If a picture is worth a thousand words, a viral meme on social media is worth exponentially more. Advocates, marketers and public policy geeks are all embracing the power of social media, pop culture, politics and memes. Some are having greater success than others.
A meme is a funny picture or video clip that can go viral on the web. They come in various forms, though most feature photos with clever captions. Memes have been at the forefront of social media for years, but the art and the strategy are still evolving.
A meme is to internet subculture what psychedelic art was to Timothy Leary. The concept was born in 1976 when British biologist Richard Dawkins wrote in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’ examined the diffusion of ideas/socio-cultural phenomenon and coined the process meme. With the rise of digital marketing, brands are creating brand memes to encourage viral communication on social media.
The most popular memes are often forms of commentary on current events, political affairs and pop culture. Facebook and Twitter are great mediums for spotting trends. It’s good practice to research memes that have gone viral, especially current ones. Share memes that are relevant to your audience, your cause and your brand. Be as innovative and creative as possible. After posting a meme, don’t forget to listen to your audience. Social media is a two-way channel for your supporters and your detractors.
Of course, don’t forget to post your memes with the most relevant keywords and hashtags so that they are searchable and findable to people outside of your social networks. Tag users, influencers and allies and invite them to share your images.
Prepare a media distribution plan and a press release to reach your target audiences and networks quickly. Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ are fantastic for sharing, as people can instantaneously see the image or video screenshot on their feeds. Bookmarking sites such as Reddit, Digg, Delicious, and StumbleUpon can help you get the word out. Include share capabilities (share bars) above and below your content for maximum visibility.
Memes require sharp content to engage with your audience. Finding the right image is essential to success on social media. The biggest mistake that communications professionals make with memes is strategy.
Just like in advertising, it’s easy to get lost in the creative process. We often put too much emphasis on being cute, clever and funny. We forget that we are trying to build awareness, understanding and support. We forget that we are asking people to take an action. We quickly seize on a photo or video clip and force it into our arsenal of messages, while diluting our overall campaign.
Keep in mind that the attention span of the typical internet user is short, so break through the clutter. Come up with a catchphrase that uses simple and memorable language. Make sure that your visuals match the tone and the message without unnecessary distraction. What action do you want audiences to take?