Know Your Meme: Internet Culture that Businesses Can Use

Posted by Nick Pizzolato on Tue, Jan 06, 2015 @ 03:30 PM

There was a time when I wouldn’t even think about explaining what an internet meme was, let alone how a business might possibly use them. But, it’s a brave new world where businesses need to connect and engage with consumers in other ways besides endorsing their products. One of the ways companies are expanding their brand engagement is by using an internet meme.

A meme, for the uninitiated, is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture” (thanks Merriam-Webster). In web culture, these have become synonymous with a visual image or a message that resonates with an audience. That message becomes popular as people see it online and share it through social media, carving out a little section of the web for itself.

Types of Internet Memes

The Photo Meme - When the subject of a photo is participating in a photo trend. My favorite example, Owling. These can also include pictures of people holding signs that share a common message.

Know Your Meme: Internet Culture that Businesses Can UseThe Image (Macro) Meme - These are what most people think of when you mention “internet meme.” These are when you take an image and include a variation of a certain catch phrase. For example, “Success Baby” is especially popular.

Hashtag - A meme doesn’t have to be visual. Hashtags that are created with the intention to be shared and engaged are also memes. Last year, NASA promoted the hashtag #GlobalSelfie on Earth Day. They asked people take a selfie of you in your environment, tag it with #GlobalSelfie and share it. In the end NASA made a global mosaic from the images.

So what does this mean for your business? How or why should you use a meme in your social media marketing?

Memes are easily accessible. You can find them not only online but also on billboards and other outdoor advertising. Plus, they (mostly) are easily understood. Yes, there are some out there that are a little too niche, but a majority of them can be enjoyed by anyone. In fact, you may have already chuckled at a meme, without knowing that it had a specific name.

Which leads us to another reason to use internet memes, they are all meant to be entertaining. A well written meme is universally appealing.

Also, memes appeal to people’s desire to be included in a group of friends. A meme shared with your customers on Facebook, Google Plus, or Twitter, is a great way to make this group feel like a community. Sharing not only news and products, but ideas and laughter.

Of course, success with memes comes with some stipulations. The first is, know your audience. Maybe after reading this post you are excited to show your creative side - but you don’t think your customer base is very web savvy. So you wouldn’t want to pick a meme that is web specific. For instance, say you run an auto parts store. This meme would be the perfect thing to share for you customers.Know Your Meme: Internet Culture that Businesses Can Use

Also, try to stay up-to-date on trending memes. Using them when they are hot and popular would put you in a better position to likely gain more attention for using them. Memes sometimes have a limited shelf life and posting a meme whose time has come and gone might be fodder for people who want to bring your brand down.

In the end, it’s all about engagement. As a business, that engagement is what you want to build and retain. It’s another way to interact with consumers and show you are engaged with not only your business, but also with the community that surrounds you. No one is expecting your business to use this as your only way to connect with customers, but it’s just another way to build an audience that will likely turn to you as a trusted source.

Nick Pizzolato is the Marketing Content Manager at Wicked Local Media Solutions. For questions, topics for future blogs, or to share your favorite moment from the film “Back to the Future,” email him at

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Tags: Social Media, Customer Engagement, News & Trends