A meme, simply put, is an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture. Evidently, internet memes have the ability to move across the world as fast as the click of a mouse.
As a meme-lover myself, I pay close attention to what’s being passed around the web. I love sharing memes with my friends and even (shamefully) referencing them in my day-to-day life and even integrating them into my language. As I spent a moment this morning laughing at one of my favourite memes (hipster rebuttals), I began to wonder what the fascination is with memes and if they might teach us something about modern communication. (or maybe I just wanted to do a little meme research I digress…I’ve chosen three well-known memes that I think provide us with some valuable lessons on how we can communicate ourselves more effectively:
1) LOLcats / Business Cat
I’m a dog person but LOLcats rock my world.
If you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ll have likely heard of “LOLcats.” The basic concept is that people can submit images of cats doing funny or peculiar things and give their image a caption, written in the elegant language of “lolspeak.” (O HAI, KTHXBAI, I CAN HAZ…)
- LOLcats caught on so well not only because they are cute and funny, but also because the message they relay is simple. There’s no esoteric meaning behind LOLcats – only an easy to understand caption.
- LOLcats expanded to create a community of users who enjoy cat shenanigans. Community members can upload images of their own cat and add a funny caption by using the LOL Builder on icanhascheezburger.com.
Lesson: Whether you are blogging, writing a press release, using Twitter or whatever – always consider the community you are appealing to or trying to target. Getting people to share your content is not easy, but remember how LOLcats got their start: by sending a very simple message and encouraging like-minded individuals to contribute and share. Provide your community with the tools they need in order to share (like the LOL Builder) and keep it simple, stupid! (KISS)
You may be asking: “what could I possibly learn from a cat with a tie?”
Simple: On the job, remember that people respond most to the things they can relate to. (No, I don’t mean that we dress up our pets). I’m referring to the fact that Office Cat represents our work lives…something we can all identify with. We’ve all had a boss that’s been like, “YEAAAH I’m gonna need you to come in on Saturday” or “I need that report like, YESTERDAY.”
Lesson: Try to communicate in a way that allows your readers to identify with you. Be yourself – be honest and real.
2) The Gregory Brothers (Auto-Tune the News)
The first time I saw an auto-tune clip was in 2009, when the Gregory Brothers created the “Year in Review.” I laughed myself sick and shared it with everyone.
Certainly, current events will always be something worth discussing, on the internet or elsewhere. But what the Gregory Brothers (and sister!) have done, is taken pop culture news stories (big and small) and put their own spin on it. Their method: remixing videos and music to create something that we could consider to be a “news song.” (Think “Double Rainbow,” “Bed Intruder” and “Backin’ Up“). They’ve found a unique way to take what could be considered a mundane clip or story, and turn it into a new piece of media.
Lesson: Look at the current events going on around you and see how you can link your story with one that is already in the news. Ask yourself if there is a way to turn it into a cool piece of media. Think YouTube, a sound byte or an interesting Slideshare presentation. Maybe it won’t be a hilarious remix that will sell millions of copies on iTunes, but it might give your audience that little extra push to notice what you’re puttin’ out there.
Well, if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s possible that you may be living in a cave.
If you need a lesson in Rick Rolling, click here.
What made Rick Rolling so much fun? I think it’s the element of surprise – or perhaps the feeling of being sneaky when trying to Rick Roll someone. Whatever it is, people are still doing it. In fact, I think I’m going to do it to an unsuspecting co-worker right now
Lesson: When you’re writing your usual blog entry, newsletter, article or email, stop and think of how you can mix things up. What can you do to catch your readers off-guard and draw them in? Maybe an eye-catching headline, a semi-scandalous (yet appropriate) image? Perhaps you could pose an edgy question. Whatever it is, the point is to do grab their attention. Not only this, but it’s good for you as a writer, social media consultant or PR professional to keep your own work fresh; to try new methods.
With any luck, whenever you see a LOLcat, watch Auto-Tune on YouTube or get Rick Rolled, you will be reminded of what makes a meme effective and how you can use the same strategy to be a better communicator.