Publish Date: 6/13/2016
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then surely a meme is worth at least 140 characters. Memes have become the quintessential form of goofs and gaffes on the internet. They’re funny, fast, and relatable. Of course, like many things on the internet, memes can also be really, really dumb.
In the 1976 book The Selfish Gene, British scientist Richard Dawkins used his newly-coined word “meme,” which he defined as "a unit of cultural transmission." Dawkins’ word comes from the Greek root mim meaning "mime" or "mimic” and is pronounced (/ˈmiːm/ meem). If that explanation is as clear as mud, then check out this video. Despite their recent traction on the internet, memes have actually been around for decades. One of the earliest notable meme examples is Kilroy Was Here.
‘Kilroy Was Here’ was a common form of graffiti during World War II. Like any good meme, Kilroy was an image that people recognized across cultural boundaries and was a fun, simple idea that people could copy. So, how should you use a meme?
The fear of no longer being socially relevant plagues the minds of all companies (and some people). They want to be seen as engaged and informed – and on-trend. Imagine you are a company with a fair amount of clout making your way to stardom, and you start to see a large number of memes incorporated into social media content. You decide not to join the bandwagon, not seeing the importance of following the same pattern users are following. Congratulations, you are now socially irrelevant. But what if you decide to join in? Then be cautious because the quickest way to reach the guillotine of social relevancy is by the misuse of memes.
Memes are more than just adding captions to pictures. They require cultural sophistication combined with perfect timing. Before we go on to show you proper meme usage, it’s good to know what not to do. First, some examples:
Do you know what those are?
But why are they bad memes? While somewhat funny, they do not follow the standard or correct format for the picture. Kermit Drinking Tea is used for a low-key judgment of something, and it always ends with, “but that’s none of my business.”
Success Kid is meant for big success stories, not that one time you found a dollar on the floor. Here’s how they should look:
Incorrect usage of classic memes equals a swift chop to your social relevancy, a situation in which no company wants to find themselves. Be careful not to just add your own spin on memes because the standard for each one is in place for a reason.
Here are two more examples of correctly-used memes:
These two images followed the standard. Good Guy Greg is used as a platform to show the kind gesture of someone, and the Super Cool Ski Instructor must always end with, “You’re gonna have a bad time,” after leading with some warning of sorts. Know the picture, and know the correct caption and verbiage. The internet is not a forgiving place, so be smart.
Equally as important as knowing how to use memes is knowing when to use them. Not every situation calls for them. Someone is asking for hours of operation? Just give them the hours, not a picture of a funny dog with a bad caption. However, if someone is mentioning the business and talking about his sweet gains, hit him up with a meme about sweet gains - maybe a classic Ron Burgundy.
Do not forget that memes extend beyond pictures. Some of the freshest memes use animated gifs or video. In the past few years, the most widespread memes have been video content such as The Harlem Shake - 2013, Ice Bucket Challenge - 2014, and most recently, Running Man - 2016. A quick search on YouTube and you find scores of videos for these popular memes.
Explore all variety of memes because over-doing the same picture is tiresome and makes your content stale.
The best way to get on the meme train is to find a meme that you really love and make a version of your own. Most new memes gain popularity by accident, so inventing a meme is probably best left to the denizens of the internet. If you want to see where he newest memes are made, buckle your internet safety belt and take a stroll through Reddit, 4chan, or the Something Awful message boards. Who knows? You might find a meme that’s destined for your business.
Memetic marketing can be very lucrative if done correctly. However, before you post your fresh meme, remember to check a few things:
What’s your favorite meme? Have you seen a clever meme used in online marketing? Tell us about it on Facebook.
There’s a whole world of memes to explore, and even some of the best memes never get old.
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