6 Lessons I Learned From Having My Meme Go Viral

Memes are everywhere these days. It wasn’t until last night that I realized the power of them firsthand. I was watching the 2014 Oscars just like everyone else. I started to notice a trending topic on Twitter about Leonardo Dicaprio not getting an Oscar. It seems that he’s been nominated 4 times but has never taken one home. Twitter was blowing up with trending hashtags like: #GiveLeoAnOscar and #LeonardoDiCaprioForOscar.

I noticed over the past month that every time I posted a meme about any particular subject it got a decent amount of activity. I decided to head over to IMGUR meme creator and make one myself for the Oscars since it was a trending topic. I knew people would be actively searching this topic all over the world. I did a quick Google image search for Leo at the Oscars and decided on one where he was talking to Jonah Hill. I quickly wrote down the first thing that came to mind and here’s what I came up with:


Lesson 1: If you have a golden nugget, you’ll know right away!

Within 5 minutes of posting this meme I had over 25 retweets and 15 favorites, and normally I get maybe 2-3 over the course of a couple hours. People latched on to it super quickly and started instantly spreading it like wildfire.  Part of the reason it caught fire was because I included all the Leo and Oscar related hashtags in the post so everyone could find it. It really made all the difference. My activity feed lit up like a Christmas tree because this was an original meme that nobody had seen yet. I really didn’t even think it was that funny but obviously other people did.
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Lesson 2: Timing is everything

A large part of the success of this meme came from posting it at the right time. Twitter users love real time tweeting about events that are going on. When I saw all the Leo hashtags I knew it would be the right time to put something out. The Oscars had just finished and the whole twittersphere was buzzing about Ellen and her best selfie of all time that crashed twitter momentarily with over 2 million retweets. A perfect example was the Oreo tweet on Superbowl last year. Getting there first with a well timed tweet or meme makes all the difference. Had I released this a day later it probably would not have had the same impact. You need to strike while the iron is hot!

Lesson 3: Hundreds of retweets and favorites does NOT mean more followers

This was something that surprised me. I figured that all of these retweets meant that I would get thousands of new followers. Right now this meme has 655 retweets and 449 favorites. That has translated into only 86 new followers since I released it yesterday. What I learned is that either people don’t give me credit for coming up with it, or just don’t care to follow based on my profile and previous tweets. I did notice that people were much more apt to follow me back if they had already retweeted something of mine. I made it a point to follow a lot of the people that were retweeting my meme. Normally people aren’t so quick to follow you back but if they’re sharing your tweets then it makes a big difference.

Lesson 4: Getting a picture to trend makes all the difference

If you notice on Twitter that under certain hashtags you’ll have pictures that are trending. After about 20 minutes of people retweeting and favoriting this meme it started to show up on the trending photos for certain hashtags. What a huge difference this made in terms of reach. Now its front and center for everyone to see. It was even trending for any hashtag that included Leo’s name in it. Obviously the more hashtags it’s trending on the further your reach will be. I noticed that once the meme stopped trending on every Leo related hashtag that the amount of retweets and favorites drastically slowed down. It’s kinda like when YouTube decides to feature your video on their homepage and you instantly get millions of views.  It also helps to have websites like these writing articles about your meme.

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Lesson 5: More tweets and favorites does NOT mean more traffic right away, let the dust settle

This was another stat that I was shocked by. During the peak hours of this meme spreading there was very little activity on the website. Even out of the 86 people that followed me, maybe 10% of them decided to click through to my site. Once the dust settled, the next day I checked the analytics and saw that there was a substantial spike in my referral traffic all from Twitter. Not too bad, but not nearly what I expected.
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Lesson 6: Next time around, tag your meme before posting

It’s hard to know which piece of content you release will go viral. That’s why it’s important to tag it up with your website so that if it does, you’ll get credit. I potentially missed out on hundreds of website views by not including my site on the meme. That would have been some easy free promotion that I completely lost. From here on out I’ll treat every piece of content like it’ll go viral. Tagging it up takes almost no time but has a huge benefit if the content takes off. Take the time to do things right the first time.

If you haven’t yet, follow me on twitter.

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Ryan Bartlett

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Ryan Bartlett

Ryan Bartlett


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