Got Memes? How to Harness the Power of Memes in Your Social Media Posts
If you've glanced at Facebook, Instagram or Twitter lately, chances are you've seen a meme. A meme is an image, video or GIF that's shared across social media, usually with a funny caption. Some well-known examples are LOLcats, Distracted Boyfriend and Rickrolling.
You might think memes are only relevant for big brands with a Millennial or Generation Z audience. But small businesses can — and should — use memes on social media, and as you'll see, there's no age requirement.
Why memes are important for small businesses
As with social media in general, memes are an equal-opportunity phenomenon. In other words, a one-person operation can create a shareable meme just as well as one of the world's biggest brands. With that in mind, take a look at the benefits bestowed by this digital-age medium.
According to Julia Enthoven, digital media expert and CEO of the online multimedia editor Kapwing, the humor that comes with memes is part of what makes them powerful. “Humor is a great storytelling technique," she says. “It can help accelerate your business both locally and online."
Part of the goal of marketing is to get your name out there — otherwise known as brand recognition. Memes are uniquely well-suited to this objective because of their shareability. In fact, the word “meme" is a shortening of mimeme, an ancient Greek word meaning “something imitated."
For example, let's say an architecture firm posts an image of the Leaning Tower of Pisa with a witty caption. When people share that meme, the firm has a higher likelihood of spreading their name to a wider audience.
When it comes to community building, memes are the gifts that keep on giving: They create a community of people sharing and commenting on your post, and they also help you understand the limits of your audience. Their feedback and comments can refine your understanding of what makes them tick.
An opportunity across age groups
Despite being a favorite of teens, memes are not only for the young. In fact, if your audience is more mature, you might have an advantage.
“There's more opportunity for older communities and businesses to do meme marketing well because fewer competitors are doing it well," says Enthoven.
So don't shy away from applying this twenty-first-century marketing tactic to conversations with Baby Boomer.
How to use memes
Before you start posting, take a week or two to follow what your community is talking about on social media. This will help further define your audience, and it will also indicate what types of memes are popular with them. As you begin to create your own memes, follow these guidelines:
Be original or repurpose
Many memes use a well-known graphic with an original caption or vice versa. You should also feel free to use an image or video that you took with your iPhone, or just something that grabs your attention online (as long as you make sure it's OK to republish it).
A safe option for images is always pets or babies, Enthoven explains. “Memes are about being relatable and bringing a subculture together around a shared experience or inside joke," she says.
If you're a plumber and you have a picture of an overflowing toilet, by all means, stick a caption on it and hit Publish. There's no rule that says you have to go with the images already being shared.
“The biggest mistake I see businesses make is being afraid to move quickly on relevant trends happening now," says Enthoven. She recommends riding the coattails of current affairs, holidays, sporting events or weather news. Let your audience's tastes and interests dictate which trends you focus on.
Have a personality
She also cautions against trying to appeal to everyone. “The only thing worse than excluding too many is not taking a stance at all," she says. Get to know your target audience well enough to understand what will prompt them to laugh and share. If that brand of humor is distasteful to others outside your community, so be it — as long as you're not being offensive or hurtful.
Be ready to fail
Finally, have a lighthearted attitude. The risk of falling flat with your memes is not such a big risk after all.
“It's fine on social media to have a few things that are a dud," says Enthoven. Follow the same advice you would for any marketing plan: Try it out, gather responses and tweak accordingly. Over time, your meme efforts could earn you some laughs — and a few leads.