To Meme, or Not to Meme, That is the Question

For smaller businesses wanting to brand themselves on social media, a viral meme can be like getting a free commercial during the Super Bowl. For a few minutes work and almost no investment a business can go from obscurity to a household name.  But there’s a very real risk that if you do the wrong thing, you could do your business almost irreparable damage. 

What works?
Generally speaking, “memejacking” is probably the best way to get started. Memejacking is simply the process of taking an existing meme and altering it to create something entirely new. It’s much easier to make a cleaver change to a well-known meme than to come up with your own. You’re basically building on the success of others. A good example of this is how Ruffle’s used the popular “Distracted Boyfriend” meme to promote a new flavor of chips.

The best memes share many things in common:

  • Humor works best.
  • Simpler is better. Don’t make people overthink. Humorous observations about everyday life are something everyone can relate to.
  • Memes revolving around current events get more interest.
  • As with just about everything on social media, memes that feature pets or kids tend to get lots of shares.

What doesn’t work?
One word: Politics. Never—ever—under any circumstance create a meme revolving around politics. It’s a sure fire way to isolate at least 50% of your potential customers. You want your products, services or brand to get recognition and bringing in politics into that mix can only hurt. Even though politics is probably the biggest no-no, there are other things you should avoid in your memes:

  • Don’t poke fun at people.
  • Avoid anything that could be considered a stereotype. Look at your meme from multiple points of view to make sure it’s not offensive. 
  • Although many memes are classic and considered “evergreen,” avoid using reusing memes that have run their course.
  • Don’t create memes around events or celebrities that aren’t current and fresh. That meme about someone on American Idol four-years ago or about something that happened at Coachella in 2017 is not going to cut it. 
  • Don’t create memes that your core audience will not understand. If your business offerings are mainly geared toward Baby Boomers, a Drake meme posted on your Facebook page is not going to get any traction. 

What can you expect?
The truly viral memes that get hundreds of thousands or even millions of likes, shares, and follows are really rare. You’re probably not going to get that type of reaction. The best strategy is to mix memes into your social media posts on a regular basis. It breaks the monotony of your feed and gives you the opportunity to make people smile. And if you do that on a regularly your social media accounts will continue to grow; your brand will be perceived in a more positive light; and you may even pick up some new customers. 

Should you meme?
It’s definitely something that you should consider as part of your social media strategy. However, if you’re not exposed to memes on a regular basis or do not feel comfortable creating them on your own, it’s probably best to proceed with caution. The last thing you want to do is damage your brand. Take some time to educate yourself. Look on social media to see what other companies are doing and check out these sites to keep up-to-date on what’s trending: (warning—not always safe for work)

If you decide that you’d like to dive into creating memes but don’t want to go it alone, Jackson Creative’s social media team can lend you a hand.