LOLcats. Rage comics. Rickrolling. Roadwork ahead. Evil Kermit. Surprised Pikachu. Kombucha Girl. Everything is cake. Stick bugged. Anakin and Padme.
If at least half of these phrases make sense to you, then you know your way around the web. Memes, specifically internet memes, are viral and usually humorous images, GIFs, or dialogue that patrons of social media use as a template to react or describe a situational or emotional experience. Internet veterans and Facebook aunts alike keep the spirit of decade-old memes alive while the rapid cycle of social content and competitively funny influencers crop up new memes on a near-weekly basis.
This visually engaging medium is so popular because anyone can make a meme. Fresh memes are typically created by using other media as a starting point, often television programs or songs, or even stock images like “Distracted Boyfriend.” Once a meme is accepted into the viral zeitgeist, anyone can edit their own take onto it. There are many websites full of meme templates to do so, even by graphic design big-leaguers like Canva.
So where do memes and marketing intersect?
What Memes Mean To Your Social Media Marketing
The use of memes in a brand’s social media strategy have everything to do with two major business and marketing components: audience and branding. By posting these funny and pop culture-laden internetisms, you’re communicating both who your target audience is and how you want your brand to be perceived.
Memes are most often enjoyed by Millennial and Gen Z social media denizens who swiftly circulate them on platforms like Twitter and Tumblr. Businesses whose customer persona may skew younger like Totino’s or whose products are designed with masters of digital culture in mind like TikTok may post memes regularly. When luxury brands like Gucci start entire meme campaigns, though, you can see how B2C e-commerce trends have shifted for the growing internet-savvy consumer base. Business content from any industry instantly becomes more relevant to a wider reach of users when attached to a recognizable and timely meme.
When implementing memes into your social media marketing, you’re positioning your brand voice to say, “We are hip and casual. We are one of you.” As the majority of the American advertising workforce are indeed Millennials, the latter statement becomes punctuated by use of memes to humanize the business. Memes add human value to your social strategy, eliminating the tint of consumerism and buzzwordy ad-speak that turns off many contemporary audiences. Your brand can garner a positive online reputation for being both entertaining and personable, whose social media is fun and easy to engage with.
Using Memes In Your Social Media Marketing
Just because memes can be silly doesn’t mean that you can throw them out onto your socials without a strategy. There are three major rules to using memes in your social media marketing:
1. Know a meme’s shelf-life. Some memes stay clever for years and years, but some are simply fleeting. Some even evolve their connotations over time, losing relevancy or becoming in poor taste like the replacement of Drakeposting to John Mulaney (the former falling out of style due to the singer’s grooming allegations). Make sure you or your team are adequately immersed in internet culture so you can keep track of which ones are still trending as you’re planning your content calendar.
2. Don’t try too hard. Another reason to make sure you’re an involved digital native when strategizing meme marketing is so you can balance your content. Lingo that doesn’t quite match your meme, creating a meme that’s overly broad or overly specific, and trying to apply a meme to every current event or business development are surefire ways for your audience to think you’re out of touch or even tone deaf.
3. Remember your marketing funnel. Meme marketing is a “TOFU” (Top Of The Funnel) tactic designed to entice engagement and boost reach. Don’t use it without fully optimizing for your broader strategy. Personalizing your meme to fit your followers’ interests is one step you can take to do so. Ensuring you tie your meme to your business or industry, even specific promotions or events, will also help. And, of course, always be testing! Try some different formats and memes to see what lands for your audience.
Meme marketing has made it clear that it’s here not only to stay but to help your brand succeed on social media. Memes are meant to be instantly inclusive, audiences all in on the joke and able to share a sense of relatability. Share a good one with your followers and watch the engagements roll in. Then, keep building that sense of online cultural camaraderie to convert your captive audience into invested customers. Or, as they say, crack open a cold one with the boys at the bottom of your marketing funnel.