Social media memes: The best of 2022

Is there anything better than when a new social media meme takes over the web?

For a few short hours, people come together to laugh at a silly joke that would not have made sense just a few days ago. Whether it’s topical, related to a profession or interest or sourced from some other weird corner of the internet, they always find a way to unite people with humor.

If you work in social media, staying up to date on trending meme formats is all in a day’s work. Maybe that’s why social media managers make such good memes.

To celebrate your efforts, we’ve gathered the top five social media marketing memes we’ve seen this year. Plus, we’ve also created a framework for identifying the memes that will elevate your social strategy.

What are social media memes?

A social media meme is an image, video or text format that captures the—typically humorous—thoughts, feelings or experiences of a specific audience.

Memes can start anywhere: Twitter, Reddit, the Domino’s website. There’s meme potential in pretty much everything, as long you understand your target audience.

Thanks to ever-evolving platform trends, each year brings more interesting and inventive meme formats. New viral text post formulas…

…image templates…

..and video formats are cropping up every week.

@colleedee

True story one time I did this four times!! It was pretty bad #crj #carlyraejepsen

? The Loneliest Time – Carly Rae Jepsen & Rufus Wainwright

@julieullmann

There’s just something about that MATERIAL. #tshirt #favoritetshirt #imcominbackforyou #carlyraejepsen #fyp #trending

? The Loneliest Time – Carly Rae Jepsen & Rufus Wainwright

This is great news for social media marketers. The more funny social media memes pop up, the more opportunities there are to make the trend work for your brand.

The 5 best memes about social media we’ve seen in 2022

Social media managers live and breathe social. It’s no wonder their meme game is a cut above the rest. To prove it, here are the top five memes about social media we’ve seen this year:

1. Letterboxd’s take on Mads Mikkelsen Eating a Sandwich

2022 was the year social media managers started breaking the brand account fourth wall. This new personality-driven approach does more than just create memorable content. It also reminds people that there’s a person behind the account with thoughts, feelings and opinions.

Letterboxd, a social networking app for movie lovers, used a meme to convey that point exactly. What makes it even better is that Mads Mikkelsen is a cinephile favorite. This subtle clap back is smart, funny and it shows true audience knowledge.

2. @SociallyKels viral audio mash-up

@sociallykels

my brain is mush at this point ?#socialmediamanager #socialmediamanagerlife #socialmediamarketing #trendingtiktoksounds #tiktoktrends #ugccreator

? Jiggling Up That Corn Hill – There I Ruined It

Raise your hand if your brain is constantly jumping from one viral TikTok audio to the next.

If your hand shot up, you’re not alone. TikTok user @SociallyKels perfectly captured this SMM-specific phenomenon in her post about explaining social trends to a client. The video features a Frankenstein-like mashup of all of 2022’s greatest TikTok hits: ‘Running Up That Hill’, ‘It’s Corn!’ and ‘My Money Don’t Jiggle Jiggle’.

3. Dave Jorgenson’s Don’t Worry Darling joke

Dave Jorgenson (also known as The Washington Post TikTok Guy) breaks down complex current events in 60 seconds or less. It’s a task that requires wit, writing skills and occasionally a wig or two.

His spin on one of the many viral meme formats that came from the Don’t Worry Darling press tour shed light on an experience unique to the field of social media management: Explaining all the costumes on your monthly expense report.

4. @WorkInSocialTheySaid’s Sisyphean task

In this meme, @WorkInSocialTheySaid uses a portrait of a classic figure in Greek mythology, Sisyphus. According to legend, Sisyphus is doomed to roll a boulder up a hill for all of eternity after a lifetime of wheeling, dealing and stealing.

Today, a Sisyphean task is a phrase used to describe a never-ending task, like, deleting all the social graphics off your phone once they’ve finally been published is a never-ending job. No matter how much time you spend clearing your camera roll, more always pop up.

5. @arieljrubin’s spin on ‘They Don’t Know’

As far as funny social media memes go, ‘They Don’t Know’ has become a new classic. The meme perfectly sums up those moments where your own inner monologue gets a bit too dramatic. If that’s not relatable, I don’t know what is.

We love @arieljrubin’s take on the format because if you haven’t had to explain that you’re not an intern to someone, are you even a social media manager?

How memes can amplify social media marketing

The most successful social media memes rely on some sort of inside joke. It makes sense; if you’re not and don’t know any truckers, then you probably wouldn’t find trucker memes very funny.

That’s why memes are such a fantastic tool for social media marketers. With the right format and punchline, you can generate more brand awareness with niche audiences about your product or service.

