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.



 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!


Social Media Ethics: How transparent should your social media marketing be?

Do you recognize this video?

Big Papi took a selfie with the President, which then became an internet sensation.

Big Papi took a selfie with the President, which then became an internet sensation.

Or this picture?

The famous Oscar selfie that became the most retweeted picture ever.

The famous Oscar selfie that became the most retweeted picture ever.

How about this picture?

Most likely, you’ve seen all of these more times than you can count, but what do they all have in common? They’re examples of content that companies have released on social media sites, using the momentum of the internet to advertise without explicitly presenting it as advertising.

All three of these examples were released, became viral, and then people began realizing they were actually part of marketing campaigns and not as spontaneous as they might have seemed. Some publications and people weren’t happy with the companies for planning what was made to seem spontaneous, making the customers feel like they had been lied to.

But is it unethical to present content to consumers without being clear about its purpose? Does it work in favor of the company?

Wren’s take on their social media marketing campaign

Melissa Coker, the founder of Wren, considered the video a huge success for the clothing business, including the backlash surrounding it. In an article on Business Insider she said, “Traffic to the Wren website is up 14,000%, and 96% of those visitors are new to the site.” Coker sited the subtlety of the video’s message as part of its success.

In fact, the video had originally been tweeted with the line, “We asked 20 strangers to kiss for the first time for our Fall14 collection,” clearly indicating it was a video to promote the clothing line. When the video was shared, it lost that context and began to make people feel duped when they discovered it was meant to advertise the clothes. People were also unhappy to discover the strangers were all models, actors or musicians, meaning their reactions may have been less genuine than you would initially expect. But was it unethical?

Coker indicates that making media like this – which is content-based, rather than heavily commercialized slogan-based advertising – is actually more ethical. There are no tricks or carefully calibrated marketing techniques meant to sway people to buy these products. If people are interested in the content, they’ll forward it, and if not, they won’t.

Samsung’s social media marketing campaigns

Samsung has been less upfront about these images than Wren was – in fact the company says they paid David Ortiz to use his Samsung phone and Ellen DeGeneres to use her Samsung phone during the Oscars, but that the selfies were spontaneous.

As a result from Ortiz’s selfie with President Obama, the White House has discussed banning all selfies with the President to avoid situations where it appears that he is endorsing one brand over another.

The Oscar selfie got so much attention, however, that it was responsible for Twitter crashing briefly. It has been retweeted more than 3 million times and became the most retweeted post ever. It has certainly gotten people talking about Samsung.

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, “Kontera [a company which tracks social media content] said that 23% of the online commentary around the ‘selfie’ on social media has been positive and about 69% of the comments have been neutral. Only 8% of the comments were negative, the company added.”

How should you employ this type of social media marketing?

There definitely are some benefits of using social media for marketing.

  • It’s less expensive than traditional advertising.
  • You can get direct response from potential customers.
  • Audience is actively involved when retweeting, sharing, blogging, etc.
  • You can use more memorable and creative outlets for marketing your brand.

What are the downsides?

  • If you aren’t clear enough about what you’re doing, you may get backlash online.
  • It is much harder than it seems to make things go viral – a large part of it is simply luck.

While it is largely up to the content maker to decide what is ethical when using social media marketing, it’s important to remember that customers want to feel like a brand is trustworthy. Feeling tricked or duped may not be the best strategy – but subtlety might work better, as in the case of Wren’s video.

Try to be upfront and honest with your potential customers, but use the internet and social media to your advantage, because, when done right, it could help put your brand’s name on the map.

Looking to further your engagement but not sure how?

New Media Education Experts Designated Editor offers customized courses from the convenience of your laptop or device. Contact Suzanne at Sue(at) now to  set a time that best suits your busy schedule.