How to Go Viral and Sell More with Memes

[Originally posted on Amazing.com]

Many companies go after engagement in social media. Others go directly for sales. If you can get both engagement and sales at the same time, that’s the holy grail. In this post, we’ll talk about both, using a type of post that not everyone has already worn out.

Engagement itself is valuable because it:

  • Grabs Customer Attention: Many companies spend millions just on reach and exposure, but it’s hard these days to grab and hold attention, and the competition just for attention is fierce.
  • Starts a Conversation: Engagement proves you not only got customer attention, but interest, which is one level better. You can get valuable information from customer interaction that can help you sell better.
  • Creates an Emotional Relationship between your customer and your brand, which increases the chance you’ll get the sale and increases the chance they’ll become loyal to your brand and stay loyal to you. It’s not just about sales, but about long-term customer loyalty.

There are many types of Facebook posts that create engagement. But few companies have taken full advantage of memes, which is crazy because we want Facebook posts that get shares, and…

A meme (/?mi?m/ meem) is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”.

You can take any of your own images and turn them into memes with this tool: https://makeameme.org/upload

For example:

Or use one of the standard memes: https://makeameme.org/. This is a much better way to go, because you’re going to hit things that people recognize and that are relatable. The dangerous of creating your own new meme is: if no one understands it, it won’t succeed.

So the blueprint is:

  1. Understand the formula of the meme.
    For “The Most Interesting Man in the World” it’s “I don’t always [do some action] but when I do, I choose [product].”
  2. Put your sales message into that meme’s format.
  3. Post it and advertise it!

Make sure you choose a meme that is either:

  • Well known to most people…
    – OR –
  • Easily understandable if they’ve never seen it before.

Some of the best memes to use are:

  1. “One Does Not Simply… [something complex]”
    This meme features the character Boromir from The Lord of the Rings… he originally said, “One does not simply WALK into Mordor…” to emphasize how serious and dangerous it is, and how you need a plan. And if you get that, and like Monty Python, you’ll love this.
  2. “That Would Be Great.”
    Manager Bill Lundbergh from OfficeSpace “If you could just [do whatever] that would be great…” If you don’t get this meme because haven’t seen this movie, you’re probably also not a real American.
  3. Skeptical Third World Kid:
    “So you’re telling me…[something unbelievable about America]”
    Now, this one could be a sensitive topic for some people. In my opinion, it’s ok because this joke usually makes the first world lady the victim (who we guess is some kind of missionary), but the whole issue of third world poverty may be too disturbing in certain contexts.
  4. First World Problems:
    Something she‘s crying about that isn’t a problem for people in the third world.
  5. Success Kid: all this cute kid needs is some statement of success.
  6. Dumbstruck Dog: this one is about something shocking or confusing.
  7. Annoyed Picard: This is for pretty much any kind of frustration or “what the heck?” kind of sentiment.
  8. Grumpy Cat: This could be used for any complaint you want to make, or pain point your customers have.
  9. Matrix “What If I Told You”: This can reveal any important insight, or for a humorous spin, something obvious.
  10. Condescending Willie Wonka: “Oh you… Tell me more about…” This one is best used for sarcasm. Anything you want to make fun of or belittle.

If any of the above memes don’t make sense to you, don’t use them! I’ve been looking at memes for about eight years, so if this is new to you, you”ll actually have a better idea which ones make sense to the general audience (who doesn’t know all the memes like I do).

Always put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Will they think any one particular meme is weird or great? For example: is your customer the type to watch Star Trek? If not, maybe don’t use the Annoyed Picard meme. But if they’re big nerds, Annoyed Picard could be perfect.

Here’s the That Would Be Great Meme, for example…

Do you see how you can use a character’s voice as the excuse to say something you wouldn’t normally be able to? Or in a way you wouldn’t be able to? It frees you to be able to sell better.

And don’t forget about the 20% text rule! Put your captions all on top or all on the bottom if you want to be sure you can advertise them.

Then combine your new meme image with a call-to-action and a link in your post (to a site where they can take action, like buy something or sign up for your emails)… then promote the post with ads to your best customers!

What Kind of Results Should You Get?

