After writing the last post I was struck by a moment of Eureka. Why not expand on every point made in How I Write Content That Goes Viral and continuously update the internal links from that post? Beyond being an excellent SEO strategy for letting a search engine know what’s the most important page, I realized it was also a meme and thought, how perfect – I’ll start with memes.
You’re likely looking at that title thinking one of a few things. It could be an operatic clearing of the throat, or it could seem like a scared or cold stutter. Although my generation (ding!) isn’t usually frightened by the idea of using memes, people try to put us memers down just because we get around. Your target audience will determine what kind of memes work best for your brand.
Tried and True Consumer Memes
Every marketer worth their weight knows you have to cater to the perspective of your audience. Although your colleagues might mock you for it, captioned image memes like LOL Cats are perfect for capturing consumers – and even if you earn money in a B2B style but still service consumers (like tech support call centers), the mass popularity contest still applies.
I mean think about it – as a hip and modern tech giant, am I going to pick the call center with hundreds of raving fans, or a buttoned-down professional image to a boring fault?
The deal with consumer memes is they must be based on some kind of underlying or long-term casual exposure. More than pop reference, which is itself a meme too, successful viral memes are things which instantly employ the viewer’s empathy and memory without any real basis in exposure to pop culture or even high culture. Pure and simple, consumer memes are emotional appeals which speak to the lowest common denominator of understanding. So-called slapstick humor, basically.
Take for instance those red squiggly lines we see under our words just about everywhere these days. Yes, that’s a meme too, but it’s a controlled meme. If you don’t know what it’s for, then you probably weren’t a big fan of Windows back in ’95 when Works turned into Word and started badgering you with a talking paperclip to use spellcheck. The red squiggly spellcheck is a good example of a brand technique turned meme – and seeing how well that works with all the poorly spelled everything online these days should emphasize the importance of letting memes run free.
Don’t try to own it. Don’t try to hold on to every copyright and every way of using it. Consumer memes don’t play well when leashed. The best metrics are still blind – in the end, your visitor count doesn’t matter. It’s the conversation you generated that matters most, and you will probably never get to see it directly. The biggest brands on the web today built their dream and let their audience determine how to use it best. Brands like Google, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest grew to become household names in less than half a decade because they let democracy reign. And now, when we search for anything, we say we’re Googling it.
Captioned images aren’t the only great way to infiltrate the minds of your target consumer audience, and I’m sure you’re starting to get that point. However, every meme is best tailor-suited to every situation, and it’s downright impossible to specify all of them – even if this were a book and not a blog post. Not to mention most of the brightest ideas come from your actual audience, rather than assuming you know them from a bunch of demographics.
Memes for a Professional Audience
Your professional targets have a different set of slapstick needs, but only because when you’re at work there’s this need to be professional. So pop reference and other such casual in-text memes, as you see me using quite a bit here, help the professional feel more comfortable and connected with you. Memes in B2B marketing are not meant to evoke a sense of “oh wow love” like B2C campaigns, but rather a sense of comraderie and at-home comfort, or authority – depending on your stage of development.
Memes for a professional context also take on a considerably longer form than consumer campaigns. As I mentioned at the outset of this post, I’m turning how I make viral content into a meme here on this blog. It’s not my entire expertise, and it’s definitely a lot longer than a captioned image, but if I promise great content that really interests you over a long period of time – then you return, and over those returns you grow to trust my authority on the matter and more comfortable with getting in touch since all of these words evoke a sense that you understand me, and we can work well together.
So long as the marketing is genuine, then memes are an amazing tool for attracting your ideal clients. I probably could’ve referenced DJ Kool (I had to Google who wrote “Let Me Clear My Throat”) instead of The Who, but that wouldn’t be genuine. Although I’m still under 30, I’m a big fan of timeless anything. Timeless fiction. Timeless music. Timeless style. And timeless humor. That’s why I do this viral thing so well. And clients who can appreciate the value of timelessness and classic flavors in new media marketing will get along famously with me.
Some memes can be applied to both markets equally well, but a lot of theses strategies are becoming a bit less than timeless. Take for instance bashing your competition in a humorous manner. Apple and Microsoft come to mind with their “I’m a PC” campaigns, and cellular companies are picking up on that cue lately. While funny, it doesn’t always work very well for converting people from one competitor to the other since most people will reject anything negative and think negatively of the advertiser instead.
Take it from a former Google, Android and Linux fangirl who only converted to Apple after getting my hands on an iPad 2 because it was, in every way, factually better. Not because someone mocked my frustrations – but because I experienced what it’s like to not have frustrations with my work machine, and never looked back. Now instead of red squiggly lines and a dancing paperclip chewing up my processor, there’s about 40 outlets for my funny auto-corrected text. I’ll take that. It’s a lot more fun.
So that means one of the universal memes is just plain great or fun products and services. If you’re not great yet, people talk when you strive to be perfect for them. That means you need customer outreach that touches base wherever your clients’ base may be. If they’re talking about you on Twitter, you need to be on Twitter to field their concerns. You can imagine my surprise when complaining about my ISP on Twitter and getting a response, from my ISP, on Twitter. Almost immediately. It was a lot better than waiting on hold and they solved my problem in record time – without me being attached to a phone. I would mention their name, but in most markets they or their competition have a monopoly, so I don’t see the point.
In any case, those are just a few of the memes proliferating since the Internet invaded our day to day. Others you can use in formulaic viral web content include numbered lists – like 10 Ways to Stick Your Foot in Your Mouth, since these are getting old to a lot of visitors and you really need to offer an unique angle on something in order to garner the views such lists used to fetch. Online sales letters are yet another memed format that the web audience is becoming too savvy to fall for anymore.
You can expect to see these things revolutionized very soon, at least in part because I already see and use a lot of excellent alternative methods that work so much better to convert visitors into buyers. Memes can only get you so far. More often than not – in today’s market at least – being original is what goes the distance.