Rainbow MemeWe all agree that memes are awesome. After scrolling through vacation photos and whiny Facebook statuses, memes offer an easily understood and hilarious gem on your newsfeed. If you’ve ever seen a meme, you know they’re created to be shared. And I’m sure the word share turns most of you content marketers on.

So if you thought memes were just a silly Internet fad that will soon fade away- think again. Memes are here to stay. And for reasons to our benefit- memes offers content marketers an easy way to humanize their brand, connect with their audience and generate attraction, likes and links.

If you don’t believe me, check out Pamela Vaughan’s list of 10 Popular Memes Masquerading as Marketing Campaigns that feature major companies that make use of popular memes.

Okay Karen, we get it. Memes are amazing. Before I dive into how you can become a meme marketing genius, let’s first define what a meme is.

What is a Meme?

According to the good old Merriam Webster definition, a meme is “an idea, behaviour, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” It’s important to remember that memes are definitive of our culture. Images, videos and phrases become memes because it fits within the culture it’s spread in.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West Meme

That is why this Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and her couch dress meme went viral- it fits into our culture of analyzing and criticizing celebrities. A website posting this meme in China probably won’t get much traffic.

Technopedia gives us the definition of meme we’re familiar with: “an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of media that gains popularity and spreads rapidly via the Internet.” So if you ever got Rick Rolled back in 2008 or caught yourself accidentally watching 100 Harlem Shake videos, you were taking part in an Internet meme.

Meme Lifecycle

Before you start making a meme out of every possible photo, you should understand that memes are not immortal and with everything else, has a lifecycle. Trying to use a meme when it’s near it’s end probably won’t do your company any good.

1. The Birth and Growth

Something hilarious just happened on TV and someone puts a caption on it. It’s the first time someone realized how ridiculously photogenic the ridiculously photogenic guy is and put a caption on the photo.

This is the birth and early stage of the meme. The original joke is created, it becomes known in the avid Internet user community and some rephrases of the joke are made.

Level of Virality: Widely known on websites such as 4chan, Reddit, 9gag, Tumblr
Level of Humour: Hilarious- you’re probably accidently laughing out loud during work

Photogenic Guy Meme

2. The Peak

This is probably when one of your funniest Facebook friends has made a good rephrase of the meme. You’re probably Googling this meme just to find more rephrases of it.

Level of Virality: Seen on your Facebook newsfeeds, Twitter retweets
Level of Humour: Decently funny- maybe able to get a smirk or a chuckle out of you

Scumbag Steve Meme

3. The Decline

Although the meme is still circling around the Internet, it’s becoming a bit stale. People in your office are probably using it to get some laughs during lunchtime.

Level of Virality: Devastatingly overused on social media sites. In other words, people need to stop.
Level of Humour: Your friends are probably using the meme and adding personal content on it that just flat out doesn’t work. At this point, if you see this meme one more time, you probably just want to shut off your computer and take a road trip to the countryside.

Gordan Ramsay Meme

4. Death

As the name implies, the meme is considered dead. It’s been so overused that people have finally realized it’s not worth sharing anymore.

Level of Virality: Non-existent.
Level of Humour: Like your grandma trying to make an Internet joke.

Kanye West Meme

You will always almost want to use a meme during its growth or peak stage. Using a meme outside of these stages, well, will unfortunately make you kind of lame.

Meme Marketing Best Practices

Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of memes and its lifecycle, here are some best practices when using memes to attract traffic, and generate leads.

Timing is Everything

If you’re going to be integrating memes into your regular content marketing routine, make sure you stay on top of the latest memes. Refer back to the sites listed in the level of virality in the birth stage- Reddit, 9gag and Tumblr. At Powered by Search, our SEO Specialist, Zain Husain, spent about 13 minutes creating this Batman meme.

Batman Meme

 As a result, this meme went viral, getting 13K views. Despite spending a minimal amount of time on it, it was released when the movie, The Dark Knight Rises, was generating a lot of hype. Quickly jumping on the meme shows that you’re relevant and portrays you as that cool, funny kid that everyone wants to befriend.

