Archive for the ‘merriam webster dictionary’ tag
This is a guest post by Anita Brady.
A meme, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Originally coined by evolutionary biologist and ethologist Richard Dawkins in the 1970s, a meme is something with which just about every member of a culture is familiar.
For example, the simple act of swinging a hammer to drive in a nail would be considered a meme, or the way Bostonians pronounce the word “car.” Even the “quick fix” method of getting your Nintendo cartridge to work by blowing dust out of it was a meme. It’s something that’s passed around and repeated throughout a culture and it doesn’t need the internet to spread, though the web is making memes more and more popular by the millisecond. And what comes to mind when one says “meme” is quickly changing in relation to social media.
Today, when one mentions a meme, they’re usually talking about a mimicked action spreading virally through social media. One of the pioneers of meme fame is the site ICanHasCheezburger, which includes all kinds of memes from comic strips to single images to videos. It received its first real notoriety, however, with the segment LOLCats. Featuring pictures of cats in all sorts of awkward or captured-on-camera positions, each image is framed with a phonetically spelled tag that typically elaborates on what the cat might be thinking in order to generate a laugh. For example, a little white kitten might be poking its head out of a pile of marshmallows and the caption could read “Did u think me was a ‘mallow’?” Or a cat hiding in a suitcase could read “I iz not cat, I iz sweater. Keep packing.”
Regardless of the caption or the picture, the act of taking silly cat photos and tagging them with a funny line quickly caught on and imitations began popping up all over social media.
A more recent example would be the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy. Using the LOLCats model, someone surfing through Flickr spotted a recently uploaded image of a runner in the 2012 Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, South Carolina. After copying the photo, they tagged it with a caption calling out how ridiculously handsome he appeared while running. The meme caught on like wildfire and within 11 days of the original image being posted Flickr, Good Morning America had him on as a guest along with the person who posted the original image.
From one in roughly 40,000 runners at a race to national notoriety in less than two weeks is practically mind-blowing. The popularity of memes is obviously a social force to be reckoned with, so how do you harness the meme monster and use it for your own purposes, such as business marketing?
Dissecting the meme
What makes a meme popular? There’s no real way to tell how, when, or why a meme will catch on. Something as silly as sticking a piece of bread on your cat’s head and taking a picture could be picked up by the national media within 24 hours, but images of leaving old tennis shoes in random places might never spread. It’s the will of the mob, the random inclination of a crowd. It also has to do with people of note picking up on the meme and spreading the word through their hundreds of thousands of contacts at once. For example, the bread-on-cats-heads, or “cat breading” pictures mentioned above was picked up by the popular cartoon South Park in a March 2012 episode, and ever since its popularity, has been running wild.
The safe bet, then, is to avoid starting a meme from scratch and jumping on board one of the popular meme veins for your marketing purposes. Don’t let this discourage you, however, from starting your own meme. If you think you have a great idea, run with it! You never know what might catch on.
Though memes seem remarkably simple in concept, you should do your research before making your first meme. You don’t want to make a meme that’s already outdated the second you post it. While LOLCats appears to be timeless, other memes such as doing the Tim Tebow pose, or Tebowing in random locations, is already outdated, and different ways of saying “all your base are belong to us” from the game Zero Wing has been out for years. So how do you know what’s popular and what’s not? Check out the top pages of social media and viral video sites such as eBaumsworld.com, Reddit.com, StumbleUpon.com, LiveLeak.com, 9gag.com, 4chan.org, ICanHasCheezeburger.com, and Facebook.
Marketing with Memes
Now for the fun part, creating a meme that can be used to market your company while still appealing to the masses. It might sound like a difficult task, but the great thing about memes — and internet marketing in general — is that subtlety typically wins the day.
This soft sell approach is even starting to bleed over into standard television advertising. What do Vikings have to do with credit cards? Or rowing guinea pigs have to do with insurance? The key is in getting people to pay attention first, and then adding your company almost as an afterthought at the end. Advertising online takes it even further by just allowing ads to blink across the bottom of a popular video either as pop ups or in the blank area below a letterbox-formatted film.
With this in mind, think of how you can approach advertising your business with memes. For example, if you have a music company, why not have a picture of a cat eating a chicken leg and write “I lovez the drumstikz at Bob’s Audio.” Or if you have a fabric company, why not use a picture of a cat tearing up someone’s knitting with the caption “Knitter, please” and tag the bottom with your company name.
