“A piece of work or an idea or a term or a turn of phrase that transcends its origins and merges with the ideas and cultures of others, passing through the fingers of multiple creators becomes a meme. Adding the Impact font to an image of a cat isn’t a meme, but that aesthetic basis being shared and built upon IS a meme.” – MichaelM
Memes, and especially internet memes, are often expressions or quotes which we have a shared understanding and association with. Popular culture, television and movies or even just the news are often sources of content for these gestures and ideas.
But it’s mostly likely that you encounter them on your social media feeds, as a jpeg of a quote or photograph from something you saw on the television given a caption which you can relate to.
Memes and business
Who likes internet memes? Everyone likes internet memes. They’re funny, cute and let us know that we’re not alone. Is everyone your consumer, or patron or ambassador? No.
I’ve seen too many brands, agencies and organisations rely on the adoption of internet memes, which is a very basic form of referencing popular culture. Sure, it generates likes and views (so-called engagement) but how does this transform users into customers, patrons and ambassadors of your brand?
It doesn’t. And without appropriate context, it doesn’t inform users either.
Pictures of cats and dogs can’t be your content plan, unless you work in an animal sanctuary or dog hotel (yes, they exist). As my colleague Marc Burns wrote in an earlier blog, content isn’t king, context is.
There are countless social media accounts out there with large followings and engagement statistics which simply don’t work as businesses or brands. A number make income through advertising and endorsements (see UniLAD, lad bible etc.) but simply recycling other people’s content (a reductionist term for writing, illustration, photography etc.) will dilute your strength and influence to that of an account which procedurally generates its communications.
Trying to get everyone to like you isn’t the best business tactic. Getting a dedicated group to value you is much more practical.
I love popular culture. Referencing popular culture and trends to your enthused, modern audience can be great. But as the cut and paste generation starts getting employed as social media executives, it’s easy to fall into the pit of memes.
I don’t want to be totally negative and disregard internet memes, it’s just that there’s a time and a place, and it’s not going to create value or worth for you or your brand. Work harder for better, more appropriate marketing communications and reap the tangible rewards.