Two weeks ago, the phrase “Texts from Hillary” meant nothing to those of us who toil away our lives online. Today, it’s an enormously popular meme.
To sum up, “Texts from Hillary” is a Tumblr of funny, ridiculous, or bad-ass things that Hillary might be texting as depicted in a photo accompanying a November Time magazine article.
Adam Smith and Stacy Lambe, two communications professionals in Washington, D.C, created the site. Last week, the Tumblr went viral, with BuzzFeed, the website of record for Internet memes, calling it “the best political meme of the election cycle.”
Instead of ignoring it or distancing herself from it, Clinton embraced the meme, even submitting her own “Text from Hillary”—which shows the Secretary of State texting with the creators—and inviting Smith and Lambe to the State Department:
With her submission, Clinton wrote, “Thanks for the many LOLZ,” signing it, “Hillary ‘Hillz.'”
Like so many Internet memes, “Texts from Hillary” will probably be forgotten in the next week or so. (Remember “Ridiculously Photogenic Guy“? Exactly.) In fact, Smith and Lambe said in a post on Wednesday that they will no longer update the site. But we can nonetheless draw useful lessons from it.
1. You can’t control how people talk about you.
This holds true for brands, but is never more evident than with politicians. (See: Rick Santorum/Dan Savage flap.) Try as brands might, it’s impossible to dictate how people talk about you online. The best you can do is to be in tune with that notion, and then tailor your message accordingly.
2. With memes, you have two options: Embrace it, or fight it. Better to embrace it.
Embracing the meme might be the only way for it to go away. When Clinton submitted her “Text from Hillary” and met with Lambe and Smith, she essentially said to the world, “I get it, and I also think it’s funny—now let’s move on.”
These things never last long, but the meme will persist longer if you deny its existence or, worse, tell everyone that you’re offended and demand its cessation.
3. Powerful imagery will serve you well.
As much as writers should avoid clichés
like the plague at all costs, the adage about pictures being worth many, many words holds true in the Digital Age. This whole thing went viral largely because that image is so powerful and intriguing.
Given the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and, especially, Pinterest, so much focus (pardon the pun) is on photos—perhaps that’s why Facebook dropped $1 billion to buy Instagram this week. Keep that in mind when planning your content. Bold images that can serve as talking points are a brand’s lifeblood in social media.
The next time skittish executives back away from your latest social media marketing idea, show them “Texts from Hillary” and let them know that if “Hillz” is cool with it, they should be, too.