How PR pros can create and distribute memes

The online creations have become an increasingly important part of internet communication. Here’s how you can develop your own memes—and use them effectively to sway audiences.

Memes have become an integral part of online communication.

Even if you’re not sure exactly what a meme is, you’ve probably seen dozens of them on your social media channels today alone. They are a huge part of internet culture, and an increasing number of brand managers are recognizing the potential of using memes as a marketing tool.

Meme marketing is a fun, spontaneous way to harness the power of social media.

What is a meme?

Far before the invention of the internet, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” in 1976 to describe a cultural idea that circulates and grows in popularity. In fact, memes originally represented the idea of “going viral” within a biological system. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Ideas like Christianity and democracy were once memes. Now the internet produces memes like “Kermit Sipping Tea” and “The Harlem Shake.” Since the average person reportedly spends nearly two hours on social media every day, it makes sense for brands to incorporate memes into their marketing strategy.

Internet culture is largely centered on organic, absurdist humor. It can be a buzzkill to see a sponsored ad on your social media feed. Some brands recognize this discrepancy and adapt their strategies accordingly.

This means changing over ads into messaging that is tailored for the social media landscape. Memes can give your brand an authentic voice while showcasing your company culture.

Luxury brand Gucci made waves with this take on a popular Arthur meme:

How do I start making memes?

These text-enhanced images can be a powerful tool to expose your brand to a larger audience, but they are also easy to get wrong. Using an outdated meme or misinterpreting the meaning behind a meme can make your brand look out of touch. You might get some rude comments in response—or worse, no engagement whatsoever.

Think about these tips next time you put together a meme:

1. Consider what types of memes will resonate with your target market.

Memes are age-specific. If your brand targets millennials, memes are a safe bet. If you want to project a high-brow image for an older audience, perhaps they are not the best fit.

2. Make sure you have the license to use an image.

If you use an image in your meme that you did not personally create, double-check that using the image won’t result in legal trouble.

3. Meme culture moves at a breakneck pace .

A meme can complete its entire life cycle within 24 hours. If you’re inspired by a current meme do not hesitate to create your own iteration. Tomorrow might be too late!

4. Stay true to your brand voice .

Don’t get so caught up in trying to create a viral meme that you sacrifice your brand’s personality. Social media success is dependent on the consistency of your brand’s tone.

Here’s a simple formula to get you started: A relatable idea + an applicable image/video + a personal twist from your brand = your meme.

Simply take a common scenario, such as loving pizza or binge-watching Netflix, add an image from your archives or from pop culture and put a business-related spin on it—and you’ve created your meme.

Make-up brand Glossier posted this relatable meme to promote their Black Friday sale:

Most importantly, have fun with your memes!

Above all, they are meant to be a lighthearted form of internet communication. Don’t be discouraged if your first few memes flop. Take time to experiment and find out what works best for your brand. When used correctly, memes can be an incredible asset to your marketing strategy.

How do you use memes to talk to your audience, PR Daily readers?

Sarah Metoxen is a publicist with Three Girls Media, a personalized PR and content marketing agency. A version of this article originally appeared on the Three Girls Media blog.

This article originally appeared on PR Daily in July of 2018.

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