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More than AN image and Text

A growing phenomenon on the web is the Internet meme. Clever plays on words or situational irony of the image and the context. I’ve discussed meme’s before, but now it is time to look at what makes them tick. A good meme often travels through the web with hundreds, maybe thousands, of iterations and interpretations. But what makes this viral content so intriguing?

Typically memes consist of image and text – the classic internet meme – but can also be video, music, and sounds. In this case we’ll discuss the three parts of the classic internet meme; image, text and community.

1. The Image: More often than not the image is a person or animal displaying an obvious emotion; anger, distress, jubilation. The image is instantly recognizable to the target audience. It serves as the catalyst for sharing. It is the tangible part of the meme that makes it unique and hard to duplicate with other images.

2. The overlaying text describes a situation or resolution that is humorous or ironic based on the scene in the image. Some memes use two-part text, above and below the image, to set up a joke and punch line. The text could often stand in its own, but with the addition of the image the irony and punch line are amplified. Together the image and text make the meme more relatable.

3. The meme must speak to a specific mindset of a group of people, but still be easily understood for those outside of the immediate community. The target community is what kicks off the viral nature of the meme, and gives it momentum to continue moving to wider communities. If crafted correctly, the meme will become a self-perpetuating trend, but it all begins with a select group of people.

Take for instance the cocktail lady from someecards. She’s been used all over the Internet to describe the anxious wait for a Friday to the healthy consumption of fruit; grapes in the form of wine. In any case, wine lovers and cubicle workers alike have used this meme to make express themselves to fellow wine drinkers and co-workers about their immediate wants and situations. Another great example is the one below. Teachers and parents can appreciate a bit of snarky-ness towards the inattentive student.


So how do you create the next meme? It starts with a precise audience. Who will be the primary driver in the use of this meme? The narrower the target the better. Perhaps Gen Y science nerds, or Baby Boomer males from the Midwest? Choose an image that your target will recognize or relate to. Choose a message or series of messages that will help that audience express their wants, needs, situations, and emotions.

Once you have your audience, your image and text, put the meme in a place they will discover it. The Internet is vast, but in it’s corners and outskirts are nooks you can place your new meme to be discovered and shared.

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