re you on Instagram or TikTok? If so, you’ve probably seen sponsored posts from some of your favorite brands and creators. You’ve also probably seen trendy memes that also incorporate some brand products. While both of these are effective techniques for digital marketing campaigns, they incorporate two very different strategies: one is influencer marketing, and the other is meme marketing. What are the differences between these two? What are the similarities? 

As the marketing industry continues to change, so do the ways that brands reach and connect with their audiences. Whether your strategy incorporates influencers or memes, both can provide valuable insights. However, it’s important to understand how both methods work in order to see which one would deliver the best return on investment for your company. In order to do that, you gotta start with the basics.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a very popular type of marketing made popular by social media networks. There are influencers on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and more–all categorized by their massive degree of influence, charisma and social followings. While celebrities enjoy many of the same privileges (influence, charisma, social followings), influencers are more personable to their audiences, giving influencers a more direct, intimate connection with their followers. 

Influencers exist in all industries, making them the most powerful way to promote a product with a specific target demographic, especially if the demographic aligns with the values of the influencer. As examples, makeup influencers promote makeup brands, while tech-oriented influencers will create partnerships with technology companies. Influencer marketing also hinges on authenticity and transparency, meaning that audiences are less likely to trust influencers if they do partnerships that don’t align with their values. 

Digitally savvy users are experts at spotting inauthentic communications, and something like that can make or break an influencer–making their digital marketing campaign sink or swim.

What is Meme Marketing?

Meanwhile, meme marketing puts more emphasis on humor and simplicity. Meme marketing creates opportunities for brands and marketers to seamlessly integrate with their target audiences by finding where they exist online and catering towards those communities. Memes are a digital language that changes depending on the community and culture, so it makes sense that meme marketing does the same thing. 

Meme marketing can exist in many forms across different social media platforms, such as a static image post on Instagram, a catchy phrase on Twitch or a reoccurring reaction photo on Twitter. These examples all embody the essence of current meme culture, and allow room for innovation on templates and formats where necessary. Because memes are constantly evolving alongside popular culture, meme marketing requires timeliness and insight into how younger demographics are engaging digitally. 

What are the differences between influencer marketing and meme marketing? 

Where influencer marketing focuses on parasocial relationships between popular creators and their audiences, meme marketing focuses on entire communities that share common interests through humor and pop culture. Influencers can be funny, but their audiences are ultimately following them for their personalities–something that is very different from meme marketing. 

Because memes do not typically focus on the personality of one person, they are harder to directly “influence” a lot of people in the same way that influencers do. Memes, however, are easily understood and can transcend through many different communities and communication channels, making them a more versatile and simplistic way to reach the same mass audiences. 

In short, meme marketing is a more updated approach to the typical influencer marketing model. Authenticity and transparency are still important elements of digital marketing campaigns, but memes are met with less resistance than influencers. 

What does this mean for brands and marketers?

Let’s play out a typical branded campaign scenario. For example, if an influencer was to promote a product or engage in a sponsored partnership with a brand, their followers would immediately notice. Then, their audience would either be turned off by the partnership or acknowledge the relationship that influencer has with that brand–if the brand aligns with the interests and values of the influencer, the partnership is more authentic. However, if the brand doesn’t align with the influencer’s spoken values, then the influencer’s audience will be sure to call them out on it. 

Alternatively, memes can exist on meme pages or on regular user accounts, making paid partnerships more commonplace and acceptable. Because meme pages are able to dictate the boundaries of their content and their followings, users know what to expect–even if that includes paid promotions. Authenticity is still important, but memes aren’t held to the same standards that influencers are–making them a great avenue for establishing relationships with new audiences.

In short, digital marketing campaigns are different from how they were years ago. Influencers used to hold all the power in their court, but audiences aren’t connecting to those creators the same way anymore. As more people turn towards memes, meme pages and meme-style content, brands and marketers have the opportunity to engage with those growing fanbases in new and creative ways. That is the point of meme marketing, and that is the biggest difference of all.

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