You’ve probably heard this word floating around in your social media circles lately. The word meme was listed in Merriam Webster’s Top Ten Words of 2012, meaning it was one of the most looked-up words of 2012. In its contemporary, most general meaning, the word meme most commonly refers to the iconic images with text overlay, known as image macros, which are passed and shared throughout various social media platforms. Through being shared over and over again these memes go viral and their images become social media icons. Memes, if used correctly, can be a great way to advertise local businesses across a variety of social media platforms. Although with the recent changes in the Facebook News Feed algorithm, some memes may not be as successful on Facebook as they used to.

The word meme actually originates from the Latin term mimesis, which means “to imitate.” Richard Dawkins first coined the term in 1976 whilst trying to explain how cultural information spreads. Merriam-Webster defines the terms as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” So you can actually define an internet meme as any form of media that is shared across the web to spread an idea, behavior, style or usage. Internet memes consist of photos, comics, videos, gif’s, commercials and image macros.

The origins of the meme dates back to the 1870s, when Harry Frees started making greeting cards that included tag lines and pictures of cute furry animals dressed up in clothes. This progressed into commercials, spam emails, websites and eventually into the full blown memes of the social media network that we have today.

Those looking to expand their audience or following on social media platforms will regularly share and create memes to try and gain a viral following. In an effort to create viral hits, social media marketers have developed lists of specific traits that memes need to have to be successful. Memes should be relevant for the masses, should use humor, should be posted at the peak moments of traffic specific to each social media platform and memes should be shared – everywhere. Memes can include pictures of cute kittens and puppies or funny expressions. Memes can include iconic images and can even include pictures of your products – if the picture and idea is relevant to the masses.

Some memes have become so successful that their virality has made them worth millions. Local businesses can gain the attention of local populations through developing and sharing funny and clever memes that targeted audiences will relate to. As with all social media marketing, it is better to gain a large audience through quality content and interaction rather than through asking for useless likes or follows. Don’t re-share memes just to get a large empty following. It’s important to increase your audience, but it is also important to increase the activity and interaction of your followers.

This is where the new Facebook algorithm comes in. Supposedly the new algorithm seeks to help local business gain real interactive and engaged audiences. Facebook wants its users to be actively engaged in the social media that actually interests them. The new algorithm will benefit companies who have higher engagement with a higher percentage of their followers.

How will this affect memes, you may ask? Well, memes were listed as a part of the low quality content that Facebook has decided creates a large following of people for the wrong reasons. Memes in this sense are not original content and are shared over and over again. Facebook wants its users to create quality content that actually helps its users. If you develop memes that are unique and applicable to your local area and if this increases the activity of your followers on your site – this will increase your visibility to your clients. Memes, if used wisely, can engage your audience and increase your social media presence.

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