Need inspiration for your next content marketing campaign? Look no further than our nation’s leaders.
Sanders made waves on social media after a photo of him from the event evolved into a meme. Since Inauguration Day, a cross-looking Sanders has been superimposed onto everything from “Sex And The City” scenes to the throne from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s” theme song.
Memes are viral by nature. Their success relies on users creating new iterations of recognizable images and sharing them online. The engagement they foster creates meaningful connections between large groups of social media users.
If brands can successfully tap into this, it is a sure-fire way to reach innumerably more social media users.
If a meme marketing strategy sounds intimidating, you’re not alone. This article covers what makes content (especially memes) go viral and how brands can authentically incorporate memes into their social media marketing strategy. Let’s get started!
What Makes Social Media Content Go Viral?
Before you get to work on your meme marketing strategy, it’s crucial to understand what viral content is and why it captures internet attention.
According to Later, viral media is “a piece of content, such as a post, video, or image, [that] has become extremely popular and is being shared by a large number of people on various social media platforms.”
So, to execute a successful viral content marketing strategy, create content that compels your target audience to share it with their own followers.
Luckily, all viral content shares some common characteristics. We’ve used these shared attributes to construct a process to create more viral content. While we can’t promise that knowing these four traits will make your social media following skyrocket, we are confident that implementing them will help you create digestible content that captures your followers’ attention and gets you in front of new audiences.
#1: Viral Content Is Relatable
The key to launching a viral content marketing strategy is making your audience feel understood. Remember, your followers will only share your content if they feel it is something they can connect with directly.
Ask yourself the following questions about the members of your audience:
- Who is my perfect customer?
- What is that person interested in?
- What do they value?
- Why would they share my content with their social network?
Foster an understanding of what your audience cares about and what ideas, beliefs and values resonate with them. Then amplify those things on social media.
On top of being downright hilarious, the recent Sanders meme evolved into viral social media content because of its relatability. While many politicians and their spouses served up red carpet-worthy Inauguration Day looks, Sanders sported a Burton rain jacket and homemade mittens.
This juxtaposition between couture designer labels and a middle-class brand allowed the irritable Vermont senator to resonate with a wider audience. As a result, people were motivated to share it again and again on social media.
#2: Viral Content Elicits An Emotional Response
Happy, sad, funny or inspiring, viral content makes people feel something. And if their emotional response is strong enough, they will feel compelled to share it.
Clearly, viral content marketing allows room for creative freedom, but the emotions your content evokes should be rooted in your brand’s values.
The mission statement of skin care brand Dove, for example, espouses themes of self-love and positive body image. In recent years, Dove has used these themes as the inspiration for many viral marketing videos.
In 2013, Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches campaign, which “explores the gap between how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves,” garnered more than 114 million total views in just one month. At the time, the campaign was the most watched video ad in history.
The video evokes powerful emotions of self-love and presents information about the reality of self-criticism in a new and interesting way. These qualities are the perfect recipe for a viral social media moment.
#3: Viral Content Is Visual
Viral content and viral marketing strategies are almost always rooted in visuals. Visuals engage the user and make the core messages of your campaign easier to understand. According to Hubspot, “A campaign should tell a story and that story is best told using visual elements that resonate with your audience.”
Your visuals should also be inclusive and feature people who look like the members of your audience. So, make sure to include models of different ages, demographics, identities, ethnicities, races and socio-economic statuses. It will be harder for your audiences to resonate with your imagery if they don’t see themselves represented.
Visuals should also balance novelty with the familiar. Find the right balance and your followers will be happy to share your content with their own followers. Spotify mastered this content marketing strategy when they launched their annual Spotify Wrapped campaign.
Spotify Wrapped is a feature that compiles users’ most listened to songs, artists and albums of the year. Spotify presents this data in the form of infographics, which users can choose to share on their social media accounts.
Spotify Wrapped is a prime example of viral content marketing. The visuals are informative, novel (as they are personalized to each user) and made to share on social media. Spotify has mastered user-generated content!
