Marketing with Memes: Leveraging the Voice of Influencers

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The most valuable currency on the internet is neither dollars nor bitcoins; it's memes. Memes are the vernacular of social media, the impetus behind nearly every viral craze, and perhaps the most perplexing phenomenon for marketers and influencers alike. Many corporate accounts have tried—and hilariously failed—to embrace the viral inertia of memeing.

Whether the humor is inauthentic, the language is inarticulate, or the audience is unimpressed, memes are a fickle beast to tame. What causes a meme to gain traction is magic to most: the market selects and rejects them, amid the overload of an accessible form of humor, with seemingly no rhyme or reason.

Not every attempt at corporate memeing fails; there are enough success stories to make it seem like a worthy venture. Whether it's the rise of young, snarky, and hyperactive community managers at the helms, or just sheer luck, corporate accounts have yet to abandon the practice. Luckily for us, we have people who specialize in this distinct sense of humor: influencers.

Speak to the Audience Through the Audience

Among the many benefits of influencer marketing, chief among them is the ability to market your product or brand through the community, rather than to it. To harness the power of memes, it's wiser to go this route. There are many successful influencers known for their memeing prowess, and recently they have begun taking on higher and higher profile influencer campaigns. Tinder, for example, embraced the power of influencer marketing late last year, sponsoring posts for several large meme accounts. Consequently, it is no surprise that Tinder is the poster child for young adult dating apps.

Offshoring the work of comedy to the people who do it best is more than a proof of concept; it's the future of viral marketing. Memes are so powerful a force, some even argue the president was memed into office. So how can brands find the right influencers for their memes? Besides using the Julius platform (obviously), here are a few tips and examples:

Finding the right voice for your brand

While this is standard fare advice for any form of influencer marketing, it is especially important when finding the right memes for your brand. First and foremost, it's necessary to evaluate whether memes will speak to your audience. Sure, at this point, almost everyone on a social media platform knows what a meme is, but whether they're an adequate or advisable marketing strategy is a different story.

Tank.Sinatra and the casual meme

George Resch, aka Tank.Sinatra on Instagram, boasts 1.6 million followers and an average engagement rate of almost 3 percent. He is known for his original memes, reposts, and generally uplifting content. His content is relatively kosher and noncontroversial for the chaos that is meme humor. He's had partnerships with massive brands like Amazon, Tinder, and Wendy's, who have all utilized his penchant for pithy and relatable humor. We can deem his memes "casual" for their relatively inoffensive nature and widespread appeal.


I’d come and get it, but my buggy is messed up

A post shared by Tank.Sinatra (@tank.sinatra) on

Shitheadsteve and the private account

Reid Haley, an Atlanta native with a knack for toeing the line between hilarious and offensive, runs an extremely popular private Instagram meme account with over 2.6 million followers. Because his page is private, his popularity relies almost entirely on referrals—either from another follower or another platform. The benefit of private content for a meme page is that it's less likely to be reported for guideline violations. If that doesn't give you an idea of the kind of humor we're working with, this will:

His Instagram is admittedly worse. Jokes made too soon, crude sexual humor, and anything else you would expect to appeal to the young adults that comprise his massive audience. If your brand is compatible with this sort of audience, his (and similar accounts) reach and influence is undeniable.

Wipeyadocsoff and niche humor

Another good example is a more elusive and particular type of meme: the niche account. Jacob Jenkins, aka Wipeyadocs off, runs a unique meme page that appeals to the hip archetypes that frequent Brooklyn nightlife, music venues, and the general lifestyle of twenty somethings in the biggest (ego wise) city in the world. Though his numbers pale in comparison the previous two, 20.3 thousand followers on Instagram for reference, his engagement rates are much higher given how insular his community is.

Accounts like his, that focus on particular senses of humor with unique cultural references, are underutilized as influencers but no less effective. These content creators are adjusted and tuned into the zeitgeist of smaller communities that would normally be more difficult to penetrate. High engagement rates and audience interaction, matched with the influence of comedy, make niche humor accounts ideal for a brand seeking a particular audience.



ok definitely not all hardcore bands but

A post shared by dj stolen valor (@wipeyadocsoff) on

Bridging the Gap

Say you've found the influencer who meets the needs of your audience, your engagement targets, and the sense of humor you're comfortable attaching to your brand. How do you bridge the gap? Some influencers merely include their sponsorship in a caption of an unrelated meme, while others tailor a meme (loosely or otherwise) to incorporate a brand reference. Some, who have cultivated a personal repertoire of content in addition to their memes, can post an ad like any other influencer.

It all comes down to the audience in question. An account as large and uncontroversial like Tank.sinatra can seamlessly pull off a standard fare plug, while an account like shitheadsteve can hardly afford to interrupt the flow of memes, despite the large audience.

The internet is a fickle beast; anger the consumers and feel their wrath. Memes as humor are often an easily digestible and seamlessly accessible way to escape the hustle of modern life. Broaching this precious space with advertisement is a delicate process, hence the risk of the venture. Social media marketing is a perfectionists' game; a slight mistake or a letter out of place can doom a campaign in the womb. Making memes or hiring an influencer for the production of memes is an even more precarious process—but the returns are undeniable.

July 25, 2018
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