I’ve written elsewhere about Facebook Benchmarks, but the short version is:

  • Check your Facebook Page Insights, click over to Engagement Rate, and try to get your posts up to 3-5%, and then to 5-8%. Our best clients get 8-12% regularly.
  • Your cost per post engagement in the U.S. should be under $0.20, and under $0.05 is quite reasonable if you’re creating great memes. If you get down to $0.01, you’re a rock star!
  • Cost per link click can be higher when you’re running post promotion ads, but you can get them down to $0.10-0.20.
  • For leads and sales, make sure you’ve installed conversion tracking… lead gen costs depend on the niche, but we’ve seen B2C as low as $0.10-0.50 per lead and B2B $2.50-30.00 (again very niche- dependent). Cost per sale also varies a LOT but can be as low as $2-3 in B2C and $5-10 in B2B. It’s all over the map here- if you’re selling a $20,000 computer system, you might spend $3,000 on a sale and call it a success…

How to Get Great Meme Post Results Over Time

Try 5 or 10 of these over a few weeks. And it’s ok to try different versions of the same meme- it’s not like you can only use them once- I would rotate through them initially. But after a month or two you could go back and say something different with a meme you’ve used before.

As with all of Facebook, continuous testing to find the best creative is the name of the game.

Over time, you’ll see which of them get the best engagement rates and the lowest cost per engagement, and which ones get sales and which ones don’t, just like any posts or ads.

Keep creating and keep testing. That’s how the best Facebook marketers do it!

The 6 Types of Facebook Posts That Go Viral

Want more shares of your Facebook posts? Then you need to create more Facebook posts that go viral.

Want to get people to share your idea for you?

Want to reach the people you can’t reach yet- without even paying for it?

“Let’s make it go viral!”: It’s the executive order that marketers dread, because it’s so much easier said than done.

But the research shows us what kinds of Facebook posts get shared, and which kinds of posts they don’t share…

What People DON’T Share Is…

  • (Selfish) stuff about your company that doesn’t help them. Beware of PR and press releases that the CEO cares, that even the media might care about, but your average customer does NOT care about. You need things that make your best customer say, “Awesome!” Something that’s cool or helps them. Stop focusing on your company and focus on the customer. Try to think the way they think. Very few companies do this well. So when you do, you get big rewards in the form of sales and profits.
  • (Offensive) stuff that’s inappropriate or edgy or weird. Remember, if they hit “share” it goes to anyone they’ve connected to- their grandma, their boss, their employees, their mom, their kids… so a lot of people are only going to share PG to PG-13 items at most. The only exceptions are when your audience is defined by their edginess.
  • (Obscure) stuff that few people know about or like. Again, if most of their friends won’t even know what this thing IS, they probably won’t share it. They’ll know that their interest in it is weird. Like if you like the bands Rush or Yes, chances are, most of your connections don’t. If your business is all about that weird interest, go for it, but if it’s not central to your business, and it’s an odd post topic, it probably won’t get shared.

The 6 Types of Posts People Share:

This is a diagram I created based on my analysis of Agorapulse’s thousands of Facebook pages and post data back in 2012-2013. We saw it work right away and since then we’ve continually proven that these principles work for 100’s of companies. And in every Social Audit we’ve done for any company, their most shared posts are always one of these six types.

Viral Facebook post for a cruise giveaway
Viral Facebook post for a cruise giveaway

#1 Posts That GIVE Go Viral

When you give, people not only want to reciprocate (you’ve read Cialdini’s Influence, right?), they also want to give the same to others.

So when you offer discounts and deals and run contests, you may see those get shared, and you may also want to make sure your contests are set up to reward people for sharing.

You can incentivize virality (give them a carrot to get them to share) with a variety of contest platforms.

#2 Posts That ADVISE Go Viral

This is another type of giving, but from an information and insight perspective.

When you give tips and how to’s that help people overcome obstacles and get closer to their goals and dreams, they get shared.

You increase your chances of getting shares when those tips and how to’s look super high quality.

So if it’s a video, give it some production value. If it’s a blog post, write a good title, make it scannable, readable, and use great images.

I would recommend infographics if Facebook is a big part of your distribution plan, because infographics are not very compatible with Facebook:

  • Facebook images are smaller and horizontal compared to typically gigantic and vertical infographics.
  • Infographics won’t pass the 20% text rule (put a 5×5 grid over your image, and you can’t have text in more than 5 of the squares), so they’ll never approve an ad to support it, so it will get very limited reach.
  • Instead, take the chunks of info you want to get across, and post them one at a time.
Viral Facebook post that warns
Viral Facebook post that warns

#3 Posts That WARN Go Viral

This often comes into play for news services, for example TV news.

But it can also apply if you know something about your industry.

For example, I could write a post like “WARNING: Facebook Ad Costs Are So Low in 2020 That You’re Crazy Not to Run Them!” and talk about how

  • Since many companies stopped doing Facebook ads during the COVID crisis…
  • Ad CPM’s dropped, and even with lower click through rates (lower demand due to financial issues)…
  • Cost per click is still lower than ever.
  • But it’s still important to learn to resonate with your audience by knowing what they like, because
  • When you resonate, that increases your click-through rates, and
  • CPC goes down even further.

