Got Memes? Learn more about this popular aspect of social media from a college student’s perspective – and how these work

The following blog post was written by MMC’s intern, UW-Madison senior Amy Hildebrand.

MMC approached me about writing a guest blog post about my social media topic of choice. The answer was simple: memes.

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disonmc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Memes-blog-post-pic-1.jpg”>Willy Wonka 1Memes (pronounced meems) are a series of preset images with designated text formats and personalities that are representative of what’s popular in today’s culture. Individuals can create their own memes on sites such as quickmeme.com using these specific characters. For example, meet the “Condescending Wonka” meme. Backed by an image of Willy Wonka, the text appearing on the meme is always meant to be condescending. Without knowing Willy Wonka is being condescending, someone may not understand the humor behind the meme, or heaven forbid they may create a misused “Condescending Wonka” meme and face ridicule from other meme creators. Sound nerdy enough for you yet?

So, what does all this meme (pun intended)? From my point of view this means several things. First, one more distraction during lecture. Second, a concept originally meant for visual enjoyment is now driving conversations on social media platforms. Third, a potential marketing opportunity to reach college students, if executed very carefully.

One does not simply look at one UW meme. These witty, humorous, and often crude images are blowing up around college campuses nationwide and are gaining a strong presence on mainstream social media sites such as Facebook. On February 7th, meme pandemonium hit UW-Madison’s campus as the first official University of Wisconsin Memes Facebook page was created (before Minnesota’s page). Memes instantly became a sensation consuming the lives of 9,400 student body followers. Walking down State Street you can hear people conversing in meme phrases. Looking around a large lecture hall, you can see one third of the students looking and quietly laughing at the most recent meme posts.

Students are creating memes relevant to our every day student lives, which only adds to their humor. Whether the content is about dorm food, bad TA’s, or how much better UW is than other schools, students are expressing themselves to one another through memes. In an essence, the Facebook page creates a space of inside jokes only UW-Madison students can truly understand and appreciate. And in true Facebook fashion, students who may not even know one another, are connecting, discussing, and liking the memes posted on the page. Many memes already have over 1,000 “likes,” which is pretty impressive.

Businesses on campus are noting the trend and are trying to get their name out in front of this massive market of students. Ian’s Pizza was one of the first adopters. This popular pizza restaurant made a meme competition for students and challenged them to create the best Ian’s-related meme. The winner received a free 20-inch pizza and Ian’s received free marketing to their target customers. The winning meme Ian’s selected had over 85 “likes” in a matter of hours.

However, marketers beware. Due to the influx in meme usage on campus, many new creators are improperly using memes. Because of this, many memes are receiving negative commentary from meme experts via Facebook. Also, it’s important to be careful of how you promote your product through memes. Like Facebook, memes are a way for people to connect with one another. Companies may face backlash if memes users feel they are trying to capitalize through memes.

In the end, much like Charlie Sheen’s #winning tweets, memes are probably just a fad that will fade out pretty quickly on campuses. As a student who has admittedly been frequenting the University of Wisconsin Memes Facebook page, it’s pretty clear the quality and uniqueness of the memes is getting worse as more and more uneducated creators post incorrect memes. But, that’s the power and the beauty of social media. It moves fast and timing can be just as important as the content you post.

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