What Do You Meme?

This week’s #socialchat topic was the use of social media during the presidential debates. Both candidates to be featured in this week’s debate have spent some time creating online content to be circulated and used by followers, reporters, bloggers, and anyone else who wants to engage with politics. The White House itself has embraced social media and has invested in more social engagement during this election year, releasing memes and content via Twitter and Tumblr. It is certainly entertaining to see photos of the Commander in Chief sporting “momma jeans,” Romney look-a-likes carrying binders, and et cetera. But is the content being created necessarily relevant to the political debates, or does it change anyone’s opinion on the topics?

My opinion on Monday night during the chat event was that yes, they’re funny, but not necessarily appropriate for serious opinions. According to Michelle Stinson Ross, the host, there was certainly an air of doubt that memes and content of that sort on Tumblr would lead to a more serious connection. It seems that the public following the political campaign online certainly likes to laugh along, but on Election Day, “honey badger don’t care.”

So why are people focused on online content, come to be known as memes? The truth is similar to anything that takes a company’s message viral, the images become famous virtually overnight, and seem to fizzle out almost as quickly. But, this cultural element in the digital age does ensure one thing in public relations, you will get noticed.

Companies such as Old Spice are getting it right with their content. The “Old Spice Guy” continues to capture consumers online and on TV with his over the top masculinity, and virility increases sales for the company. They captured the audience’s sense of humor to make content that is relevant and will keep those engaging. If used correctly, memes can create a following but also drive mentions and social clout, maybe even press mentions. 

MemeQuotient :  A scientific formula to calculate the success of your content, divided by the number of cats, multiplied by the LOLs…
• Random
• immediately recognizable
• Stupidly funny

The power behind these cultural phenomena however, is to increase the amount of interactivity between your followers and your company. Recently, I have been experimenting with messaging for a Facebook campaign. What I found out was that things happen randomly, in the true essence of memes. I created buttons for an event on campus that was focused on Geek culture. Students could pick from bow ties, robots, or silly cats and wear the button around to promote the “Geek Week” events at UNT. You might be thinking “Cats? How will we promote with cats?” Realize one thing about our student body, they live online, where cats come from (Best Cat Memes) One of our students did us the ultimate favor and posted this photo on her Instagram page. Ten minutes later, I had a phone call asking about the event, over forty new Facebook likes, and a cheezburger (I bought one; it was lunch time). What is great about memes and the digital culture of today is that any small insignificant thing that you put out there has the potential to go viral. We wanted a cute button for students to be proud of, and what turned out was a small glimpse of what memes do today. As a PR professional however, you must be aware to not force interactivity, just let it happen. Tough to do, but that is the power of memes- the randomness and humor may or may not work. So let your audience know you’re listening, and you can laugh with them. Have fun with memes this week!

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