Leonardo Dicaprio business meme saying, "Let's make money together."

How to Make Memes for Your Business and Use Them Effectively

I mean, really, who doesn’t love a good meme? After all, most people use social media for entertainment. B2C marketers (business-to-customer) and business owners will do well to remember this and use their social media channels accordingly. And to that end, a good meme definitely offers fun and laughs. In fact, memes are one of the most likely forms of social media elements (along with funny videos) to go viral. And why not? They integrate and lend themselves extremely well to just about every social media platform. And the concise nature of expressive pictures associated with brief text makes them ideal for the incredibly fast-feeding frenzy that is social media today.

They are a big part of the fun on social media, and we all like to participate. Therefore, any digital marketing company worth its salt will always be asking how to generate viral memes to help engage people and drive more traffic.

So if you’re wanting a fun and creative way to engage and connect with people then maybe you should explore how to create and leverage memes for your social media marketing. And this guide will provide you with several practical tips on how to use memes more effectively.

Meme with Morgan Freeman saying, Admit it, you read that in my voice.
Memes should reflect the voice and tone of your business.

Let’s start with this. As a business, it’s best not to overuse memes. For some of my customers, I’ll use one per week. Others will use less, depending on the tone and voice of the business itself. Of course, you do realize that your business creates its own voice and tone, right? For example, my tendency is to try to offer insight and some humor. And that’s based upon who I am as a person and what my career has looked like. I’ve been a presenter and instructor through most of my adult life and I value humor, so I intentionally shape my social media and blogging around those traits.  Some will like it, some will not. The same goes for you. Your voice and personality should resonate throughout your social channels and your blog. Anyway, on to our subject!

Your humor and your values should resonate in your memes. Some memes offer content that is inappropriate for a business–any business! Others may not be inappropriate from a social or ethical perspective, but they may not fit your business. It’s best to find those that are best suited for your voice and values.

Curate Memes for Your Keywords

I curate the vast majority of my memes. I simply run a Google search on the keyword for which I want to find a meme, then I add a qualifier like “meme”, “jokes”, or “humor”. So the search may look like this, “social media marketing memes” or “blogging jokes”. Occasionally this turns up other sources that may inspire me to create my own meme. More on that in a moment. 

On some social media business accounts that I manage, I will occasionally just tell a joke that my search turns up and see if people respond. In fact, a joke told with no picture attached, often gets some of the best interactions on a page. And on Facebook, this is pure gold. So don’t be afraid to tell a joke or share a funny story, and sometimes without a picture. 

This may seem counterintuitive since everything in social media is so picture and video-based. And you will undoubtedly read some writers who say you should always use graphics. However, I have found that the occasional simple post with no graphics, written in a personal way, garners some of the best results on a page. Just remember to use this practice in moderation, simply because social media is image and video-centric.

Inspiration for Memes

If you have ever wondered how to make niche memes, here’s an example. As mentioned above, sometimes I find inspiration for a meme while curating or reading jokes. Just this morning, inspiration came another way. (DISCLAIMER: In the following example I am not advocating any political position on gun legislation. It is simply an instance of inspiration, so please do not take offense.) I was reading through my Facebook feed and one of my friends, a military veteran, wrote a post about guns and how he doesn’t believe guns are good or bad. When I read that, I heard in my mind for some creative and bizarre reason (since that’s what my mind is like) the words of the old song by Dave Mason, “We Just Disagree.” This is what ran through my mind: “There ain’t no good guns. There ain’t no bad guns. There’s only you and me and we just disagree.” Boom, baby! That’s meme fodder, right there. And that’s how inspiration works. So when you get it, just go with it. At the end of your creative process, try to evaluate honestly whether it’s good or not.

Sam Elliott meme about gun laws quoting the song,
This is an example of creating a niche meme that will get a lot of shares.

So what did I do next? What’s the process? Well, first I thought of who might best represent this sentiment in a meme? I thought of the military (like my friend). Nope. Not quite right. Perhaps someone older who would fit the age of the song reference. Yes, good idea. Maybe a gunslinger hero? Bingo. Tough guy? Definitely. Maybe a likable cowboy? Hmm…Sam Elliott? Touchdown! There have been lots of memes created with actor Sam Elliott in them. So I looked for a meme template by searching, “Sam Elliott blank memes”. I found the following pic and added the words, and I now have an original meme with a hot topic that will be very shareable. 

And even though it doesn’t really fit my brand well, I will still use it just because it does have the potential to get shared.  In fact, I’ve already decided how I’ll use it in a way that fits my business type.  I will use it in a series of posts about creating memes that link back to this article.  So you see, even though a meme may not exactly fit your brand, you can sometimes use them in a creative way and get some good social signals from it. (More about social signals later in the post…)

Re-purpose an Existing Meme

This funny pic was one that I came across in my Facebook feed. I had recently watched a video about clarity in marketing and it occurred to me that the picture in this was perfect for that theme. And as an added bonus, there was no copyright displayed, plus, there was plenty of negative space at the bottom so I was able to simply add the phrase, “Be clear in your marketing”.

Redneck meme with a grill attached to a bedroom window and rotten fascia board!This example is from a very common meme that I have seen quite a bit. However, I now have a roofer whose social media I manage, so I saw this from a different perspective. I recently wrote a blog article about soffit and fascia for him, so when I saw this meme, guess what caught my attention? Right. Browsing through all those roofing images and pictures of fascia suddenly paid off in a different way. 

So you can sometimes see a meme or funny picture from a different perspective and re-purpose and reframe it to that new point of view. And in this case, the different perspective is what actually creates the humor.  BTW, it’s also good to include the new keywords in the title. The title and description of this image use the words “fascia board” and “meme”.