On top of that, they stand out on social feeds regardless of network. We asked consumers to rank in-feed content types by what they considered to be most engaging for The 2022 Sprout Social Index™. Short-form videos, images and GIFs/memes claimed three of the top spots.

A data visualization showing a ranked list of the most engaging types of in-feed social content. Short form video (66%) and images (61%) take the top two spots.

Memes may not guarantee instant virality, but they can do something even better. They can make your brand stand out to the right audiences in crowded social feeds. That’s pretty serious business for something so funny.

How to incorporate memes into your social media strategy

Behind every killer brand meme, there’s a social media manager who put in serious work to get it created, approved and published. If you’re looking to up your social media meme game, here’s the four-step process you need to follow:

Step 1: Choose a visual editor

Occasionally, trending social media meme formats will require some light graphic design efforts. For example, this meme featuring characters from The Office doesn’t mean much without a few text additions from Sparknotes.

If you want to jump on a timely social media moment, having a preferred graphic design tool at the ready can streamline your creation process. You don’t need anything fancy—a tool that supports on-brand fonts, colors and social media image sizes will do just fine.

If you don’t have a favorite already, here are some options to consider:

  • Instagram Stories editor: If a super lo-fi approach is aligned with your brand, then this is a great option for you. All you have to do is add the meme template to the Instagram Stories editor and use the text tools to create your finished product.
  • Canva: If you want to create killer on-brand memes like the team at SEMRush, Canva is the way to go. Use their tool to create a collection of templates that work across your preferred social media channels.

  • Adobe Photoshop: This is definitely a more advanced option but if you have the design chops, then go for it. However, to keep your memes consistent, you may want to include examples of previous meme-centered social posts in your design board for reference.

Remember: Social media memes don’t have to be perfect and polished. Keep it scrappy and focus on the content of the visual.

Step 2: Iron out your approval process

Who on your team needs to be notified before you post a social media meme?

Depending on your social media governance policy, it might be quite a few.

Outline who needs to be looped in on timely posts, what their role is in the approval process and how quickly you expect their feedback. Handling this ahead of time can prevent approval purgatory from making you miss a timely meme opportunity.

Pro tip: If you’re using Sprout, ditch the lengthy email back and forth and use the Message Approval Workflow instead.

A screenshot of Sprout's Message Approval Workflow featuring a Tweet in need of final sign off.

All you have to do is submit your outgoing post to the appropriate approvers in Compose. Sprout will automatically send a notification letting message approvers know that a post needs their attention. From there, they can approve or reject the message. They can also request changes using Internal Comments.

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Step 3: Ask the big question

You’re scrolling through Instagram and all of a sudden it’s happening. A new meme format is gaining traction on niche accounts. You know it’s going to be everywhere by the end of the day. That’s when it’s time to ask the big question:

To post or not to post?

At first glance, the answer seems simple. As a social media manager, you want engagement. Memes generate engagement. Unfortunately, what seems like a no-brainer can land you in hot water if you don’t do your due diligence.

Without doing the proper research, you run the risk of jumping on an inevitable milkshake duck. A milkshake duck—if you’re unfamiliar—is an internet culture phenomenon that describes when viral meme fodder is revealed to be problematic, as coined by Twitter user @pixelatedboat.

There are some quick and dirty ways to go about doing this research but if you want the best insights quickly, turn to social listening.

A screenshot of the sentiment analysis feature available in Sprout's Social Listening tool.

Creating a Listening Topic in Sprout focused on a rising social media meme can unveil key insights on just how many people are talking about it and why. Plus, it also breaks down valuable sentiment data to inform your final decision.

Step 4: Review your results

The internet is a big place. A meme that’s viral to one audience might not even be on another audience’s radar. For example, I cannot escape the Lisa Rinna M&M. My roommate, on the other hand, has no idea what that sentence means.

Understanding which memes will resonate most with your audience takes testing and learning. As you experiment with new formats and punchlines, take note of which messages drive the most engagement. This will help you fine-tune your trendspotting skills over time. Eventually, you’ll be able to spot an audience-approved meme format before it has its own Know Your Meme page.

If you want to take the manual effort out of your meme performance analysis, use Sprout Social to create an Outbound Message Tag for posts that mention timely trends and memes. Over time, you’ll be able to grab insights on which formats, channels and themes work best with your audience.

A screenshot of Sprout Social's Cross Channel Tag Performance Report.

Keep your social media meme game strong

Positioning yourself as a go-to source for industry-specific social media memes does more than make people chuckle. It shows personality—a major win for your brand marketing efforts.

Check out our top five brand marketing examples for more tips on crafting a fan-worthy social presence. Find out what other companies are doing to set themselves apart from the competition and use that to inspire your strategy.

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