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How to use memes for social media marketing

The socially awkward penguin meme is a popular one for relating to awkward social situations.

The socially awkward penguin meme is a popular one for relating to awkward social situations.

Memes are everywhere. They’re funny and catch the attention of potential customers online. But are memes appropriate for use in social media marketing? How do you draw the line between using humor and being unprofessional?

There is in fact a type of advertising called memetic marketing, which utilizes trends online to get internet users’ attention and show that the company is aware and involved in what’s trending online. But let’s start with the basics.

The history of memes

Memes (rhymes with “seems”) are internet trends that gain traction by being shared, often with variations on the same idea or image. The word itself comes from the Latin word, mimeme, which means “imitated thing.” The history of the word can be found in an interesting infographic here.

The most common use of the word “meme,” however, refers to pictures with personally generated text that describe a relatable situation or a type of emotion – although this term can also refer to videos and other trending online media.

There are tons of different types of memes, but some of the most popular ones can be found here.

These types of memes can be found on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter most commonly and are usually meant to be funny, relatable, and reflect what is trending at the moment. But when is it appropriate to use these for your own professional blog?

What memetic marketing can do for your brand

While you can have a very successful blog without using memes, there definitely are some benefits of using them that might bring more potential clients to your site, or convince them to stay and look around once they’re there. What do memes add to your blog or social media?

  • They make you seem aware of the market and demographic. Your potential customers feel like you understand them when you post things they relate to.
  • You can show your personal sense of humor and the brand’s personality.
  • Humor is a great selling point – just look at some of the more memorable commercials.
  • An interesting, multidimensional blog interests readers and encourages them to forward your site to others.
  • They give you an easy way to have a variety of quick posts that are funny and have visual interest.

So you might be convinced that memes are good things to use now and then – but you might be asking yourself, “How?”

While this is a cute meme, the awkward wording from line to line is an example of how memes can go wrong.

While this is a cute meme, the awkward wording from line to line is an example of how memes can go wrong.

How to use memes for social media marketing

When deciding whether to use a meme, there are a few things you should consider.

  • What is the tone of your blog or brand overall?
  • What kind of personality does your company/brand have?
  • Who is your demographic?
  • How professional or casual do you want your brand to seem?
  • Are you comfortable with swears or racey jokes?

While we recommend you think carefully about these questions before deciding on using any meme, you shouldn’t let fear of seeming unprofessional stop you from adding personality and humor to your outreach. You should try to find memes that are not inappropriate and will resonate with your target audiences  without sacrificing professionalism. It’s important to keep your tone formal enough so that your readers take you seriously, but you don’t want to seem stiff, or they might be less interested in your brand.

If you have an idea for a meme that will relate well with your client base, you can make your own customizable one at websites like this. All you have to do is find the template you want and type in the top text and the bottom text. Look carefully at the examples of the ones that are already made, because a poorly written meme can turn people off. A meme done well, however, can greatly improve your online marketing, encourage your readers to stay on your site, keep looking through your posts, and share it with their friends.


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 What’s your favorite meme? Do you use them on your blog or social channels? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!


Ice Bucket Challenge: What makes content ‘go viral’?

We’ve all seen videos “go viral” – clips that seem silly or pointless that gain so much traction they end up being a talking point on the morning news. Of all the thousands of videos online, what makes certain ones gain so much attention?

There isn’t a formula that can make a video go viral, but there are some qualities that a lot of viral videos share which may contribute to their success.

Common qualities of viral videos

Many people have speculated what makes videos go viral, as can be in this post by Hubspot. And while it’s not an exact science, we’ve compiled our own list, based on what’s successful.

  • Short video, quick scenes, create immediate interest
  • Smart use of hashtags and tagging
  • Play on emotions: humor, love, etc.
  • Show something unique, creative, unexpected
  • Play off something already popular
  • Spontaneous, organic, or “real”
  • Informative
  • Interactivity
  • Controversy (less often the case)

While not every viral video has all of these qualities, most have a combination of these traits that encourage sharing and therefore make them gain “viral” status. The video above, “Charlie bit my finger” is short, funny, cute, and feels spontaneous or “real.”

Our Viral Video Award-winning trailer, Ticknado, adopted many viral qualities from the original #Sharknado, which may have contributed to its success.

The most obvious trait Ticknado exhibits is the play on something that is already popular. Since many internet users were already looking up “Sharknado” clips and trailers, and the Ticknado trailer was tagged with “#Sharknado” hashtag, it became just a click away for viewers who were already interested in that type of video.

Ticknado was also funny, informative, and creative, while using quick scenes to keep interest throughout the video. This made it something that people would want to share with their friends.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’s viral qualities

Perhaps the biggest hit of 2014 is the Ice Bucket Challenge. If you haven’t heard of it, which seems unlikely if you spend any time at all on Facebook, this challenge asks people to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads or donate $100 to foundations that research ALS (a degenerative nerve disease). You are then asked to nominate your friends to do the same.

Pete Frates, shown participating in the Ice Bucket challenge in the Vine above, suffers from ALS himself, and is the one who encouraged those who took the challenge to focus on this particular disease.

While this isn’t an example of one video that has gone viral, but rather a movement, this challenge is a prime example of harnessing the power of social media to gain awareness and, this case, raise money for research.

Inc.com broke down the reasons for this campaign’s success as a social media campaign rather thoroughly, but it can also be examined through looking at the qualities of viral videos.

Viral quality: Emotional response

The most important driving factor in this challenge going viral may be the emotional response to the videos. Individually, it is quite funny to see your friends doused in ice water, while collectively, people feel inspired to take part and help promote a good cause.

Everyone from celebrities like Justin Timberlake to your grandma to my 19-month-old daughter (see end of clip above) have taken part – encouraging many to want to get in on the action.

Viral quality: Interactivity

This challenge is built to grow exponentially. When one person is nominated, they nominate a handful of others, who nominate a handful of their friends – all the while, tagging each other and using helpful hashtags, like #StrikeOutALS and #IceBucketChallenge.

On top of that, being called out publicly and being given a 24-hour deadline creates a sense of urgency to make people follow through with the challenge. Many forgo the bucket of ice and make a donation, and many have donated regardless of whether they dump water on their heads or not.

In fact, according to NBC news, The ALS Association has collected $1.35 million, when during the same time frame last summer, they received $22,000. That’s more than 60 times more money for research.

Viral quality: Controversy

Perhaps surprisingly, this viral campaign has elicited some controversy. While many have been anxiously awaiting their nomination to take part, or even nominating themselves, there have been plenty of naysayers who criticize those who take part as not actually taking action against the disease but rather just want to publicly say they did something good and nominate their friends. Others criticize being so public about donating to charity.

Even this negativity toward the movement, however, has increased those talking about the challenge and ALS, looking up articles, and discussing the ethics behind what you should do or not do publicly online. Some controversy can, in fact, propel a viral phenomenon.

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Have you done the Ice Bucket Challenge? What parts of this campaign might work for creating your own viral video or movement? Let us know what you think in the comments.


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