So that’s how you tie one of the viral post types in with your sales message- I would then be selling Facebook ad services. And yes, ninja trainees, I just sold it in this blog post too! 😉

Viral Facebook post that amuses
Viral Facebook post that amuses

#4 Posts That AMUSE Go Viral

Humor. Almost everybody loves it. The problem is: how do you do it in business? To do humor well in business, you have to:

  • Be relatable- it has to be based in a common experience of your audience
  • Make sure you don’t offend anyone (or not too much)
  • For extra credit, make a marketing or sales point with it that gets people closer to buying

And because of the not offending and not being edgy thing, it may actually not be that funny compared to what you’d see on Comedy Central. But that’s ok. Corporate humor that doesn’t make everybody uncomfortable and is in fact hilarious at a conference may only warrant a chuckle from you alone at your desk. You don’t have to be Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle. In fact, if you try to be, you’ll probably offend somebody, and you won’t get shares- and even if you do, it could hurt your company’s image.

Now this is different for every company- it has to fit your brand, your culture, and your legal department. Some companies are younger and smaller and are OK with taking more risks, and they benefit from them. That’s great. Just make sure the level of edginess you choose fits your company.

Viral Facebook post that inspires
Viral Facebook post that inspires

#5 Posts That INSPIRE Go Viral

People tend to agree with positive, inspirational messages. They “like” them. And they share them because of

  • The positive post made them feel good and they want their friends to feel good, too. I think this is probably the biggest part of the motivation.
  • They think the positive post will make them look good. “Wow, Brian is really wise for sharing that Facebook post.” I don’t know that we really ever think that consciously, because it sounds stupid when you voice it out loud, but the “looking good to others” factor does play a part.
Viral Facebook post that amazes
Viral Facebook post that amazes

#6 Posts That AMAZE Go Viral

We may not have created the Internet to see amazing monasteries in the clouds or puppy videos or 8 year old kids playing incredibly difficult guitar pieces or skateboarders falling on their faces… but it is amazing how much amazing we can now spread.

The Internet connects us in a way that allows us to share more amazing things with more people than ever before.

In the past, it was just through TV shows (That’s Incredible! and Ripley’s Believe It or Not and America’s Funniest Home Videos), and people had to mail VHS tapes to these shows, or the TV shows had to have people traveling the globe to find them- but now so many people have smartphones, we can capture tons of things and the collective human race can judge and make each thing viral or not.

And all of that stuff is right there for you to find with Google and BuzzSumo and PostPlanner… because no matter how many people have shared it, a lot of this amazing stuff has not been seen by most people. It’s not only proven viral- it’s still new to many. Especially the stuff that was on sites like Ebaums World before Facebook. Sometimes you’ll see something go viral on Facebook and discover it happened four years ago…

So those are the 6 types of posts that go viral!

How to Make Your Revenue Go Viral

The goal here is not just engagement, though- but also to tie it into your sales and marketing messages.

Engagement is great, because every brand needs attention, but if you want extra credit and better ROI, make sure you’re also thinking about your customer’s pains and problems and your services’ and products’ benefits.

Tie it in and connect the dots. Give them a call to action related to your brand. Put a link in the text (and some utm parameters to track it well in Google Analytics) so that they can go somewhere to take an action meaningful to your bottom line.

context-driven sales vs. self-centered sales

You’ve already pressed their buttons and stimulated their emotions- so channel that into a transaction with your company- or at least make the courteous suggestion that they might considering doing that…

Then it won’t just be your engagement going viral- your revenue can go viral, too!

Why Pokémon GO Doesn’t Matter and Your Company Still Has to Advertise

(Putting aside using Pokémon GO to market a local retail business, if that attracts your target market…)

Some people say that if your product is good enough, you don’t need to advertise.

You’ve never seen a Pokemon Go advertisement, right?

Pokémon GO is a huge phenomenon and making them a ton of money, right? So, you probably don’t need ads?

You’re right that Pokémon GO is winning- BUT the problem is that 99% of companies don’t have something awesome enough to drive that kind of word of mouth.

Pokémon GO piggybacked on a media franchise that had already sold 200 million video games, and had already grossed $46 billion.

What kind of cloud computing service would drive Pokemon Go level word-of-mouth? I mean sure, if you can come up with an augmented reality game for your cloud computing service that piggybacks on an already successful multi-billion dollar global media game franchise, go for it!

