Why Choosing The Right “Meme Machine” Can Help Your Content Go Viral



Reddit’s founding Brand Strategist, Joe Federer, dives into the evolution of meme on Reddit, and how an understanding of the format of memes can help drive social sharing.


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Among the many pieces of viral content that pops up on our feed every day, a lot of them are memes. However, do you really understand how this trending digital language came into being, and the whole culture that evolves around it?

There’s no better way to learn about this than hearing from Joe Federer, founding Brand Strategist at Reddit, a hotbed for memes and one of the first sites where viral content usually takes off.

At Social Media Week London 2018, Federer challenged the audience’s understanding of what a “meme” is, and how better-informed knowledge of this culture can help evaluate branded social content.

Being the site where viral content takes off

Most people know and use Reddit, but few truly understand why it’s so popular. According to Federer, Reddit is not only the internet’s home for conversation, but a place where different communities can freely communicate.

And most importantly, it’s a place “where people can be their true selves,” said Federer.

When we go to social platforms like Facebook or Instagram, we are interacting with the people we know or those following us. Thus, our behaviors change accordingly because of what we want/don’t want these groups of people to see, according to Federer. But while on Reddit, since communities are organized around interests and passions, users are expected to feel less restricted.

“This platform gives us the freedom to explore new interests and be creative in ways that we aren’t in these other social networks,” said Federer.

Understanding the “meme machine”

Federer brought the audience back to the origin of the word, meme, to introduce the concept of a “meme machine,” a physical capacity that carries our ideas.

Nowadays, we see memes in a very common format — heavy white font with black outline against a gif, movie scene, stock photo… you name it. Most of the time, the background remains the same and it’s the text that gets changed. Recent examples of viral formats include a car that drastically turned to the right at an intersection, and a screenshot of Drake in the music video, “Hotline Bling.”

Federer thinks that the format of the meme, aka, the meme machine, is just as important as the meme content itself.

“The meme machine is doing the same thing that a good comedian does,” said Federer. “A good comedian will tell you a joke about something that you’ve heard a thousand other jokes about, but will do it in a way that makes it funny and compelling and fresh again.”

So, how to create a good meme?

To wrap up, Federer summed up three main takeaways that content creators can learn from to create their next viral phenomenon.

First, the format of the message is just as, if not more, important, as the message itself.

Second, to drive sharing for your social content, that content should feel at home in its own environment.

Third, the best way to ignite your audience on Reddit is to add value. If the default posture of a brand is trying to look at various communities and networks and trying to add value to conversations, things tend to go right.

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