Social Files Declassified; Volume 2
By Tommy Clark
How To Actually Use Memes In Your Marketing & Make Money From Them
Not many people get memes.
But Jason is one of them. The dude is writing a book on it. Seriously.
After running up his own Twitter account and growing his newsletter to 6000+ engaged subscribers, he’s since led content and marketing for a few venture capital firms and startups.
So if there’s anyone who can convey the “sauce” to you… it’s him & I.
And I got to sit down for an hour to distill the sauce down into super actionable strategies for you to use in your own social media marketing.
Let’s open the file 🗃
If you’re in a rush, or just too lazy to read (it’s fine I won’t judge), here is the TLDR
Note 1: Memes get eyeballs. Eyeballs make money.
Note 2: The best brand memes for smaller companies are usually about a wider, more well-known topic. If you get too niche too early (only making memes about your product), they are going to flop.
Note 3: The best memes are remixes. Don’t be afraid to take other ideas + templates and remix them into your own. That’s the whole point. Find what works and iterate for your company.
Note 4: The best way to turn your memes into cash is to go deep into a specific sub-niche of the internet and understand it better than most. Then make content for these companies. For example, Jason is deep into VC and tech. I’m deep into ecommerce, SaaS, marketing, etc.
Ok. Here’s the full thing 👇
Tommy: Thanks for taking the time today, man. To start off — what’s your definition of a meme?
Jason: There are really two definitions. There’s the meme we all know, the viral image or video or whatever that blows up and goes viral.
And then there’s the biological definition, coined by Richard Dawkins (if I’m correct). And it’s the idea of a self replicating idea and genetics and how our bodies and organisms just keep growing.
And so I think understanding them both helps you understand how memes can just be templates that are rewritten and rewritten for years and it helps you understand the study of them.
Tommy: What’s the earliest example of a meme that you can think off the top of your head?
Jason: The first meme that I remember from my childhood I think was Bad Luck Brian… that’s a classic.
Tommy: Now, pretend I’m a CMO. Why do I need to use memes in my marketing strategy? Why is meme usage a strategy that’s viable and going to end up producing actual business results?
Jason: First of all, humor and marketing has like a very long history, hundreds of years going back to when marketing and ads were straight up like ads in a newspaper and just like that, before even TV and stuff.
Funny ads just tend to be more shareable. When you tell your friends a joke, you share it with your friends, then they share it with another friend, etc.
Memes are the building block of humor on the internet.
Just like a funny joke IRL, a meme something that you share with your friends. It could be a video, a GIF, just a funny pic or whatever.
Even a tweet can be a meme. Just look at our guy Jack Raines.
At the end of the day:
Memes get eyeballs. And eyeballs make money. It’s really that simple.
Tommy: Makes sense — and I would agree. Now, what do you think makes a good meme?
Jason: A lot of companies want to make memes about their own product — and it’s stupid unless you’re like Apple or company that everybody knows.
But if you’re a startup with ~100 followers, nobody’s going to know you enough to care about an ultra-niche meme about your new product feature.
The best memes for early-stage companies tend to go off of something else’s social capital.
So if you’re a newer tech startup, then make memes about Apple and Facebook and Meta (brands + ideas people already are familiar with) and grow your following until you have your own community and momentum.
I remember I was making memes for a company named [redacted], and they wanted all these memes about their product. So I ran a test.
I made the same meme twice.
The first iteration was about the company I was working with.
Then I did one about Andreessen Horowitz.
The latter popped off, because it was industry/niche related but not so specific to the product that nobody would get it. You need a large enough target audience for your memes.
Too many early-stage companies overestimate the clout they have on social. In reality, you have to run memes based off of bigger, better known concepts. And that’s how social media works.
Tommy: How do you source great meme ideas? Where do you get templates from? Are there any go to resources for you?
Jason: My most used resource to grab templates is Imgflip. Super easy place to find good stuff.
There’s also a weird arbitrage in the meme game, which I don’t know if you’ve noticed.
I know Mark Moran does it really well, but it’s the strategy of taking Instagram memes that pop off and putting them on Twitter, and vice versa.
There are so many really dank memes on Instagram that just haven’t made it to Twitter.
And so there’s like four or five fintech VC Meme pages on Instagram. And so I’ve been messing around with those, just looking for some ideas.
Also, when you look for meme templates, don’t be afraid to remix other people’s ideas.
A lot of the time I’ll be scrolling through the timeline and the memes I see are all remixes of ideas. And so you have to be shameless when you remix somebody else’s content.
You also can’t be afraid to remix your own ideas and memes you’ve used in the past.
My advice for people who are reading this is stop trying to be so original. Just try to be funny.
Nobody gives a shit. Just be funny and remix that shit.
Tommy: How do memes actually translate into dollars — both for you and the startups you work with?
I think a deep understanding of whatever culture subculture that you’re meming about is what’s needed.
I did a Reddit AMA a while back and multiple people are asking me, “how do you make money with memes? This is my meme page, and they have 20,000 followers on Instagram but I’m not making any money.”
If you want to make money with memes, you got to do something where there’s money, there where people where a company can pay you or something or whatever.
And honestly, there are just not that many people that are both funny enough to make memes and understand marketing, startups, ecommerce, etc enough to cash in on it. And so if you have that overlap in expertise [humor + niche industry knowledge] capitalize on that.
That learning curve that it takes for a social media manager or a content creator to understand the niche they’re making content in is by far the biggest barrier to success.
Early on, if you understand the language of our customers using the inside jokes, they’re talking about the little pet peeves or nuances that they just can’t stand and are pain points to them that might not be obvious to other people.
That’s all raw material for any content, really — but especially memes.
Tommy: How do you go about doing that research to understand the communities you operate in deeply?
Jason: I’m deep in this shit, man. A lot of my friends are founders, VCs, whatever.
I go to the conferences, I go to the events, I talk to them, I listen to podcasts, all that shit. I live and breathe this stuff and unashamedly love it. So it just works out.
If you try paying me $10K an hour to make memes about hockey, I couldn’t do it.
Tommy: Love it. Okay, last question I got for you is… What’s your favorite meme template of all time?
Jason: That’s a great question. Most used one is probably like just the drake one where he’s like or whatever, where it’s like two drakes. But my favorite, I like the spiderman pointing at each other. So many different use cases for those.
Tommy: Ok what about this book. I’ve pre-ordered. Other marketers need to. What’s it about and where can they find it?
Jason: Of course. So Memes Make Millions is an inside look into the ‘underground meme economy.’ I use a series of funny essays and interviews to explore the business of memes. Kinda a deeper dive into a lot of the stuff we got into today.
It was a dope experience writing this, dude. I got to meet memelords with millions of followers, writers who make 6 figures working for meme brands, and even walking memes themselves.
Fun to write, and I’m confident it’ll be a must-read resource for SMMs.
If you found this interview helpful, you’ll love Jason’s book. Well worth the price of admission. Pre-order it right here.