When companies market, they fall into four basic groups:

1. VIRAL PRODUCT: Have a genius product that doesn’t need marketing (like Pokemon Go)
2. VIRAL MARKETING: Have a good product and genius marketing content that goes viral every time and doesn’t require advertising
3. ADVERTISING: Have a good product and good marketing but have to advertise.
4. LIPSTICK ON A PIG: Have a bad product and try advertising…

Most companies fall into #3… they have to advertise.

A lot of companies want to be in category #2… they want to go viral. They want their agency to have brilliant ideas that go viral. The reality is, most companies don’t have anyone who can do that.

How many of you have someone who creates organic content that goes viral 100% of the time?

I’m guessing nobody, based on what I’ve seen.

For the best creatives online… the best YouTubers, for example… maybe 20% of their creations go viral. And these are freaks of nature… there aren’t many of them.

There are geniuses out there like Aaron Sorkin or JJ Abrams or Spielberg- these are the rare few who almost always win. But there are only a handful of these humans per generation. You can’t hire them.

So you have to advertise.

A few companies are #4 and all their ads and marketing are just lipstick on a pig… nobody wants their offering, no matter what you do.

In summary, it doesn’t help a company with a good product (someone who’s not at level #1) to tell them they should have thought of an awesome outlier product.

Only outliers have outlier-level-awesome products, and by definition that means only 1% of companies.

Most companies have to advertise.

PODCAST: Video Tips, Comedy and “Picking People’s Brains”

One of my best friends in the marketing world, Jason Miller…

  • A man I’ve been on cruises with (yeah I guess we’re old?)
  • A man I’ve studied VIRAL FACEBOOK MARKETING with (we did a landmark ebook called Contagious Content that guided over 100,000 marketers in how to create Facebook posts that get more shares)
  • A man born on the SAME DAY OF THE YEAR AS ME – we are astrological twins!!!
  • A man I’ve watched STEVE VAI play guitar with MY WIFE with…

Jason Miller formerly of Marketo now of LinkedIn interviewed me for his podcast, which rocks as much as he does… We talked about:

  • Should we just do talking heads in live video?
  • Why does Brian have a green screen?
  • Should you let people pick your brain over coffee?
  • Professional quality video tips- start for less than $200!

Check it out.

REPLAY: How to Go Viral and Sell More with Memes [Facebook Live Show]

Episode CINCO of Live Online Learning (LOL):

To be sure not to miss future live shows, opt in here to join the email list so we can keep you notified!

Here’s what we talked about, in addition to attendee live questions we answered:

  • What are MEMES?
    • “An element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.”
    • “A humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.”
    • Not unlike cover songs or music sampling by hip hop and EDM artists
    • By nature there is some conflict with copyright and intellectual property, but the law supports music sample and hip hop- memes are very similar.
  • Why use MEMES?
    • Results
      • Big engagement
      • Free shares (viral)
      • Traffic, leads and sales
    • People love them, tap into what they already like
    • Quickly recognizable
    • Fun
    • Easy to create
  • How do you use MEMES?

Shareology (Video Interview) with Bryan Kramer

I spoke with Bryan Kramer about his exciting new book, Shareology.

We discussed topics including:

  • The 6 Types Of Sharers
  • How Emotions Play Into Sharing
  • The Impact Of Sharing On Revenue
  • What Makes Things Go Viral
  • The Formula For Sharing

You can pre-order Shareology here, and get access to his new Shareology Sharing Platform.

67 Reasons Upworthy Is More Viral Than Your Site Will Ever Be

Hey bucko, you need to care why people share stuff online. What they share, they definitely like. What they like, they don’t necessarily share. Find out what about your business is most viral, and you’re building the infrastructure for word of mouth marketing, and thus mega growth. Everyone needs a competitive advantage to survive and thrive- isn’t being more shareable one of the best competitive advantages?

You need to read this deck if you want to suck less at viral marketing. It’s so good I hesitate to share it.

But I know that most people don’t implement what they learn, so you probably won’t beat me today, superman. Did you write 25 headlines today? Me neither but I did write four for this post.

Surprise, Viral Cellos! You Will Laugh And Rock Out To This

What is creativity?

It’s just two old things combined in a new way. Here, then, is Anachronistic AC/DC!

We will forgive them for having three cellos playing at one point, will we not?

What two old things can you combine in a new way to get awesome marketing results?

 

This Ridiculous Video Blew the Mind of an Entire Town in Belgium

I’m a big fan of the company who created this… (for a different reason)

Honestly, it makes me feel a bit dumb, because it looks about as interesting as the average movie I like.