Susan Gilbert
February 1, 2017

The Evolution and Importance of Memes and Infographics

Funny memes

I was asked recently, “What is the definition of a meme; and, how did they ever get that name?”

Most of us have seen funny images and sayings with animals, celebrities, etc. on social media. When people started to add sayings to the photo of what they thought, this became known on the Internet as a Meme. This is not actually a new concept at all (more on that in a minute). Infographics, on the other hand, have been more of a recent evolution. They are a highly effective teaching tool, while also being great for generating more shares, likes and engagement in your online communities.

Why does it work?

We want to be entertained and we are visual.  Memes tend to be fun oriented, infographics are fun and informative forms of marketing and content creation.

Now for that definition.

What is a Meme?

The word, Meme, comes from the Greek word, mimeme, which means, “imitated thing.” I like this definition:

“an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.”

In the early 1900s Harry Whittier Frees, an American photographer, created the first concept of a meme when he dressed up his cats and placed a cute saying underneath them – like this one then used for greeting cards:

This was the beginning of an image sharing revolution, which was further outlined by author and biologist, Richard Dawkins. It was his book, “The Selfish Gene,” which  first introduced us to the word meme as a method of the way cultural information is generated.

How Memes And Infographics Have Evolved

Today, memes can be generated from images, videos and text as images, with the use of free sites like MemeGenerator. Here is a great example from of a modern meme inspired by the black out at the 2013 Superbowl:

History was made when the lights went out in the second half of the game at the Super Dome in New Orleans, plunging the entire stadium into darkness and halting play for about half an hour. Before that half hour was up, people began editing images and uploading them to Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.

When used for marketing, memes are most effective when they are widely shared to a large audience. The more fans and followers who see your image, the more chance they will share it, making it go viral. Popular meme images include cute animals, funny pets, comedic lines and babies. You can post these images on virtually any social network – especially Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram. Not only can memes increase your website traffic, but they can also help build your community and attract more prospects, An example is the blog lolcats, which has over a half a billion page visits each year by using this concept.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words  – Infographics

Wikipedia defines information graphics or infographics as graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.  They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.

Interestingly, infographics had their start quite a while before memes, starting in 1626. The illustrated book , Rosa Ursina sive Sol by Christoph Scheiner, showed graphic illustrations of the sun’s rotation patterns.

Here is an early example of an infographic in 1857 by Florence Nightingale depicting mortality during the Crimean War:

The Modern History of Infographics

Fast-forward to the year 2000, when the Information Age was in full force. Companies began to create graphic illustrations for potential customers. It was not until around 2010 that infographics became more widely used. This was in large part due to the exploding popularity of social media.  It was seen as an easy and digestible way of presenting facts and statistics, and was embraced by a readership with ever less time on their hands.

Infographics are the perfect delivery form for material which may otherwise be considered as dry. Infographics are a fun and entertaining way to share information – especially when offered as an interactive experience. AND, they generate hundreds of backlinks for unique URLs.

According to a 2016 report by Social Media Examiner, 74 percent of marketers used visual marketing in their social media campaigns:

Infographics are a great way to display a chart or to illustrate an article or topic. There are hundreds of infographic distribution sites that are both free and paid.These allow people who aren’t artistic, to share your creations along with a link to your website.

Both memes and infographics work for your marketing and SEO, as people want to be entertained and informed. We are visual by nature and memes especially tend to be fun oriented, with infographics as both fun and informative.

5 Reasons to use Infographics in Marketing

1) Grabs Attention: A picture really is worth 1000 words, and infographics will grab the reader’s attention in a way that words cannot.

2) Search Engine Hits: Infographics are powerful tools in the effort to get search engines to notice you. When people use your infographics, they provide a link back to your website.

3) Viral Phenomenon: There is always a chance your infographics to go viral. Unlike a text message, it is very easy for infographics to be quickly shared and disseminated by social networking sites.

4) Branding: One of the most important aspects of marketing is brand advertising. Simply by adding your website address and company logo to infographics, you are making the public aware of your brand.

5) Expert Status: The use of infographics help to confirm that you are an expert on a subject, by revealing how knowledgeable you are.

Wrapping Up

In addition to the growing trend of video and live video, your business should include both memes and infographics in your visual marketing mix in order to grow your following on social media and on your blog. With the latest tools and interactive software online, you will be able to create something on a budget that engages your audiences and peaks their interest in your company.


Featured image: Origin unknown

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Online Marketing with Focus - Let Susan Guide you to Online Success. Especially loves to help Authors, Speakers, Coaches & Entrepreneurs. Susan Gilbert uses her laser focus knowledge to coach and provide online marketing and social sharing programs. Author and publisher of several books including “The Land of I Can,” and “KLOUT SCORE: Social Media Influence,” Susan combines online marketing with strategic thinking. Follow her Digital Marketing Tips at her blog: