Social media memes are a smart way to engage your audience, create stronger brand recognition and acquire new followers. As a form of native social media content, they can create a positive brand image through humor and relatability. However, there are several pitfalls to avoid and essential practices marketers need to follow to successfully leverage the format’s popularity with younger audiences. This guide breaks down everything you need to know about social media marketing memes and how to incorporate memes into your social media strategy.
Where to begin: What is a meme?
The term ‘meme’ was coined by biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. This was defined as a behavioral or stylistic trend that is imitated and remixed from person to person. However, the term is now more commonly associated with a form of online content. In layman’s terms, an internet meme is a humorous form of social media content that is understood by a particular online community. Meme posts can then be used as a template for more memes.
According to Youth Pulse Inc., the research and insights company specializing in Gen Z and Millennials' behavioral trend reports, 56 percent of adults aged 18-20 follow meme accounts on social media., and another 75 percent of users aged 13-36 share memes with friends. On social media, memes can come in the form of all types of media, most commonly images or video with accompanying text. You can find countless examples of memes across all social media channels and for practically every fandom - and popular subreddits include WholesomeMemes, ProgrammerHumor and HistoryMemes. Exploring how users generate memes organically is a smart way to understand the culture and virality of this type of online content.
How brands can benefit from social media marketing memes
- They are cost effective: Despite their potential to go viral, posting social media memes won’t cost your marketing team anything beyond the time they take to create.
- They can increase engagements: Memes can make your social media accounts more enjoyable to follow, offering more than just a daily sales pitch to users. An effective meme will engage your audience, drive traffic to your accounts and generate new followers.
- They can improve brand recognition: Memes are a great way to develop brand recognition with your followers, using humor and relatability to convey your company’s core values and authenticity.
- They can be used to encourage user-generated content: Thanks to the nature of meme mimicry, sharing a meme with the right audience can be the creative spark that results in user-generated content (USG) relevant to your brand.
How to use memes across your social media channels: 8 best practices
1. Risk assess your memes
Using humor on social media will always have an element of risk. There is a chance users won’t understand the joke or, in the worst case scenario, take offence. Always risk-assess your memes and ensure that the humor aligns with your company’s message.
You should also be aware of the contextual information needed to understand your meme, and your social media marketing team will gradually build up a greater understanding of audience expectations over time.
2. Utilize user-generated content
User-generated content has unrivaled authenticity and shows a genuine appreciation for your brand - so an ideal scenario for marketers is when your social media community itself is helping to generate meme content. Followers who made the effort to create a meme will also appreciate that you value their content, increasing brand affinity.
Social media marketers can also learn a lot by observing user-generated content, as hese are memes coming from the same users you are trying to engage - giving you insight into their feelings about your brand.
Although memes can be highly effective in driving traffic and attracting new followers, you should monitor the frequency of your output to avoid oversaturating your accounts with this type of content. The optimal frequency will depend on the nature of your app and the type of community you are trying to engage. Sharing too many memes may also discourage users from creating their own. User-generated content is a valuable asset for social media marketing, so starting a meme that can be mimicked is the ideal scenario.
4. Ensure you understand the meaning of social media memes
Know Your Meme is a free website that documents and defines popular memes. Social media marketers can use this to better understand the origin of a meme and its associations. Generally, if you aren’t familiar with a meme and need to use this site to learn about it, this may not be the ideal format for your next meme. However, it can be useful if your account has been tagged in a meme that you want to interact with or vet for tag removal.
5. Use a mixed strategy with memes and other original content
Always mix your memes with other types of original content to keep your audience engaged. Memes, videos, user-generated content and promotional offers can all contribute to an effective mixed strategy.
6. Don’t push your product
Memes are more effective if they invite users to enjoy being a part of your community. If you use memes as a call to action, this can come across as disingenuous and is not in the spirit of why social accounts should be sharing humorous memes.
7. Repurpose memes
Mimicry is a key component of meme culture, and it can be much easier to repurpose a popular meme for your target audience than it is to get traction for a new meme. Invest time in browsing the social media channels you want to grow to learn which memes are trending where.
8. Use your brand’s terminology
If your mobile app has terminology that is easily associated with your brand, this is a smart way to engage users and make them feel part of an active community. This is particularly relevant for mobile games with in-game currency and unique character names.
Memes used for marketing: Examples per app vertical
The best way to learn how to develop a social media strategy that leverages the virality of memes is to look at popular examples. Here are examples of effective memes that have been shared across mobile app marketing channels.
A Statistica report shows that entertainment streaming giant Netflix had 195 million paid subscribers worldwide as of the third quarter of 2020, with the U.S. accounting for over 73 million. The streaming service’s primary Twitter account, which has over 9.8 million followers, will often share memes related to popular Netflix shows and movies. This month, Netflix memes have included a horoscope meme to promote Survivor, a Gillian Anderson meme using images from the Netflix drama The Queen’s Gambit, and a happy birthday meme for Adam Driver.
These examples highlight Netflix’s understanding of their audience. For example, Adam Driver has been the face of several popular memes in recent years, due in part to his popular appearance on Saturday Night Live and roles in Marriage Story and Star Wars.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video has over 150 million subscribers worldwide and 14.6 million followers on Facebook. With a similar strategy to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video shares memes related to movies and television shows that are currently streaming on the platform. This includes anything from dating-related Desperate Housewives memes, relatable dieting memes featuring Futurama’s Fry, and a lockdown meme featuring Lord Farquaad from Shrek.
While not all of these memes explicitly state that a show or movie is now available on Amazon Prime Video, they can start a conversation among fans and direct them to the streaming platform.
Poshmark is a social commerce marketplace that lets users buy and sell new and second-hand fashion items. The app has over 60 million community members and 100 million items for sale. The company’s Twitter account currently has more than 120K followers, and while Poshmark doesn’t share memes frequently, including memes in their marketing mix drives engagement and injects humour into their channel.
Depop is a fashion marketplace app where users can buy and sell unique, second-hand items. The app had over two million active users in the month of May 2020 and is particularly popular among Gen Z users. Memes are frequently shared across Depop’s social media channels, encouraging engagement related to marketplace culture and fashion trends. Depop’s Twitter account currently has over 155K followers.
Clash Royale is a freemium game developed by Supercell. The real-time strategy app features collectible card games, tower defense, and an online battle arena. Mobile games such as Clash Royale can leverage gamer culture on social media with relatable memes, and the title currently has 3.8 million Instagram followers.
Mobile games that have an active community may also have meme fan pages on social media. For example, an unofficial meme page for Among Us, the popular online multiplayer social deduction game developed by InnerSloth, has 394K followers.
Fitness and Health apps
8Fit is a fitness app that offers meal plans, workouts, and nutrition guides. While the majority of Instagram posts focus on exercise advice, body positivity and nutrition information, you can also find memes focused on relatability and humor. 8Fit has 700K followers on Instagram.
8Fit’s social media team have taken a similar approach to Twitter, where you will find relatable memes occasionally shared amongst practical advice related to health and fitness.