#4: Viral Content Is Easy To Understand
On social media, you have just a few seconds to engage users. So, what does that mean for your viral marketing strategy?
Your message must be loud and clear, so it’s no surprise nearly all viral content is short-form and involves a visual element. But how short is short enough?
When it comes to content marketing videos, Demo Duck suggests frontloading the most important information in the first 30 seconds of the video in case users stop watching. They continue by advising not to go over a minute unless you’re confident in the content or already have brand recognition.
So, when it comes to viral content marketing, keep it short and sweet.
What Are Memes, And How Can I Use Them In My Marketing Strategy?
Now that we have identified the characteristics of a successful viral marketing strategy, let’s cover social media’s most popular form of viral content: the meme.
Grammarly defines a meme as “a humorous image, video, piece of text, or GIF that is spread across the internet, typically on social media, and often with slight variations.”
This description doesn’t sound too exciting, so what makes them so popular? Memes spread like a contagion because they provide a shorthand form of communication.
In the case of the aforementioned Sanders meme, Sanders’ crossed arms and legs, ill-fitting face mask and intense glare instantly communicates a strong, grumpy emotion. The image powerfully showcases Sanders’ Inauguration Day mood, making it relatable to a wide audience as well as easily adaptable to many different contexts.
If your brand can successfully create iterations of memes, like those of Sanders, your content marketing strategy will feel more authentic to followers and will ultimately grow your audience.
Now is the time to connect with followers on a deeper level. Use your content marketing to speak their language, and you will be rewarded with a larger, more engaged following.
3 Rules For Your Meme Marketing Strategy
While there are many benefits to using memes in your social media marketing strategy, tread carefully. A poorly executed campaign could drive followers away.
Like any content marketing campaign, meme marketing requires thoughtful research and careful planning. To create a successful meme marketing strategy, follow these three general rules:
Memes are typically fun and lighthearted. People want to share marketing content that makes them laugh.
So, make sure your meme content marketing gives your social media following a good chuckle. According to The Brink, a recent study by Boston University found that “funny pictures where people show a very pronounced reaction are great candidates for good memes.”
Humor is a necessity in a meme marketing strategy. Make sure you’re using images, videos and language that resonate comedically with your audience.
Show Your Audience You’re In On the Joke
While they seem easy to master, memes are far more complex than some content marketers realize. Some brands lean on the simplicity of the format, finding a GIF or picture and slapping on a thinly disguised brand message. This puts brands at greater risk of being laughed at rather than with.
Brands who make an effort to learn the language of the online communities they want to reach are more likely to be accepted by them. And that’s just what Slim Jim did.
According to Thrillist, back in 2018 Slim Jim noticed an Instagram fan account, @slimjimsdoingthings, was outperforming the brand’s official Instagram page. So, the company decided to bring on Andy Hines, the fan account’s creator, as their social media manager.
Hines turned Slim Jim’s Instagram into a “meme machine,” which grew their following of 5,000 to “more than a million dedicated followers dubbed the ‘Long Boi Gang.’”
You don’t need to hire your company’s biggest online fan to craft a viral social media marketing strategy, but you should take some cues from influencers like Andy Hines. The better you understand their humor, the easier it will be to adapt it to your content marketing.
Make Sure Your Meme Is Original
Many viral memes have a shock factor, but that’s partly why they’re so popular.
The success of the most recent Sanders’ meme is in part due to the novelty of each iteration. With each new meme, social media users photoshopped the image of Sanders, perched on a folding chair, into a different context, creating a jarring effect for the viewer. In the days following the Inauguration, Sander’s could be seen anywhere from Game of Thrones to the New York City subway.
There is only so much time to catch the user’s attention, so create something original.
Contact Three Girls For Help With Your Social Media Marketing Strategy
Do you want to create viral social media content but don’t know where to start? Our professional staff of marketing specialists can help you get your marketing strategy off the ground. For more information, please contact us at Three Girls Media!
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