These examples are with the standard LOLcat, but there are so many more alternatives out there. If you know someone who can draw reasonably well (one of the appeals of meme comics is that they are usually very poorly done), have them create a four-panel comic meme for your company. If you have a baking company, maybe you could create a story in which a little girl would give anything in the world for a piece of cake. Or if you have a coffee shop, you could create a panel in which your coffee gives people super powers.
The object is to be as creative as possible and appeal to that 35 and younger crowd that spends the majority of their time online. Post your meme on all of your social media sites, get friends to share it, and let the web do the rest. In the end, you’ll be sure to generate some laughs and hopefully a brand new and growing crowd of customers.
Anita Brady is the President of 123Print.com, where you can make your own business cards and customize other promotional materials. She is an industry veteran who has managed strategic marketing and other efforts for companies small and large.
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I would like to talk about an inflection point in social media that requires pause. I am not suggesting that there will be a social media 2.0 or 3.0 for that matter. Nor do I see the term social media departing our vocabulary any time soon. After all, it was recently added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Instead, what I would like to discuss is the end of an era of social media that will force the industry to mature. It won’t happen on its own however. Evolution will occur because consumers demand it and also because you’re willing to stake your job on it.
From Social Network Fatigue to Deals Fatigue to Follow Fatigue, businesses are facing a crossroads at the intersection of social and media. Following the path of media continues a long tradition of what Tom Foremski refers to as “Social Media as Corporate Media.” Following the path of social is a journey towards relevance.
As Foremski states, “Social media is not corporate media…if corporations try to turn social media into a corporate sales or marketing channel then they risk losing the naked conversations, and the insight into customer behaviors.”
His point is that there’s more to social media than clever campaigns and rudimentary conversations. Talking isn’t the only thing that makes social media social. Just like adding Facebook, Twitter and other sharing buttons will not magically transform static content into shareable experiences. Listening, learning and adapting is where the real value of social media will show its true colors. Listening leads to a more informed business. Engagement unlocks empathy and innovation. But it is action and adaptation that leads to relevance. And, it never ends.
Indeed, there really are more examples of media than there are that of social media in many of the celebrated examples out there today. Even though distributing corporate media in social channels sets the stage for dialogue, there really isn’t much that’s social about it. In fact, study of many social media initiatives have led me to believe that much of what we benchmark against is actually anti-social in its approach.
The future of social media comes down to one word, “value.” Without it, businesses will find it much more difficult to earn and retain friends, fans and followers (3F’s). As adoption of social networks soared in previous years, growth is now plateauing. eMarketer estimates that Facebook growth will hit only 13.4% this year after experiencing 38.6% acceleration in 2010 and a staggering 90.3% ascension the year before. Facebook isn’t alone in its sobriety either. The rate of Twitter user adoption fell from 293.1% growth in 2009 to 26.3% this year.
Don’t get me wrong, people are still embracing social networks. However, the severity of competition for consumer attention is now unmistakable. Once liberal with their likes, Retweets, and follows, consumers are becoming much more guarded and realistic. Therefore brands will now have to more effectively listen to markets to make more informed decisions about how social media impacts the enterprise and in turn customer experiences.
The GlobalWebIndex “Wave 5 Trends” report delivers insight into how consumers are using social networks and technology in general. According to the report, growth in social network usage among 16- to 24-year-olds in the US is stalling. And, in a few countries usage within this group is declining. In fact, one of the key insights shared in the report is subduing, “Facebook is no longer the one stop shop for the total internet experience.”
However, the report is not a harbinger of social networking’s demise. It is merely a lens into how behavior is changing. This is important for any business to realize that business as usual in social networks is in fact anything but.
Between June 2009 and June 2011, the following changes were noted in Facebook activity:
- Uploading videos is experiencing a modest increase around the world up 5% in the U.S. and 7.6% worldwide.
- Installing apps is on the decline, down 10.4% in the U.S. and 3.1% worldwide.
- Sending virtual gifts may not be gifts worth giving after all, with numbers declining 12.9% in the U.S. and 7.5% around the world.
Twitter on the other hand is a rich exchange for information commerce, where links become a form of digital currency. For example, 45% share an opinion about a product or brand more than once per day. Another 34% of Twitter users also share a link about a product or brand more than once per day.
