Where would the web be without memes? Whether they inspire a chuckle or a groan, memes have become an integral part of the web landscape.
The term was first used by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene in relation to how cultural information spreads, but the concept has since been hijacked by web culture.
According to the Weekly Standard, we are now the meme generation. And by adding them to your content mix, you can easily increase your marketing mojo. Keep reading to learn how.
Image: Frerk Meyer
What’s A Meme, Anyway?
Essentially, a meme is a piece of media or text that spreads quickly via blogs, email, social media and forums, often involving humor. This potential virality is what makes memes a great marketing tool.
Memes offer the possibility of staying relevant to your audience’s interests while providing something they can share with their networks.
Many of the best memes are image-based, and that’s another reason they should form part of your social media strategy.
An Ipsos survey shows that 43% of social media users share pictures online., and memes are part of that mix. Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers predicts huge success for image-based social networks this year and says that businesses need to pay more attention to the “shareability” factor for web images.
And if you’re talking shareability, then you’re talking memes.
Image: Jonathan Champ
Finding and Following Memes
If you’re planning on using memes for marketing, then a good first step is to figure out what memes are already out there. You can do this by:
- checking your social networks (if the same basic image or video is repeated frequently with textual variations, then it’s probably a current meme)
- searching for trending topics on the main social media sites, social search engines or Google Trends
- looking at frequently repeated hashtags
Keeping up with current events is another good strategy. Memes often relate to a topical news story (examples from 2013 include #royalbaby, #RIPMandela and, of course, #Government-shutdown). Just as important, know when a meme is no longer relevant and avoid it.
Know Your Meme is particularly good because it tracks the history of memes, giving you more information when you’re ready to create your own. Check out the Conspiracy Keanu and Skeptical Baby pages as examples.
How to Roll Your Own Meme
What if you want to generate your own meme? While you can never guarantee that putting out an image with some humorous text is going to catch on with your core audience you can make the process easier by doing what Hubspot calls memejacking (or hijacking a meme).
As they point out, the advantage of this is that you already know that the content is engaging audiences, that people are linking to it and that it has viral potential.
Check out the meme tracking resources listed above, paying particular attention to trending images and viewing/sharing figures on individual meme pages.
Once you’ve decided on your meme, then it’s time to brainstorm your own take on it. The basis of all image-based memes is the same: a great image and a great slogan.
But beware: There’s nothing worse than getting it wrong.
It’s important to understand what the meme is all about if you’re going to do a riff on it. And it’s also important to know how it relates to your brand and what your audience expects. Spend some time on this before you create or share anything.
Image: Know Your Meme
When you’re ready, grab the basic image, but beware of copyright issues. (See our guide to finding images online for help with this.) Assuming you have the right to use it, superimpose your text on it using an image editing tool like Gimp or Photoshop.
There are also several web apps to help you quickly create a meme, including Meme Crunch and Quick Meme. Try a Google search for meme generators to grab the latest tools. Again, beware of copyright issues when finding photos online.
If you’re really creative and sure of yourself, you can even create your own meme. Maybe someone’s said something funny that’s constantly quoted around the office or there’s a common issue that everyone complains about—that could be the starting point for a completely original meme.
What Happens Next?
Once you have your meme, it’s time to share it via social media channels, email marketing newsletters and other marketing channels.
If you’re putting the meme on your blog, don’t forget to add social sharing buttons (especially a Pinterest button) to make it easier for readers to share it there.
And who knows, if you hit the marketing jackpot, maybe someone else will jack YOUR meme and spread it even more widely.
Finally, here’s some meme inspiration to help you with meme marketing:
- Reddit’s list of current memes
- Hubspot’s Meme-tastic marketing Pinterest board
- 10 Popular Memes Masquerading as Marketing Campaigns – Hubspot
- The Best Examples of Meme Marketing – Sparksheet
Now it’s your turn. Have you used memes as part of your marketing mix? Share your experience with memes below.
Read other Crazy Egg articles by Sharon Hurley Hall.