Meme marketing: do internet memes have a place in your digital strategy?

Everybody loves a good meme now and then. They’re short, snappy and great for a quick laugh. But then we have cringe-fests like Hillary dabbing on The Ellen Show or … whatever this abomination

 

All of this raises a very good question: do internet memes have a place in your content marketing strategy? And how can you use them to your advantage? 

 

Believe it or not, memes have been around long before the internet.

First coined in the 1970’s(!) by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (yes, that one), the phrase was initially applied to ideas and in-jokes that spread organically throughout a culture like a virus.

Do you remember the “cool” S from high school? That’s the quintessential pre-internet meme. Using Dawkins’ definition, urban legends and folktales qualify as a sort of proto-meme as well.

It’s a phenomena that’s almost as old as humanity itself. People like sharing ideas, jokes and stories - memes make people feel like they’re “in” on the joke. So that should make memes the perfect fodder for your content marketing, right?

content marketing strategy

 

Can I use memes in my content marketing strategy?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: while they’re great at attracting attention and highlighting points, it’s rarely a good idea to use memes as the backbone of your content strategy.

At iformat, we believe that your content strategy should focus on high-quality content that informs and converts. Content needs to be customer-centric - not only does this make visitors more likely to turn into paying customers, but it also makes your content rank higher on search engines such as Google.

We get it, we really do: memes are popular. They generate a quick laugh. They get shared. But they’re not ideal for your content strategy. 

 

Memes don’t establish credibility

Ideally, your digital content should establish your credibility, educate your customers and convey your experience and knowledge.

When it comes to content marketing, credibility is key. Every aspect of your web presence is carefully constructed to make potential customers trust you and eventually make a purchase. Whether it’s product descriptions, blogs or newsletters, your content needs to be tailored for that specific goal.

And excluding a handful of niche situations, memes just don’t have a place in that.

Sure, for some businesses they can be effective at drawing in those initial couple of clicks. But image macros, viral videos and GIFs don’t tell customers anything meaningful about you, your business or your expertise. 

 

Memes move fast

In this writer’s humble opinion, mayflies are one of the most fascinating creatures around. Adult mayflies barely live 24 hours - in some species, the adult lifespan is as short as five minutes. Their lives are so short, they don’t even have functional mouths or digestive systems (this is all relevant, promise!)

Just like mayflies, online trends and viral jokes are ephemeral. And that’s where the biggest risk of using memes in your social or content marketing come from. By the time you get around to posting a meme, there are good chances that most of the internet will have already moved on and people simply won’t care anymore. 

 

The SEO angle

In the old days, gaming search engine systems was relatively straightforward - just cram your copy full of keywords and call it a day.

I’m no software engineer, but I can tell that search engines are getting smarter. Instead of simply counting keywords and links, modern search algorithms are able to scan pages and sites their relevance.

What this means is your site needs to be comprehensive and relevant to your audience. “Topical authority” is the word on every digital marketing agency’s lips right now. It describes how ranking is influenced by how much of an expert you are on your particular niche - that means consistent, high-quality content that covers a topic in its entirety.

And I don’t know about you, but to me, memes don’t exactly scream “quality content”. 

 

What about my socials?

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use memes at all! In fact, thanks to their accessibility and immediate resonance with customers, memes are perfect for generating clicks on your social media profiles.

Okay, it’s not quite that easy.

The internet is littered with brands who’ve tried to show how “hip” or “in touch” they are and failed miserably. There’s even a whole subreddit dedicated to cataloguing the most egregious examples (be warned: the cringe levels are high there).

How can you avoid joining them? 

 

Keep it real - don’t sell!

No-one likes a hard sell. And for many social media users, forcing blatant sales messages into your social media content can actually have the opposite effect!

The best piece of advice we can offer when it comes to using memes in your social media is to keep it real. Social media users are smart enough to pick up on any sales or marketing messages, no matter how hard you might try to hide it - so don’t!

When generating memes, don’t try to force a call-to-action or any sales message into it. Instead, focus on thinking of something that’s funny, relatable and most important of all, clickable. 

 

Understanding what the meme means

Who remembers that time US brand DiGiorno accidentally hijacked a Twitter hashtag about domestic abuse to spruik its frozen pizzas?

It was an innocent mistake that could have been prevented with a little bit of quick fact-checking.

Conveniently enough, it’s also a perfect example of why you need to fully understand what a meme is about and why it’s trending before using it to represent your brand. Memes aren’t just harmless pictures with snarky text superimposed... some have surprisingly edgy origins.

On a related note, when selecting memes, make sure they fit your image - don’t do what BBC News did.

Need help keeping on top of the latest memes and trends? Sites like Know Your Meme can prove invaluable.

 

Use them sparingly

We’ve used the word “meme” about 31 times in this post. I bet you’re sick of reading it now.

While the original plan was to go back and try to cut down on that number, it actually illustrates this point really, really well.

Social media might be meme central, but it’s important to make sure they don’t take over your entire social media presence. After all, your social media still needs to inform and generate conversions for your business!

A couple memes and jokes here and there are a great way of attracting attention. They can even be used to illustrate a point.

But they’re no substitute for quality content. Never forget that! 

 

Digital strategies from iformat

Using memes in your digital strategy is a bit like playing with fire. While it can be an effective way of increasing your profile as part of a social media strategy, it also risks causing significant damage to your image if done wrong.

If there’s one key takeaway from this, it’s that forming an effective digital strategy (whether it’s content marketing, social media or otherwise) is harder than it might initially seem.

Are you interested in a digital strategy for your business? iformat works hard to attract customers to your website, get you more leads and build awareness.

Are you interested in a bespoke digital strategy from iformat? Perhaps you just want to share your experiences with us? Give us a call, or get in touch with us here.

 

You might even just want to post a funny meme (hey, we’re not complaining!) Hit us up on social media with your best memes.

 

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