How to use jokes and memes effectively on social media

Oct 8, 2018Social Media

Have you ever been in an awkward social situation like a party, or a training session where you don’t know anyone, and nobody is really talking to each other and everybody is unsure of what is going on? I think we can probably all relate. A hashtag “LifeHack” that a friend taught me was using humour to break the ice.  At a primal level, every single human understands the language of laughter and smiling. So what exactly is a meme?  “Meme” is a term coined by noted biologist Richard Dawkins.

The Oxford dictionary says:

“A meme is An element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means..” However, memes in their current form are often images accompanied by text,  these images usually convey some form of pop-cultural reference or idea in a humorous way. They’re then often shared, altered and distributed across many social media platforms, often times with the original intent of the image morphing into something completely different.

Did you know.

 In 1942 an engineer/ inventor Vannevar Bush envisioned a machine that was basically going to be the internet..the name he coined for this machine? “The Memex”.


It’s hard to overstate how popular and ubiquitous memes have become on social media. So of course, you should be thinking about ways in which you could integrate them into your business’s online social strategy. Notable companies that have implemented memes and jokes well include:

  • Domino’s Pizza (on all their social media platforms)
  • NT News ( Twitter)
  • KFC
  • Old Spice

There are a few reasons why these companies have integrated them so well into their overall marketing strategy including:

  • Understanding their customer base
  • They encourage customers to comment, share, or tag their friends
  • They leverage what is “trending” in the current zeitgeist

There are more companies that implement memes/jokes poorly than do it well. However, the really notable ones are:

  • Pepsi (with their failed attempt at referencing the mass protests in the USA)
  • Qantas (Remember the funny responses to the epic fail #QantasLuxury? This was a culmination of issues rather than an isolated event, namely, the prize for the best tweet was a pair of Pyjamas, not really the most luxurious of prizes.  Additionally, this marketing campaign came shortly after Qantas had encouraged their customers to dress in blackface)

So If you want to include jokes/memes in your online presence successfully, but don’t want the hassle of thinking too much about it…..give us a call here at Captovate.



Otherwise, here are some important Dos and Dont’s for using jokes/memes in your business’s social media posts.


  • Most important “Do” of all, is to have a social media strategy, if you’re intending to use memes and jokes, these should be in your strategy.
  • Keep the message/joke relevant to your brand
  • Research the meme to make sure it doesn’t have any offensive, controversial or sensitive contexts (i.e. Pepe the Frog)
  • Use the KISS principle (Keep. It. Simple. Stupid). Memes/jokes that are too niche or “meta” may not be understood by your main customer base, let alone potential customers.
  • Relating to this, understand your current/potential customer base including their demographic makeup, and the social media platforms these respective cohorts engage with.

Do Not

  • Disparage competitors
  • Try creating your own viral campaign (unless you have a massive budget). Usually, this approach won’t succeed. Even companies with big budgets can sometimes not land with their attempt (i.e. Pepsi). Generally, it’s better to co-opt existing memes.
  • Use memes that may be politically/socially/religiously contentious (unless you are a political party or church).
  • Overdo it. It’s economics 101, too much of a thing will reduce its value. Companies like Domino’s keep their jokes/meme posts to approximately only one per month and this is sometimes even further segmented/amplified by platform. For example, Domino’s Instagram posts rarely feature memes, however, they do use brand-aware “in-jokes” like pineapple on pizza to attract customer engagement in the comments. However, Domino’s Facebook posts are more focused on providing discounts and direct conversions.

Are you looking to take your business to the next level?

Let's work together


Level 1, 22 Cavenagh Street,
Darwin 0800, NT Australia

Find out more


6/25 Franklin Street,
Adelaide 5000, SA Australia

Find out more


1st Floor, 31 Thesiger Court,
Deakin, 2600, ACT Australia

Find out more

Share This