When asked what consumers want from brands, knowledge and entertainment soared to the top of the list. Additionally, The GlobalWebIndex Wave 5 Trends report tells us that online consumers want brands to provide services that fit with their lifestyle. They also want brands to listen to them.
What can we learn of this?
1) Businesses must first realize that there’s more to social media than just managing an active presence, driven by an active editorial calendar. Listening is key and within each conversation lies a clue to earn relevance and ultimately establish leadership.
2) Consumers want to be heard. Social media will have to break free form the grips of marketing in order to truly socialize the enterprise to listen, engage, learn, and adapt. You can’t create a social business if the business is not designed to be customer-centric from the outside-in and the inside-out.
3) Social media becomes an extension of active listening and engagement. Strategies, programs, and content are derivative of insights, catalysts for innovation, and messengers of value. More importantly, social media becomes a platform for the brand and the functions that consumers deem mandatory. From marketing to HR to service to R&D, brands will expand the role they play in social networking to make the acts of following and sharing an investment in a more meaningful relationship.
The end of Social Media 1.0 is the beginning of a new era of business, consumer engagement, and relevance.
The End of Business as Usual: Rewire the way you work to succeed in the consumer revolution
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In fact, according to Merriam-Webster, the first known use for the word ‘tweet’ dates back to the year 1768. Clearly, Jack Dorsey’s forefathers were true visionaries.
In all seriousness, I can’t help but wonder what took the publisher so long to add the above words to the dictionary. Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s Editor at Large, explains in a statement:
“We’ve been tracking words like social media and tweet for years, of course, and now we feel their meanings have stabilized enough to include them in the dictionary.”
Other new words that have had their meaning stabilized sufficiently according to the company include bromance (“a close nonsexual friendship between men”), fist bump (with thanks to Barack Obama), cougar (“a middle-aged woman seeking a romantic relationship with a younger man”) and helicopter parent (“a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child”).
Retweet, lulz, trollface, pedobear and philosoraptor haven’t made the cut yet.
I don’t usually write out remarks for the speaking that I do, but given I was Skyping in, I thought it best to do so. Here they are.
September 20, 2008
“Engagement” is certainly an important concept today in the fields of marketing and communications. We seek to encourage it and measure it. But what is it? What does it mean to engage someone? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that to engage is to attract and hold by influence or power, to induce to participate. Let’s repeat: to engage is to attract, to hold, to induce – but what? First, attention, then participation. We do this through influence, through persuasion – the core competencies of PR. And this is what hasn’t changed in the fact of social media. In traditional communications schemas, influence and persuasion were and remain key. What has changed is the structure of power that informs how we work with influence and persuasion. With the movement from command/control models to distributed or networked models, power has increasingly moved towards the consumer. But not totally, of course. There still remains the tension between institution and its stakeholders that has to be negotiated everyday by professional communicators. This has made our jobs more challenging, but has also opened up new opportunities. Today, I’d like to speak to you about two opportunities I have identified. The first has to do with persuasion itself. The second with branding.
Studies have shown that there are three pillars of persuasion: competence (qualification, expertness, intelligence, authoritativeness), trustworthiness (character, sagacity, safety, honesty) and goodwill/intent toward receiver. I have written that the first two factors of persuasion, competence and trustworthiness, are arguably covered adequately by traditional marketing/communications techniques and tools. However, brochures, ads and press releases are not tools for handling the third factor: goodwill. The latter is handled much better via social media tools like blogs and social networks, for example, because they tend to embrace the human voice, and because built into those tools are mechanisms for communicating understanding, empathy and responsiveness.
So why is goodwill important to persuasion? Because it is a "means of opening communication channels more widely" and is a significant factor in believability/likeability overall. (I am relying here on McCroskey & Teven’s article on goodwill.) According to them, there are three elements of goodwill: understanding ("When we see someone exhibiting behaviors which tell us they understand our concerns, we feel closer to them."); empathy ("This involves behaviors indicating that one person not only understands the other’s views but accepts them as valid views, even if he or she does not agree with those views.") and responsiveness ("Responsiveness is judged by how quickly one person reacts to the communication of another, how attentive they are to the other, and the degree to which they appear to listen to the other. We tend to see people who behave responsively toward us as caring about us.").
