Social Media Refining The Art, Science Of Memes

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a viral meme on social media is worth exponentially more. Advocates, marketers and public policy wonks are all embracing the power of social media, pop culture, politics and memes. Some are having greater success than others.

A meme is a funny picture or video clip that can go viral on the web. They come in various forms, though most feature photos with clever captions. Memes have been at the forefront of social media for years, but the art and the strategy are still evolving.

A meme is to internet subculture what psychedelic art was to Timothy Leary. The concept was born in 1976 when British biologist Richard Dawkins wrote in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’ examined the diffusion of ideas/socio-cultural phenomenon and coined the process meme. With the rise of digital marketing, brands are creating brand memes to encourage viral communication on social media.

The most popular memes are often forms of commentary on current events, political affairs and pop culture. Facebook and Twitter are great mediums for spotting trends. It’s good practice to research memes that have gone viral, especially current ones. Share memes that are relevant to your audience, your cause and your brand. Be as innovative and creative as possible. After posting a meme, don’t forget to listen to your audience. Social media is a two-way channel for your supporters and your detractors.

Of course, don’t forget to post your memes with the most relevant keywords and hashtags so that they are searchable and findable to people outside of your social networks. Tag users, influencers and allies and invite them to share your images.

Prepare a media distribution plan to reach your target audiences and networks quickly. Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ are fantastic for sharing, as people can instantaneously see the image or video screenshot on their feeds. Bookmarking sites such as Reddit, Digg, Delicious, and StumbleUpon can help you get the word out. Include share capabilities (share bars) above and below your content for maximum visibility.

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Stay On Message, Strategy

Memes require sharp content to engage with your audience. Finding the right image is essential to success on social media. The biggest mistake that communications professionals make with memes is strategy. Just like in advertising, it’s easy to get lost in the creative process. We often put too much emphasis on being cute, clever and funny. We forget that we are trying to build awareness, understanding and support. We forget that we are asking people to take an action. We quickly seize on a photo or video clip and force it into our arsenal of messages, while diluting our overall campaign.

Keep  in mind that the attention span of the typical internet user is short, so break through the clutter. Come up with a catchphrase that uses simple and memorable language. Make sure that your visuals match the tone and the message without unnecessary distraction. What action do you want audiences to take?

Creating Your Meme

If you’re creating a photo meme, it might be wise to get Photoshop or use Pixlr Editor or BeFunky (free image editors that are similar to Photoshop). You can also look up meme-generator sites like Imgur, which let you upload your own photo to use as the background. Lastly, you can install photo apps directly on your phone that allow you to add text to your images.

Once you have your photo, you can use the following services to produce your meme.

Imgur Meme Generator: When you get to the meme generator, click on upload new background on the right-hand side. Then, either drag your images into the box at the top of the pop-up window, or paste an image or URL in the text box housed directly beneath the Browse button. Once you do that, Imgur automatically uploads your image and brings you to the creation page. Your next page gives you a bunch of options on what to do with the meme you just created. If you want to keep it for later, just right-click the image and save it to your computer. You can also copy the link so you can share it later. If you do not want to save the image on Imgur, take note of the deletion link, because it will only appear once. Otherwise, you can add it to your Imgur account.

ZomboDroid’s Meme Generator: Currently available for both iOS and Android. Download the app and click the photo icon in the upper-right corner in iOS and in the bottom-right corner on Android. Doing so will allow you to access your own photos, though, Meme Generator also has a ton of stock imagery to choose from. Select the photo you want and the app will take you to the next step. Enter the text you want to appear on your image at the top and bottom of the meme. Select what size font you’d like — we recommend sticking with “normal” — and click “Make It.” Now, either use the disk icon to save your meme to your photo album, or the share icon to share it. Here, you can copy it to your clipboard, or share it directly to Facebook, Twitter, or an email address.

Photoshop, Pixlr and BeFunky: Not all of us can afford Photoshop, but thankfully, we all have access to a Photoshop-like web app called Pixlr and another one called BeFunky.

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Creating Video Memes

If you’re creating a video meme, be sure to use Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube.

Instagram: After launching the app, tap on the Instagram camera icon in the center of the bottom menu bar, and then tap Video . To start shooting your short video, press and hold the grey circle. You have a minute to use, so use it wisely. When finished with a clip, let go, and you can move on to another shot. If you don’t like the last clip, tap on Delete at the bottom of the screen. Remember that you can only delete the most recent clip, so don’t move on to your next shot until you’re 100 percent happy with the results. Keep clicking next until your video shows up on your Instagram feed.

Snapchat: After launching the app and getting your subject in the shot, you’ll want to press and hold the large circle, which starts the recording process. You can shoot video without a time constraint, and it’s all in one shot (no clips like Instagram). Once it’s done, you can add emojis, text, and effects to make it more powerful.

YouTube: You can easily create a video meme by recording yourself on YouTube. When you’re logged into YouTube with your Google account, click on Upload on the top right of your screen. On the next page, click Get Started under Live Streaming in the right-hand column. You may have to complete account verification, and allow your computer permission to enable to camera and microphone before continuing. From there, you’ll be able to stream out your thoughts to YouTube, but remember here that it’s all live, so that means if you mess up, there’s no starting over.

With the whole live bit, something that you might not have intended to become an internet meme might actually do so because of the content within. There’s plenty of examples of exactly this on the internet.

Launch Your Meme

Of course, for a meme to be  a meme, you need to get it lots of online exposure. Tweet it, post it on Facebook and personal websites, share on Reddit, email it to your family and friends.

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Crossbow is an award-winning and record-setting strategic communications firm that has influenced public opinion and public policy around the globe. We have worked with some of the most influential organizations, corporations and journalists in the world. The firm is based in Denver, Colorado and it’s expanding to Phoenix, Arizona.