Definition of a Meme (pronounced /ˈmiːm/, rhyming with “cream”):
Meme a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation)
Meme is a philosophical unit of a packet of information. It is the unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.
Internet meme is a phrase used to describe a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet, much like a… inside joke.
Why You Should Care About Memes
Memes are the often unspoken rules of behavior expected in a certain situation, environment, time or place. Because they are mostly unspoken, and because they are enforced by peer pressure, they can be extremely difficult to grasp at first glance. What do these memes then do that serves us? They define “insiders” as separate from “outsiders”. They tell us who is new here and comfortable and fluent in the language and environment and who is standing out like a sore thumb. They tell us who belongs to our tribe and who yet doesn’t.
To give an example of a environment with memes, lets pretend I invite you to a 5 star hotel holiday “black tie” corporate gala. Now assuming you’re from a country with behaviors similar to mine, you INSTANTLY know a variety of things. You not only know that it will require formal dress, but that you must “dress to impress”. You not only know that there will be dining, but that you best not forget which spoon, fork, knife belongs to which portion of the meal. You not only know there will likely be music of some sort, but you can mentally rule out a number of types of music. You not only know you need to use your manners, but that the manners and mannerisms required are highly different than those used daily among your friends. Look at everything you knew about this event just by understanding the memes!
In the above example, either you learned these memes by being raised around them, by researching them, by having a caring friend warn you about them before hand, or by having a deeply embarrassing previous experience where you violated them by simply not being aware! If you’re in the last group, you suddenly understand not only how subtle these nuances are, but how important being warned about them before hand can be!
Okay, So How Does A Black Tie Event Affect The Social Media Environment?
Remember earlier how we defined a meme as being capable of existing anywhere that has a unique culture? Well the internet is one such place! While you may think of it as a simple extension of your offline activities, you’re very presence here makes you participating in a sub-culture, a tribe, with its own rules…. memes!
Like we also discussed before, the “rules” can be fuzzy, blurry, hard to understand why they exist, and almost impossible to find defined anywhere! Sometimes you will find these defined under etiquette, but even these lists are rarely complete.
Some common memes you’ve probably encountered if you’ve participated on Twitter for any length of time:
- Its considered polite (read: expected by many) to say thank you to those that RT (retweet) your posts or mention you by @name
- Be yourself. It’s 110% okay to be YOU on twitter. It’s expected that you be human.
- Its considered spamming to only share your own broadcasting and not RT others or dialog with your followers
- Its considered polite (read: expected by many) to RT (retweet) other’s value content if they RT yours
- However, you don’t have to reply to every single one, if someone RTs you multiple times, one may suffice. (I personally have such a high RT rate that I thank those that RT my professional stuff regularly and do not usually thank those that RT my quotes (these however are often the same people, so it works out about the same.)
- Its considered rude to exceed the 9:1 ratio of 9 pieces of value content to 1 that might even halfway look like you might possibly profit from it
- It’s considered polite (read: expected by many) to follow-back anyone that follows you and is giving value. You do not need to feel guilty for unfollowing someone or not following them however, just understand that they will likely not remain following you.
- Use a complete bio and picture. Make it a picture of yourself if at all possible unless that account is only for your personally held company’s tweeting. Don’t change pics too regularly, we are visual creatures!
- Use caution with humor and sarcasm, remember that your reader has very very limited context clues and things are easy to mis-read, suggest using #humor or #sarcasm where applicable.
- It’s considered rude to send auto-DMs (direct messages) regularly. Same goes for sending your game or quiz results.
- It’s acceptable (and recommended) to block users you don’t want following you (spammers mostly)
- If a tweet is worth sharing, but too long from being shared a lot, its acceptable to drop the intermediary sources if needed, as long as you retain the original source of the tweet and hopefully your direct contacts name.
- It’s considered polite to be transparent about who you work for, who you represent and which of your links are affiliate links (also required by law)
- It’s also considered rude to include a business link or sales link in your “thanks for following” auto-DM. If you want to link, link them to connect with you at your Facebook account.
- Its considered polite to include the source of your tweet, including if you use TwitterFeed to attach the (via @name) to the post manually
- It’s helpful if you make your @replies include a lot of detail (turn “yes” into “yes I enjoyed the Avatar movie”) so that your other followers can jump into the conversation if they like!
- It’s considered rude to make personal 1:1 plans, arrangements, extended personal dialogs using @reply, take that to DM (direct message) using “d persons-name your message here”
- Its considered polite to #FF or #FollowFriday people that are delivering consistent value and helping you by doing the same
However recently I’ve noticed that there is one more that’s a much more subtle nuance that sets people apart. It often happens as a new blogger is attempting to make their headlines stand out on their blogs by capitalizing them and forgetting that that headline goes straight to twitter via “TweetMeme”.
So what’s the problem? The problem is that in internet culture, “ALL CAPS” is considered both “SHOUTING” and “RUDE”.
THIS DOES SORT OF LOOK ANGRY DOESN’T IT??
What’s the impact? The impact is that for someone to even USE your “TweetMeme” button or “FB Share” button, if they have a fan/follower base they protect from mis-behavior, they have to decide if the post is worth their time to re-type the full title. So first you see a decline in original Tweets coming from your blog. Then, if it DOES get tweeted in that “ALL CAPS” form, even LESS will retweet it because of the need to strip the caps out.
But… but… but…
Yeah, some of you are probably sputtering about now, because I all-capped a few words above for emphasis. Use of one or two words, selectively, for emphasis is NOT the problem. THE PROBLEM IS WHEN YOU SHOUT LIKE THIS! In general we don’t talk OR type that way, and its such a subtle nuance that it tends to turn up in things we forget about, like blog titles. Occasionally I see it turn up on Facebook, but there it is MUCH rarer because Facebook people tend to be true friends and give that friendly nudge in the ribs to knock it off. Twitter people on the other hand tend to barely be followers and more likely to flat out ignore you than mention the issue.
I certainly wouldn’t call this caps issue a “big deal”, yet at the same time it is one of the many ways we demonstrate our comfort and fluency in the internet culture. Hopefully this tip gives you not only another way to fit in, but another way to get comfortable with the environment knowing that you ARE getting a grasp on the “hidden rules”.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on what social media memes you’ve experienced! Perhaps you can provide other pointers that people may have missed! I certainly did not cover all of them here and I would love to hear what you have to share. Be sure to read each others comments and reply to them if you find them interesting. If you found this post of value perhaps you can share it with others so they too can learn!