Internet memes come and go over night and are often filling up Facebook news feeds, Tumblr sites, Reddit, Pinterest boards and more. When a meme is done well, it’s not only fun but can be highly valuable in the social media marketing sphere as a form of content. They are also a great reminder of the importance of staying on top of the news and trends.
So what exactly is a meme? A meme (rhymes with cream) is basically highly viral content online that has a quick rise to popularity, but usually burns out just as quickly. Simply put, it’s the latest Internet phenomena.
The word “meme” was first introduced in the 1970s by Richard Dawkins as a description for a cultural element that’s picked up by new people. But in the Internet age it’s usually a photo or illustration with a funny caption running along the top and bottom. Part of the proliferation of photo memes is that they are easy to make. There are several websites that allow you to load your own image or use one from their library and add a caption.
Memes can also be viral videos, animated gifs, content mash-ups and more.
McKayla Maroney is a U.S. gymnast that earned a silver medal at the Olympic games. It was anticipated that she would have won the gold medal, but a fall in the vault competition put her in the second position. Her scowling expression during the medal ceremony made her a prime candidate for meme fame. A Tumblr blog was created with Photoshopped images of Maroney placed with Buzz Aldrin on the moon, Sistine Chapel, college graduation and more.
Maroney got in on the fun by posing with her teammates Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross standing in bathrobes outside of swimming pool with the famous sneer and the caption, “The pools closed… We’re NOT impressed.” The photo was then tweeted by Raisman, bringing even more attention to the meme.
Bobak Ferdowsi became famous overnight for going against the image most people conjure up when they think of a NASA scientist. Ferdowsi grabbed the attention of those watching the Mars Curiosity landing because of his punk rock style Mohawk. The flight director for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission went into work that morning with just 200 followers and within a few days shot up to more than 40,000 followers.
His non-conformist style, youth, good looks and rocket scientist smarts are fulfilling the “hot nerd” fantasy of women everywhere. Ferdowsi is getting marriage proposals left and right on Twitter and was a trending hashtag. Captioned images of Ferdowsi have been popular on Tumblr and throughout social media. Ferdowsi hopes to use this new fame to do more public outreach to help with science education.
Memes can also be a great way to build political images. Texts From Hillary was a popular meme back in April based on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a series of fictional text messages. After 32 posts over the course of one week, it gave her a more hip image makeover. The meme creators were able to get 83,000 Facebook shares, 8,400 Twitter followers, over 45,000 Tumblr followers and news stories from around the world.
Vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan is the latest political figure to get the meme treatment. A Tumblr blog called “Hey Girl, It’s Paul Ryan” has been created. It’s full of political pick-up lines like “Hey girl, let’s get fiscal.” It follows the same “Hey Girl” formula with images of actor Ryan Gosling that has been popular for a few years now.
Some other popular memes this year have been Angelina’s Leg Bomb, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy and Condescending/Creepy Wonka. Songs like Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” have received the biggest music based meme following this year.
There isn’t an exact equation to follow when creating a meme or trying to create something that will go viral. But making sure the content is incongruous, funny and relevant to the times are key to helping it spread through the social networks. People want to directly or indirectly participate in memes because it gives them a fun way to comment on current culture and their own personal values.
What’s your favorite meme?
About the author
Early on Kellie realized she wanted to pursue a career helping businesses with their communication needs. She interned as a reporter during high school at a local paper and served as editor-in-chief of her college paper, leading the team to several national awards. But that was just her younger years. Kellie has led public relations efforts for major brands in hospitality, consumer goods and non-profit sectors, helping them secure placements in top media outlets including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and 20/20. Outside of work you will find Kellie jet setting around the world, doing art projects and enjoying all that Utah has to offer. Kellie graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in mass communications with an emphasis in public relations and hospitality and tourism.