Social Media, Memes, and Your Work

by Clara LaFrance | March 2, 2012

socialmediaImage via Marc Smith on Flickr

Word of mouth has always been the best advertiser; people are more willing to try a new brand, a new restaurant or a new service based on their friends’ advice. Social media takes word of mouth beyond conversations over the water cooler and to the internet, and the widest social network a person likely has.

Now, this social network is not exactly indicative of the friendships a person has (anyone could tell you that, but ABC news goes into depth). Though human beings are very social beings, we are emotionally limited. There is a top number of people with whom we can successfully forge close and stable relationships. Dunbar’s number identifies the number of people to whom we can be socially close to at a time as is approximately 150. But while we may not have 900 close and personal friends, the friendslist is not all for nothing.

Facebook uses algorithms to choose which listings from your friendslist to publish on its news feed. Surely you realize you won’t see all 900 friends’ status updates! You couldn’t keep up with it all, wouldn’t read Facebook, and would give it all (with all its marketing) up. Facebook uses Edge Weight to whittle your news feed down to the people on your friendslist that you comment on, message, and interact with most frequently. Facebook pares your feed down to a manageable size and each person sees a fraction of their list of ‘friends.’ Just like six degrees of Kevin Bacon, we’re all connected by a short chain. If one friend posts something of interest or a response to something of interest, the odds are someone else will re-post it. Then someone from that list re-posts it, and before you know it, it’s caught on or ‘gone viral’ faster than any water cooler conversation. This makes Facebook primed for the sharing themed images, or memes.

Visual memes certainly travel fast via social media. Within the past week or two, the “What society thinks I do” meme gathered speed. If you don’t live under a Facebook rock, you’ve seen a variant on this:


Image via uproxx.com

What’s interesting about this particular meme is that it clearly struck a chord with nearly everyone. Even my mother has seen it. There are variants for every profession, every job, every activity. Apparently everyone feels under-appreciated and mis-judged by their peers and society! These memes were created and shared all week, until the proverbial dead horse became a meme itself:


Image via Imgur

So how can we use this flow of information? As artists, designers, and visual communicators, we’re all aiming to create art that strikes a chord and resonates with our audience. Facebook, Twitter and, newly, Pinterest are social media tools we can use to promote nearly anything to all 900 of our friends. (If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, Rob talked about it last Wednesday.)

These services are alluring with their ability to share images quickly and without the learning curve of creating your own Web site. But what sorts of things ~should~ you post?

Creating posts that garner a response is not a bad goal. Designing memes, whether as a response to a current meme or current situation (political or personal) can resonate with an audience and cause your readership to re-post it. Ask for opinions and feedback on your posts; people love to offer their thoughts!

If you post photos of cute kittens and popular models every hour on the hour, you’ll quickly be un-friended, or simply not followed. Follow your instincts. Post things that are unique and interesting to you, things that you truly care about. Care about your audience. If your audience feels that you are connecting to them, they’ll respond in kind.

If you post twice a week or even three times a week, you won’t inundate your audience and they’ll stick around. If you post daily, be specific about what you post and why. The world may not need to know what you ate for breakfast today (unless it comes with a hook, like an amazing recipe!). However, a daily photograph, a daily doodle or a daily illustration could be just the thing to hook an audience. A commitment to a daily post can also jump-start your creativity and get you out of a rut.

Your work may not hit super-star-dom on Facebook and it may be unreasonable to expect your own posts, whether daily or weekly or monthly, to go viral on a large scale. However, using social media can be an easy and fun way to get your work out in the world more easily than a static portfolio site. The portfolio site has its place, certainly, to store, show, and document your finished work. But social media sites can make it fun to share unfinished work or daily pieces. They make it easier to stay active and current on sites that have a built-in readership; you don’t have to convince people to go to your personal site. Remember that you can easily link from your profile to your personal site.

A quick reminder as you wander through the world of social media, remember to maintain an image that is consistent with your professional image. Check your privacy settings for your personal accounts. It can be helpful to set up separate accounts for your professional work and for your personal use.

One just never knows where the wide world of connections will take you, and the Internet makes that world ten times larger than traditional networking. Follow your heart, post interesting things, and have fun!


Clara LaFrance Clara LaFrance is a freelance graphic designer with an M.F.A. in graphic design from Boston University. She is currently a Course Producer at Sessions College, maintaining and updating online courses, as well as a freelance designer and circus teacher and performer.


Clara LaFrance is a freelance graphic designer when she is not pursuing her dreams as a circus teacher and performer. Clara has an M.F.A. in graphic design from Boston University.

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