Understand the Meme

Jumping on the meme quickly is useless if you don’t fully understand it. Knowing the origins of the meme, the humour behind it and how to properly format it will ensure you’re not the kid trying to be funny, but just outright fails. Know Your Meme  is a useful resource that provides you with the context of the meme so you can make sure you’re using it properly.

Does the Meme Fit With Your Brand and Audience Needs?

Before you slap on your own caption and spread it to the meme to your audience, step back and analyze the effectiveness of the meme. Can this meme be at all relatable to your brand? Will it be able to portray a more light-hearted side of your company, but at the same time, show your insight into the industry? If not, you should probably share the meme on your personal Facebook.

Be Funny and Relatable

Being funny is easier said than done. Although you’re using this meme as a marketing initiative, don’t take it too seriously. You should come off as witty, and well, ain’t nobody got time to spend drafting a meme. Also ensure that your meme is relatable. Being relatable generates more feedback and shares. Think back to some of the common struggles or jokes within your industry that could be relatable to others.

Regulate the amount of memes you use

Sure, they’re easy to make and generate a lot of traffic, but there could be too much of a good thing. Memes shouldn’t be your main content marketing strategy- they should only be the gems that appear once in awhile to provide a break from your usual content.

All the Memes

How to Create Your Own Meme

Memes are just words on an image, so it’s easy to customize your own. Check out online tools such as Meme Generator and Quick Meme to create your own meme.

Creating Memes

Promoting your Meme

After you’ve perfected your meme, it’s time to send it out to the masses. Here are just some ways to promote your meme, and the ways it will benefit your company.

1. Social Media

We have all seen and enjoyed memes shared by our friends. Your company can also make use of its social media presence.

Social media users on sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Stumbleupon all value visual content. All these websites are great places to share your content, and for your audience to share your content as well. Pinterest is a newer website, so check out our post on 4 Steps to a Successful Pinterest Marketing Strategy.

Posting it as a twitpic on Twitter also helps in making your meme viral through retweets, and including a link in your post will help you generate more traffic.

Getting Backlinks

Memes are great for getting viral traffic and engaging with your audience, but it can also score you some much appreciated backlinks. Here are two sites that will help you do so:


Reddit users love memes, and with unique monthly visitors of close to 70 million, this is a social media site you have to take advantage of. There are several subreddits (subcategories) that you can submit your meme to. However, ensure your meme is not promotional in nature because “Redditors” hate that, and this will make your post downvoted to oblivion. Conversely, if your meme does well and makes it to the front page, you can achieve a lot of traffic and a dofollow backlink.


Tumblr is probably the best place to post your meme- its users openly welcome memes and its platform gives memes the potential to go viral. Tumblr is a hybrid blogging platform and social sharing network, so every time a user reblogs/shares your meme you get a dofollow backlink. Tumblr’s 90 million blogs should be enough to convince you to make use of this blogging platform.

2. Use It As Visual Content

You’re probably sick of all the memes I’ve included in this blog post, but including your own meme in a relevant blog post is a great way to add personality to your post, and provide your audience with entertaining visual content. By placing it in a blog post, you now have something to link back to when sharing your meme through social media.

3. Share, Share, Share

Make sure to optimize your post for social sharing- after all, you want this meme to go viral. Add Facebook, Google +, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit and Twitter share buttons to make it easy for your audience to share your content. Not only are you reaching out to your existing audience, but you’re making an impression on the people within each of their own networks.

SEO Favourites

Memes are popular amongst  Powered by Search’s office. Here are some of our favourites:

The Office SEO memeSEO MemeAlien MemeRyan Gosling SEO Meme 1Ryan Gosling SEO Memeseomeme2seomeme

Tagged with: Backlinks, Content, content marketing, HubSpot, Inbound Marketing, marketing, meme marketing, memes, Pamela Vaughan, seo, Social Media, visual marketing

About Karen Yu

Karen (@kykarenyu) is a Marketing Assistant for Powered by Search (@poweredbysearch), a profit HOT 50-ranked digital performance marketing agency in Toronto, Ontario. Karen is passionate about creative marketing and social activism.