SMEme: How to harness memes as an SME

Memes are officially more popular then Jesus, at least in terms of internet searches. They work across multiple devices providing light escapism, and are an increasingly dominant form of web content. For SMEs, they are a great way to engage a younger audience.

As the following Biden meme shows, they often hop on cultural zeitgeists and make hilarious tropes out of unspectacular images.

from list25.com

A meme is defined as an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. In this sense almost all of business knowledge is a meme.

Sharing memes that resonate with an audience is a great way of simplifying and sharing knowledge, while also making your audience smile. There’s also the chance that your meme might go viral – leading to increased exposure for your company.

Going viral is a great way to achieve organic social growth. And this is of course one of the best ways to reach a young audience, helping to attract new business and talent.

There is no doubt that deploying memes inside the workplace risks coming across as a vain attempt at seeming ‘down with the kids’, so one needs to be careful not to alienate the very demographic which is being targeted.

Memes are commonly used in internal communications scenarios. These playful tropes can be used in situations that are anything but amusing. Admin reminders, time-keeping chasers, invites for planned social events etc. If you’re the one forsaken with the task of sending such e-mails, then memes can be a great way of showing that you understand the recipient’s frustration.

Another outlet would be your company’s social media page. This has the additional benefit of potentially attracting new staff and raising your brand’s image in the eyes of people you would never have thought of reaching.

Making memes is easy. You just need a straight-forward and easy-to-use image editor that allows you to add and format text on top of high-quality imagery. We’ll be using the newly launched Shutterstock Editor technology to give you a few examples of workplace-related memes for both internal and external audiences.

Here are some key tips to bear in mind:

Step 1: Choose the right image

As with all predominantly social media-first assets, visuals matter. These should be simple. No one will spend hours looking at a single meme.

memes
Some employee encouragement (made with Shutterstock Editor)

There are two ways to choose an image for a meme. Either you adopt one of the standards of the internet (dogs, babies, cats or whichever celebrity has recently embarrassed themselves) and make the caption work-related or you can come up with your own perfect combination of text and picture. Just make sure it’s fun, engaging and unique.

Step 2: Don’t be sloppy with the text

Legibility and punchy, simple text is key. You don’t want to be making a meme that requires re-reading. Speed and efficiency are essential so both image and text must inform one another. This doesn’t mean that straight-forward copywriting is all that we need. Memes, especially when allied to images of adorable animals, often adopt a vocabulary, spelling and syntax of their own. This was highlighted in a recent piece of research that proved that ‘smol puppers’ really are cuter than ‘little dogs’. Changing spelling so that it becomes more phonetic and more evocative of the words described appeals to us in the same way that we find child’s speak so adorable.

For a school-leaver recruitment post online (made with Shutterstock Editor)

Step 3: Think about international audiences

SMEs with bright ideas aren’t always going to be constrained by national borders. Within multicultural cities and regions, they may still need to be multilingual to thrive locally. Because of this, the texts that you use to adorn your image should be separate from the image. Ideally in a single box to one side. This allows you to change language without jeopardising the lay-out of your final asset and makes for easy editing between versions. Ultimately, this allows you to reach more people quicker.  

For a time-keeping warning from HR (made with Shutterstock Editor)

Hopefully these will have provided an idea of the many different uses that one can have for a work-place meme.

As they face more competition, SMEs need to communicate more quickly and more effectively than ever before. The advent of the internet means that companies will often be rivalled by services from all over the world. Getting key messages across in an attractive way online will solicit positive attention. Having a good sense of humour can help a company retain and attract staff and using memes is a great way of achieving this.

By Kashem Miah, director of global social media and content marketing at Shutterstock