January 2021 saw the American inauguration of brand new president Joe Biden and also gave birth to the Bernie Sanders meme which also enjoyed a brief stint on Twitter as a trending hashtag. But what is a meme and can it be used effectively in social media marketing?
What is a meme?
The meme, by actual definition of the word, is “an idea, behaviour, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture” however, in recent years, the definition has also been expanded to define “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media)”
Anyone can create a meme, there are plenty of meme making apps and websites to assist you, two of the most popular and easy to use of are Imgur and Canva which are easy to access online.
In theory, you can make a meme about anything, you can use a popular image (from a film or TV show) that is easily recognisable and resonates with people or you can use a stock image or simply a funny photo – one you may have taken yourself. The more recognisable the image, the more interest it gets but that’s not to say that a brand new image wouldn’t get recognition also.
Many memes ‘go viral’ which means, by definition, that it is an “image, video, or link that spreads rapidly through a population by being frequently shared with a number of individuals”. What actually going viral means can vary from platform to platform, for example, on Instagram, you need at least 100k likes on your image/video to be classed as viral whereas if you’re on TikTok, you need 5.5 million views and 1.1 million likes in less than 24 hours!
There is so much technical jargon these days, we often get asked if a GIF can be a meme. A GIF is a Graphics Interchange Format (you’ve probably seen them on your WhatsApp/Facebook/Twitter message boxes), in truth a meme can take many forms including GIFs and static imagery.
Question is, should you use memes in your social media marketing strategy? YES! And there are SO MANY reasons why! You may have heard us harp on about how visual posts gain more attraction than simple plain text posts? Well imagine a funny post which makes people smile, which people want to share, the image itself might not be directly related to what you’re promotion but it gathers engagement which will drive traffic to your page and brand. Memes also humanise your brand and make you more relatable to your target audience, research has shown that target consumers are more likely to remember your brand when/if they see that meme elsewhere.
Marketing with memes is an excellent, inexpensive way to promote your business without being overtly salesy (people can spot that a mile off!). It just takes a little time to understand and research your audience and what they find funny and also to link this to the latest trends.
As a marketer, proceed with caution, there are a couple of things to look out for if you are going to use memes on your social media platforms. When using memes, if you fail to hit the mark, you could be at risk of offending potential clients or customers. Make sure your company (no matter how small) has a clear social media policy for the team to follow – these policies help a team understand what is good (and what isn’t!) for social media and inline with you business goals, without this, what may be funny to one team member, might be highly offensive to another. When you’re using images for memes, ensure that you check the rights, should your image go viral, you want to make sure that you’re not going to get into hot water for using it. And finally, depending on the image will establish if this is relevant but always make sure you’re not implying an endorsement.
Bottom line is that memes are fun to use and bring a little relatability to your brand so don’t be afraid to use them but always make sure they are appropriate to your target audience and won’t cause offence.