How to Use Memes to Create Social Media Engagement

With the rapid proliferation of social media and social media channels, there’s been an equally as rapid growth in the creation of memes. While memes — highly viral niche content with fast burnout rates — have existed for some time, they are currently the internet’s favorite phenomena. A meme is, by definition, a cultural element passed from person to person. These can be viral videos, animated gifs, trending catchphrases, mash-ups of content like the Angelina Jolie leg-bomb from the Oscars or interrupting Kanye West (after the 2009 Grammys), and more. There are even resources like Know Your Meme if you need to catch up on today’s hottest memes.

While memes tend to be light-hearted, when done well, they can pack a serious marketing punch. Memes are a form of engaging social marketing content that you can use to get noticed and increase audience engagement. If content is king in social media, then social marketers should not ignore this tool in their arsenal. Below, we share some of our favorite examples before sharing tips on how to use memes to create social media engagement to help ensure your content gets RickRolled. (For even more tips on creating engaging content, check out our free whitepaper 11 Strategies to Increase Engagement.)

Some of our favorite memes include:

Smirnoff Ice’s Tea Partay

When Smirnoff introduced ‘Raw Tea’ in 2007, they chose to highlight the East Coast’s ‘Tea Culture’. Facing a limited budget for advertising, they produced a hilarious music video spoof featuring three preppy ‘Gangsta Rappers’ that went viral. It has over 6 million views.

Related Resource from B2CWebcast: PR Hacking: How Ideas Spread And What Marketers Need to Know

Wonderful Pistachios: Get Crackin’ with Honey Badger

The pistachio company, Wonderful Pistachio, teamed up with meme-maker Randall from The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger to develop a new commercial. Randall hilariously narrated a video of a honey badger, a tough animal that fights cobras, in a very animated way. It rocketed to viral video success with over 40 million views on YouTube.

An oldie but goodie: You may remember this dancing baby meme from the 90s that appeared in the sitcom Ally McBeal as a recurring hallucination, proving memes aren’t new nor are they solely-Internet based.

Meme Best Practices

Well-executed memes have several common elements:

  1. Speak to their audience: Marketers always need to know their audience, but it’s particularly true for this genre. Know your audience’s tastes, language (or keywords) and sense of humor.
  2. Are highly relevant: Related to tip #1, memes must resonate with their intended audience. Memes are a great example of the ‘It’s so funny because it’s true’ humor style.
  3. Are memorable & highly viral: Good memes beg to be shared. You share it because you know the piece of content (be it video, still frame, animated gif or otherwise) made you react, and your friend will have a similar reaction.  
  4. Often have a short-self life. Memes are only a component of marketing. It’s an additional resource in your arsenal, and should be used sparingly. Memes aren’t for everyone. They grow tiresome quickly. Don’t over-rely on them for marketing success.
  5. Take off on one platform. While memes should be seeded on multiple platforms, they often see success in one particular platform.
  6. Are easily re-imagined: Part of the fun of memes is the re-imaginings applied with various lenses. The ‘Sh*t girls say’ video is a great example of this; it spurred an incredibly wide array of new treatments, everything from ‘Sh*t Nobody Says’ to ‘Sh*t People Say about Sh*t People Say Videos.’
  7. Rarely have an overt marketing message. Memes catch people’s interest and spread quickly, but rarely seem like traditional marketing.

What’s your favorite meme? Share your favorite memes in the comment section, on Twitter: Facebook at Awareness, Inc., Social Media Marketing Best Practices and Social Media Marketing Mavens pages, and in our LinkedIn Social Media Marketing Mavens Group. For even more strategies to create engaging content, download our whitepaper Social Engagement: How to Crack the Code of Social Interaction.

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