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How to make church memes and why they matter

Maybe you remember the Gangnam-style video that flooded the internet in 2012, or perhaps you have seen one of the many Grumpy Cat images. If you are on the internet today, chances are good you have seen a meme. What are they really? And what, if anything, do they have to do with your church? Believe it or not, memes and marketing go hand-in-hand. So, here are a few ways that you can take advantage of their popularity to promote the ministries of your church.

Memes are virally transmitted pictures, videos and captions, or some combination of the three, that have become an important part of the social media experience. They are pieces of internet art that often use pop culture references to target specific groups of people with similar interests. When most people hear the term “meme,” they think of humorous or satirical messages, but memes aren’t limited to funny content. Since these creative expressions technically become memes when they go viral, any such illustration, even those with deeper and more serious messages, can be copied and shared quickly among many people on the internet.

Important facts about memes.

Memes  have a short shelf-life; most memes don’t stick around long. Because they are shared so quickly and so frequently, people tire of them easily. So, if you are looking for a marketing product that will last for years to come, memes aren’t going to make the cut. And when you use them, be prepared to switch them out frequently.

Memes are meant to solicit an immediate reaction.

Ideally, the reaction will be exactly what you desire, but sometimes, a meme will hit a wrong nerve. In other words, what may seem funny to you may come across as offensive to someone else. Memes are also frequently copied and changed slightly before being shared, which can lead to changes in the original meaning and intent. For this reason, it is very important to be very careful which memes you choose, create or share.

While memes are not traditional advertising, they can be a valuable addition to your existing internet media forums and your overall marketing campaign.

  • Memes are a great way to bring light-hearted humor to your social media profiles.
  • They are also terrific attention-grabbers that can help promote church events such as VBS.
  • They can be used to recruit volunteers for various church ministries, and
  • Serious memes can also be used to share scripture passages or sermon themes.

One of the fastest and most popular ways to use memes is called memejacking, which is taking a popular meme, adapting the caption and piggybacking off its viral success. For example, Virgin Media latched onto the popularity of Success Kid, the photo of a baby with an outstretched, clenched fist, in one marketing campaign. Wonderful Pistachios used Keyboard Cat to help advertise their snack. Memejacking capitalizes on viral success. The meme has already become well recognized, so memejackers simply rewrite the copy to fit their needs. Meme generators make this process even easier.

Use a meme generator to memejack or create your own works of art by uploading your photo or gif (animated image) and adding text. Or you can use a free image editors such as GIMP to do the job.

MyCom writer Dan Wunderlich created the following video tutorial on how to make memes using DesignFeed.io or Adobe Spark (free web-based design apps). Like DesignFeed.io and Adobe Spark, Canva is another simple free graphic design studio. All these design programs are similar. They provide templates and tools to make the novice look like a pro. Try a few of these programs and see what sticks.

Important rules for designing memes.

Alex York, author of “Marketing Memes: Do They Work?”, recommends that memes be “easy to read, simple to digest, shareable, relatable, trendy, recognizable, to the point, and aim for the quick laugh.” In addition, it’s very important that the meme fit your brand and your church’s overall marketing plan.

If you are struggling to find an original image, search for free images or social media graphics that may fit your theme. Here are a few excellent free public domain libraries:

  • Pixabay and Pexels have huge collection.
  • Unsplash is my favorite. It includes highly curated images and a filter effect that slightly dims photographs, creating a hip vintage look.
  • CreationSwap is made for churches, has a huge collection and gives you three free images per month!

Of course, the easiest way to use memes is to let someone else do the hard work for you. With all the great memes that are already out there, chances are good that you can find something that has already been created that will fit your needs. United Methodist Communications has created a social media graphics library that’s geared for churches and regularly updated. It includes holiday graphics for:

Once you have found or created your meme, let your audience see it! Help it go viral. Post it. Tweet it. Share it, and encourage others to do the same.

Tricia Brown

Tricia Brown has been a freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, ghost-writing and editing for individuals as well as for health, education and religious organizations. She enjoys reading, writing and public speaking commitments in which she teaches and encourages other women.

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