How Memes Have Become Social Media Marketing Tools

These days if you log into Facebook or Twitter, you don’t need to scroll very far before you see a meme posted by either someone you are connected to. Memes have become extremely popular forms of Internet expression, so much so that many businesses have started using them in their social media marketing schemes.

But what exactly is a meme? There are several ways that memes are recognized. The broader cultural definition indicates that a meme is an idea that gets passed around by people that carries some sort of cultural significance. On the Internet, memes take a variety of common and recognizable forms. Certain Twitter hashtags can be recognized as memes as they become common among certain groups of people. For example, the hashtag #YOLO (an acronym for “you only live once”) has become extremely popular among younger users to express a carefree, “live life to the fullest” attitude.

Perhaps the most common form of meme on the internet at the moment is an image with text sprawled across it. Some of these images are commonly used; the “awkward Penguin” that describes “awkward” encounters with other people, or the “condescending Wonka” image that features Willy Wonka sarcastically speaking to a certain person or group of people. Some of these images are also new or original, containing pictures of pop culture icons or other recognizable figures with text intended to be seen as humorous by viewers.

The true power of a meme comes not in how humorous it is, but in how many people can identify it. These forms of Internet memes are intended to be inside jokes, passed around by people who are “in” on the joke. This is what makes them so successful; who wants to be the person who’s left out on a popular joke? Facebook and Twitter users are quick to “like,” “share” or “retweet” a meme if they understand it, because their understanding gives them a sense of belonging. Therefore, if businesses are able to successfully use memes for their marketing plans, they will succeed in making their targets feel like they have an inside connection with their business. After all, you’re all in on the same joke.

One of the biggest examples of meme marketing success comes from ESPN. The Worldwide Leader in Sports has seen a great deal of success creating its own sports-related memes, particularly from the page of one of its popular shows, SportsNation. The page has recently seen a surge in meme creation and even the use of non-sports related pop culture figures to gain feedback from their followers.

The beauty of the meme, like with social media itself, is that it practically markets itself. Not only will your followers be inclined to share memes they identify with, but they will also begin to make their own and send them to you. This is a great opportunity to connect with your followers on a closer level.

For more information on memes, check out It’s important to know how memes are made before making them yourself. And if you have any other questions about memes and their uses in advertising, contact us at Engelbrecht Advertising!

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