Memes are familiar, inclusive, shareable and funny. It's important to be aware of the impact memes have on social media as you build your skills as a content maker.
The famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term meme as a "package of culture" in the late 70s. Hold on.. there was no internet back then. What was he talking about? Well actually before the net memes were present in fashion, architecture and regional language. Concepts and behaviours that are infinitely replicable. Then the internet came along and the worlds understanding of memes changed. The fundamentals are that they reproduce, repackage and repurpose an idea or element of culture (which is coincidentally fundamental to the artistic movement of postmodernity too).
As a content maker, knowing about how memes can help you out is fundamental. They have the potential to help your content reach wider audiences and even start something. Photo and video memes, image macro, word memes and marketing memes are all different forms that memes can take.
1. Photo and video memes
Footage (still or moving) of an imitation of a particular craze or action that has become popularised. This might bring images of Americans flipping water bottles in front of a crowd or people holding up #KeepCommunityRadio signs with their personal story attached as a caption.
2. Image macro
When you think of memes, macro memes might be the first type to come to mind. They classically have thick white text at the top and bottom with a familiar image underlayed. Take the meme above for example: a still of Fry in an episode of Futurama. There are hundreds of interpretations of this image but what makes it a meme is that the top line always reads “Not sure if X”, while the bottom line always says “or just Y” used typically to represent an internal monologue.
3. Word memes/catchphrases
Word memes are particular words or phrases that are replicated like hashtags on Twitter. #rio2016 #asamother #censusfail are all examples of recent word based memes where people add them to a personal post on their social media.
4. Marketing memes
During the lead up to the release of the 2015 biopic Straight Outta Compton about the revolutionary hip-hop act N.W.A, Straight Outta Somewhere was a marketing campaign that cleverly focused in on their target market - an audience that loves memes.
Creators took the title of the movie and turned it into a meme allowing people from all around the world to say where they are "Straight Outta". The response was overwhelming with a huge response from everyone from singers and celebrities to sportspeople.
How you can use memes to your advantage
Latch on to memes the moment they break. It's pretty awkward dropping a pop culture reference when it's just that month too late or wearing clothes that are "so 2015". Keep tabs on the most popular posts and memes circulating the internet at all times. That way you can stay fresh for your audience.
Ask yourself - is this right for my audience? For my aesthetic? Your main role as a content creator is to know your audience. You should be able to describe your audience as if they were a person. Check out this article we wrote about finding your audience.
Share the shareable. If you know your audience, you know what kinds of memes they will appreciate and be more inclined to share. Shareable memes are ones that your audience can easily relate to and apply to their own situation.
If you are unsure of what your audience will appreciate, visit pages similar to yours or check out the profiles of some people that like your page.
Know your meme. "A website dedicated to documenting internet phenomena: viral videos, image macros, catchphrases, web celebs and more". Knowyourmeme.com is your definitive guide to all the memes that exist out there.
Is it entertaining? This one is kind of a no-brainer. If you're going to share a meme, it's got to have an element of entertainment whether it's funny, sad or simply makes you think. Take a few moments before you hit the post button to consider whether your meme is going to garner a reaction from your audience.
Don't screw up the fundamentals of the meme. Very closely related
to the "latch on to memes the moment they break" rule, screwing up the fundamentals of a meme could cost you your credibility as an author. It may seem extreme but when you see a poorly executed meme it's hard to look at.
For example the Fry example up the page has three fundamental elements: 1. The text at the top "Not sure if X" 2. The text at the bottom "or if Y" and 3. The classic image of Fry as the background.
Ever thought that memes and genetics could be related?