Share it on the right social media channel, but put your own spin on it.

Grumpy Cat meme reflecting that he would have no fun on Mondays.Another good practice is to simply share existing memes and put your own spin on it in your comments. The massively popular grumpy cat meme has offered me several such opportunities.  The one that says, “Had fun once. Hated it.” has given me a lot to work with. For example, add a comment like, “Warning: This is my mode every Monday” or “every morning before coffee.” These things personalize the existing meme and add your voice to it. This is why it is a very good practice to comment on nearly anything you share, even if it’s only a simple “LOL” or “So true” comment. And if you can’t come up with a salient comment to add, just use something simple and then add an emoji or gif.

Another note of importance here is that every meme you use may not fit every social media channel. For example, what works well on Facebook sometimes won’t work nearly as well on LinkedIn due to the vast difference in those two channels. So consider the SM channel and whether the meme fits in with the ambiance.

But what about copyright infringement?

Great question! Strictly speaking, you can assume that any meme that is popular has been copyrighted. So if you don’t find it in a Creative Commons search or website, or if it isn’t public domain, then you had better realize that you don’t own the right to freely share it. But, that being said, with literally millions of memes being created and shared on a daily basis, sharing on social media is a bit of a different critter. If you stick with the most popular memes, licensed meme generating software sites, or simply sharing and commenting, the preponderance of anecdotal evidence (millions of memes created and shared daily) tells us that we really need not worry. Here is a helpful article from Northeastern University that explores the legalities and disposition in which courts view memes.

Inspirational and Motivational Memes

Brainy quote from St, Jerome,
Brainy Quote offers a good source of intelligent inspirational and motivational quotes. This pic was from their Top Ten list. (Click the image to visit the website.)

Both of these genres can be helpful in your social media content curation and planning. Some of the businesses I work with will specifically request more motivational or inspirational posts, while others lean more toward current events or humor. I personally advocate a blend of all of these. Here are a good experiment and analysis. Simply observe your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feed for two or three days and take note of the memes that gain the most traction and popularity among your friends. Rule out any that come from pages that you follow, and simply observe what your friends (or followers) share. This will give you an anecdotal sampling of what is resonating with what kinds of people. 

Now consider, what demographics are you targeting in your social media? If you don’t have many that fit this avatar in your personal Facebook feed, then join a group where these folks hang out. You will be able to observe them there. This can help you determine what mix or style of meme content you want to post on your social media. And remember, just because you may like your memes funny, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that is what appeals best to everyone else. Be open to using motivational or inspirational memes since they are very popular. And conversely, if you tend to gravitate toward the more serious memes, don’t be afraid to lighten it up and use some joke memes. I guarantee that some of your readers will appreciate it.

How to Make a Meme

A meme showing that businesses should also create some of their own memes.
An example of a meme to provoke conversation on social media.

Perhaps the easiest way to make your own memes is to use an online meme generator such as imgflip.com or makeameme.org. There are free versions of various sites where you can browse the images and create your text very simply. These will typically be watermarked or branded by the software. To create versions of these without watermarks, which I recommend, you can usually get a paid “pro” version of the more popular meme generators which is very inexpensive. I just paid $2.95 for one month in imageflip and made this meme. Plus, if you’re concerned about copyrights, this may be the best avenue for you.

For those who are more DIYers, rather than using an online meme maker you may prefer to use your own editing software (I highly recommend Affinity Photo) or online graphics sites like Canva.com are the usual choices.

Branding Your Memes

It’s a good practice to brand a meme that you have created so long as you intend to use it as a promotional feature. It’s akin to wearing a tee-shirt with your company name or sporting a window cling with your business name in your car.  I do it on business-relevant memes or on memes that I create that I think may have a chance of going viral. Even so, I don’t brand most of the existing popular memes I use, mainly because everyone knows that’s a “rip-off” and in my humble opinion it cheapens the feel of your brand and has a bit of a greasy uber-salesman vibe to it.

When you do brand, the standard practice is to place your logo and/or name (I personally prefer the printed name version of my logo) somewhere on the meme with some transparency so it is not glaring and detracting from the overall effect. It has become more common of late to place your brand somewhere inside the image rather than at the extreme bottom.  This way, it’s not as easy for others to rip-off…um, excuse me…borrow your meme and replace your logo with theirs.

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Memes can dramatically improve Social Signals for your brand.

Many people who aren’t involved with SEO tactics are unfamiliar with social signals. In short, they are all the interactions and link follows you get from social channels. These all eventually drip out to all the various search engines as signals that your brand and your website have popularity and relevance. This means that every share, like, pin, view, and vote matters. In fact, they matter a great deal. 

You see, search engines interpret your social signals as legitimate evidence that your brand is being seen and shared by consumers. This, then, translates into an improvement in your website or social channel’s SERP (Search Engine Page Rank). And that’s because social signals you’re receiving are interpreted as trusted recommendations for your brand from consumers. You should not underestimate the significant importance of social signals for your brand marketing. And just think, memes, when used effectively, can help with that!

The Key Takeaway

Due to the transient and fickle nature of social mood, popular and relevant themes will ebb and flow. Still, we believe that memes are now a permanent part of social sharing. These little jewels are simple to make and even easier for people to share, so from a marketing perspective, the ROI is great considering their explosive potential of going viral.

That being said, you must still give due diligence to your keywords, meme content, your target demographic and how it integrates with your brand. But wow, when the stars align for you, your meme could expand your brand like never before!

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