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Yes, it’s true: your formerly secretive internet surfing for cat pictures and cute baby videos can actually prove an important and valuable part of your social media tools. Interacting with information consumers on their turf is a critical part of reinventing your library. Tracking and using viral content such as memes as part of your social media strategy is a smart way to make your outreach engaging and relevant.

Amanda Brennan, the resident librarian at KnowYourMeme.com, describes a meme as “an idea that’s spread from person to person. It can manifest as a video, an image, it can take the place of slang—like LOL or BRB—but really it’s just anything that people can see and think about and pass along.” Memes often arise from popular or trending movies, books, and news items.

One of the most prevalent forms of meme is the image macro, which is a captioned image typically consisting of a picture and witty message or catchphrase. Image macros are a common form of communication and humor on social media sites. Just scroll through Facebook’s News Feed and you will see plenty of examples.

One popular image macro series is based on “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” part of an advertising campaign for Dos Equis beer. The original ads featured a debonair man performing all kinds of impossibly daring exploits, then showed him later in a nightclub surrounded by young women, saying, “I don’t always drink beer…but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

The image macros born of this ad campaign have captions that typically follow the original ad’s template—“I don’t always X, but when I do, I Y”—and often reference common, funny, or trending issues. For instance: “I don’t always get fed up and close a link when it loads too slowly…but when I do, it instantly loads at the exact same time I close it.”

So, as entertaining as all this is: how do you use it to promote your library?

Use the popularity of memes to connect with your patrons—especially those in their teens and 20s. You will entertain and inspire while positioning yourself as a library ahead of the curve on social media trends. You can use existing memes or create your own with online meme generators like cheezburger.com’s Builder or imgur.com’s tool. KnowYourMeme.com is considered the most authoritative source on news, history, and origins of viral phenomena and internet memes.

It’s a good place to start if you want to know more about which memes have been historically popular, which are trending now, and why. You can also research what other libraries are doing with memes, consult other librarians on Twitter and Facebook for ideas, and by all

means make use of sites like textalibrarian.com that devote specific pages to library-themed memes.
The important thing, says KnowYourMeme’s Amanda Brennan, is to remember that “memes are less about promoting your library in particular and more about building connections and finding something interesting that a person will want to share…These are not a way to sell people on things, but a way to interact with them.”

28 Mar 2014

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