Serious work and memes

So many people want to do work that they can be proud. Work that is off the beaten path. Work that is different than the industry. That’s what the world needs, yet there is a struggle. Spreading the word about something that’s not currently on the menu is a tough job whether you’re an artist, an IT professional, a doctor, a lawyer or something else. To do this, spreading the message through network effects is something many marketers think about. I’ve been a follower of Seth Godin on this for a long-time. Yet, everyday when I’m on social media I see far more people sharing memes other people have made much more often than I see stories/articles/podcasts reshared. The rate is astronomically higher! Why is that?

I have a few ideas:

  1. The people I follow are just more prevalent meme lords. It’s a theory, but I follow a huge number of authors, and those people are reading and writing constantly, so that doesn’t add up. When I look in most forums that contain a mix of people from the general population, memes outnumber article shares even more.
  2. Memes are generally funny. People like to share a good feeling. This also seems true, but there are plenty of stories that are feel good that don’t seem to be shared as often.
  3. Memes can’t be stolen as easily and are hard to communicate through writing or speaking. To me, this is the one. You hear a good story story. You use it in your speeches, conversations, etc. You can easily share it back if it was memorable and clearly communicated. How do you do that with a meme? You need to show someone. Are you going to remake it? Of course, not! So, you share it. These days it only takes a couple of clicks.

The way that we communicate can influence how much our ideas are shared. When I consider how much memes are impacting culture, it’s quite amazing. Lil Nas X made his name in music by creating a little track and putting it over a bunch of different memes. Certain stocks are being bought because people are making memes about them. Certain products get amazing amounts of attention because their marketing teams made good memes.

Memes are the next level of complexity. They require visual thinking, words, communication skills, humor, and more. If wanting to do serious work, it doesn’t seems like memes are the way to go, but perhaps that’s foolish thinking. Perhaps we need the courage to accept that this is the new normal in society, while at the same time realizing that important work still needs the longer formats like articles, books, podcasts, etc. Memes can be a tool to bring awareness to those.