printer is programmed to scan for a particular hashtag(s) and then pulls them. The printer then automatically prints all the photos for the appointed hashtag(s), until last man standing at said event. Sometimes the printer station even includes a big touchscreen with an ever-updating grid of thumbnail pictures that shows all the photos were already taken, which can be tapped, enlarged, viewed, and even printed again. Sometimes the area includes just a good old fashioned large easel-of-sorts where an assistant is madly pulling the photos and sticking them to the area as people hunt curiously for their own while observing all the others as if they are museum pieces. It’s fascinating to watch this in action. Typically the modem inside printer connects to Wi-Fi, 3G, or a 4G LTE, and the whole thing needs nothing more than an electrical outlet to start the photo fun. Some printers can even have handle the printing of up to 300 pictures from a single color cartridge.
The whole scenario is rather ingenious because the technology encourages social media exposure of an event and/or brand while also offering a printed souvenir from the event. The prints, themselves, can even be branded. More importantly, this is about technology driving engagement and impressions. Case studies involving names from Acura to the University of Michigan can range from a reach of a few hundred thousand to half a billion!
While reported last year as an area-to-watch, it seems that the hashtag printing phenomenon will become a bonafide hit. This could be due in large part to the fact that a large part of the Millennial demographic gravitates toward experience. Millennials, for the most part, are on social media platforms. Thus, capturing experience via social is a winner. But the reason is greater than mere mechanics. According to nationalpsychology.com, we like souvenirs because they preserve the past. Apparently, that’s still worth something. It helps us ground in a world rife with disruption. There’s also a kind of cool factor involved that intersects with instant gratification. You can get it in seconds, but you can’t just get it anywhere – yet. In essence, the hashtag printer is speaking today’s lifestyle language. Plus, the smaller versions literally fits inside the center of the palm of your hand driving the cute factor up even higher. The old school photo booth, with its questionable quality, gets a major face-lift (pun intended). And it’s all provided for free thanks to the conference, sponsor, event. Who knew that printers could create fervor?