So, what does this means for persuasive communication using social media? Used in conjunction with traditional tools, they can quite possibly increase the persuasive impact of your campaigns. And let’s remember, these new tools can also support the first two factors: competence and trustworthiness. I would argue that in order to address the situation we are in with this large degree of lack of trust in institutions, we need to encourage goodwill more than ever before.
The second opportunity I’d like to speak to you about – and I think Dell is well on its way towards doing this – is the opportunity for brands to become media.
What is a brand? It’s a promise: information from a firm promising you a set of costs and benefits from the consumption of a good or service. Brands shape your expected value. The challenge facing brands today is that a brand can no longer be only a symbol or a promise; it has to become much, much more than that. This doesn’t mean it stops being a symbol – its shorthand promise will remain important, simply because not every consumer is going to have the time or desire to read and interact with all of the incredibly rich detail located behind the brand. My argument is that brands have to become media itself – the medium or platform on which the symbol is co-created with its consumers.
So what do I mean by media? First, the dictionary definition states that media is “a medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression”; whereas medium is “the means of effecting or conveying something” (a channel, environment, or mode). Let us define it this way: “media is a platform for shaping expectations.” By platform, I mean a place for the production and distribution of information. I think we can agree that this meets our usual thinking of what media is (a newspaper, TV station, radio station, even social networks). This brings us to a few important questions:
- Who owns the platform?
- Who shapes the expectations?
- In what directions does the information flow?
The answer to these questions are quite important in characterizing the media/medium, because as we have known since Marshall McLuhan, the medium itself is a message (especially about power).
In traditional mass media, publishing companies owned the platform and publishers, editors and journalists shaped the expectations (under the influence of readers, of course, but often not directly). The information, for the most part, flowed outwards to readers, with limited incoming channels for interaction. Brands purchased space/time on these platforms in order to distribute their symbols.
Today anyone can produce and distribute information. Anyone can be media: “a platform for shaping expectations.” This is an important opportunity for brands to become something far more than just a symbol; they can become the means for shaping expectations. Media is the platform where producers and consumers interact. (Here I am following Umair Haque, director of the Havas Media Lab, definition.)
This brings me to another angle on the story: investment. Haque tells us that traditional branding activities, especially advertising, imposes costs on consumers. Costs of interrupted attention, time spent waiting for a TV show to resume, polluted visual fields in cities and countrysides, and so on. Culturally, consumers are now expressing their increasing resentment of these costs and refusing to pay them (and technology is giving them ever more tools to easily do so). Haque argues that brands today must invest in consumers instead. What does investment mean? First of all, listening. Then thinking about how communications can benefit consumers.
This is a tricky thing for brands, and requires a dramatic shift in thinking. To restate: One cannot think only about how a product or service benefits its users, but how branding activities themselves can be beneficial. As long as the only option for brand awareness to achieve scale was buying space/time on other platforms, their freedom to create new experiences was limited. When a brand is itself a platform, worlds of possibilities open up. Notice I didn’t say, “when a brand owns a platform.” It is very important that old ideas of ownership and control don’t pollute this framework. Rather, brands must invest in consumers by providing the infrastructure needed for the co-creation of the platform. The development of the expectations, the development of the promise, must come through the relationships being formed on that platform between (co-)producer(s) and consumers. In fact, the answers to the questions stated above become:
- Who owns manages the platform: Everyone
- Who shapes the expectations: Everyone
- In what directions does influence flow: Everywhere
This is engagement.
Let’s put it another way: the platform I am speaking about is where value is created. Brands invest in the creation and management (with a light touch) of the platform, thereby “investing” in consumers. The return on this investment is the value that consumers add, by contributing content and ideas, mashing up information – basically by investing their attention and participation. Think about it: the platform receives investment from both sides! The total value created can then be channeled into new products and services. Branding platforms as value generators has a really nice sound to it (and important implications for measuring the impact of branding activities, to say the least).
I’ve identified two opportunities for a new level of engagement with stakeholders 1) taking full advantage of the pillars of persuasion and 2) brands becoming media themselves. There are, of course, serious issues that have to be thought through here, such as transparency and objectivity, and I’ve written about them on my blog if you are interested. However, I remain convinced that used appropriately, social media tools can help institutions generate new relationships with stakeholders, leading to new levels of value for all concerned.