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Memes: Where They Came From, How to Make Them and When to Use Them

This is a guest post courtesy of Alicia Lawrence, Content Coordinator and Blogger at MarComLand. Enjoy the post!

Memes have a fascinating history from their beginning in 1976, when Richard Dawkins coined the phrase as a way to discuss how cultural information travels. The first actual meme appeared 6 years later in 1982 as the Internet Coke Machine at Carnegie Hall, a simple Coke machine that could be pinpointed online by searching for “finger coke@CMUA.” Memes can be anything, whether it’s an image, video, website, hashtag, hyperlink and so on.  Nowadays, most people think they belong solely to images like Grumpy Cat or videos like the Harlem Shake.

How to Make Memes

This depends entirely on what your personal definition of a meme is. However, if you’re in the group of people who believes a modern-day meme is an image with words or a viral video, it’s pretty easy to get on the bandwagon. Here’s a cheat sheet to making image memes:

  • Find a funny, strange, embarrassing or otherwise attention-getting image that isn’t copyrighted;
  • Tap into your inner comedian and come up with a short, catchy phrase to add to it;
  • Consider using PhotoShop or a free online source like Lunapic to marry the image and the text;
  • Share the meme wherever possible, on platforms such as social media, and make it easy for others to share.

To make a killer video meme, follow these steps:

  • Keep it under three minutes, but at least 45 seconds long;
  • Don’t invest in fancy equipment; video memes don’t need it;
  • Start spreading the love, starting with YouTube;

Make it easy to share, adding social media buttons so it can go viral.

When to Use Memes

Memes have the ability to go viral, but do you know who was behind the Star Wars Kid? Do you know who made I Can Haz Cheesburger cat? Probably not, so this won’t get your name out there. Instead, memes are revered because one person has the ability to create a cultural phenomenon, albeit invisibly.

However, if you simply want the rush of going viral, that’s a great reason to create a meme. Here are a few reasons why memes can be successful:

  • Drawing attention to a cause, fact, or statistic;
  • Introducing a new dance or song (ideal for musicians and entertainers);
  • Highlighting photography with a humorous twist (perfect for photographers);
  • Appealing to a younger, niche generation.

Even the smiley face is a meme. J If you want to get in on the action, whether it’s to sell contractor software or just be one of the greats, it starts with something that appeals to all.