When Richard Dawkins first coined a term to describe cultural ideas being passed from one individual to another he probably wasn’t thinking of dancing babies, or Ed Balls accidentally tweeting his own name. Times have indeed changed.
Skip forward 40 years and a ‘meme’ still matches his description, but the way in which they spread- and the ideas that prove popular- are rather different. Today, anything from a Twitter #hashtag and a blundering politician’s actions on any network, to a photo upload could become an internet meme, and the most popular are usually more comical or newsworthy than conceptual.
What can seem like just good fun should be taken very seriously, though. These notions can spread like viral wildfire, meaning it makes good marketing sense to familiarise yourself. With that in mind, we compiled this list of things everyone should know about all the little things everyone’s always talking about.
What makes a popular web meme?
According to Newsweek, the Top 5 Memes are:
*LonelyGirl15- A popular YouTube account apparently owned by a teenage girl named Bree, which caused uproar when exposed as a fictitious online mini-series.
*Lolcats- Pictures of cats in amusing poses, with super-imposed human quotes.
*Obama Girl- A music video that apparently upset the President’s daughters thanks to its overall theme, namely having a crush on the man in the White House.
*2 Girls 1 Cup- Controversial and now-banned trailer to an unspeakably horrific pornographic film.
*Star Wars Kid- Another YouTube phenomenon, an adolescent was filmed by schoolmates whilst pretending to use a lightsaber, and looking ridiculous. Thousands then used editing and animation to make it look even funnier.
Things to consider before using memes for business
*Timing- Don’t fall foul of sensitive news events by making predictions or foolish jokes. It’s also pointless coming up with an idea that will be old hack by tomorrow
*There’s no recipe for success- The people ultimately decide which will go viral, but by grabbing the attention of key influencers you can get a head start.
*Softly does it- As with TV and online advertising, this form of marketing doesn’t need a hard sell. Make consumers stand up and take note, then nod to the brand.
*Evolve and be authentic- This Microsoft clip, based on the Double Rainbow YouTube video, was criticised for being too corporate, and lacking new ideas.
*Keep on brand- Obvious advertising might not work, but neither does content the public will perceive to be in conflict with a company’s ethics and image.
Methods of ‘making’ a meme
*Technically speaking, like a viral, you can’t really make a meme- it is created when the idea is passed on. Without others sharing, it’s technically still an idea.
*Meme creation tools are plentiful, often free and easy to use. quickmeme.com, mememaker.net, and whatdoumeme.com are popular examples. However, it’s important to remember that originality counts for much when it comes to the likelihood yours will be picked up, so if it’s a new idea develop it independently.
*If you’re going to do it, research. Don’t decide to use something that’s already in existence outside its context. Look at meme databases like knowyourmeme.com, where you’ll find most in existence listed, with an explanation on what they mean.
*Publish and re-share the meme comprehensively, once you’re confident, of course. Otherwise there simply isn’t any point in putting all that initial effort in.