LOL Cat Lessons: Learning from Memes
“In marketing, attention is the commodity,” notes Jonathan Perelman, VP of Agency Strategy & Industry Development at Buzzfeed. Perelman was speaking to an audience at Chicago Ideas Week, assembled to reconsider the state of the consumer in our era of social feedback and shifting expectations. Buzzfeed, everyone’s favorite meme-curating work distraction, has grown savvy to the way that online conversations are influencing marketing practices. Entrepreneurs are hungry to understand why some ideas take off on the internet while others languish. What makes something shareable? How does a brand “go viral”? These questions certainly have implications for those marketing products and services, but listening to Perelman I began to think they also have certain repercussions for us as individuals.
Within a job search, attention is absolutely the most precious commodity. When a contact follows-up with us, when our resume is given a second look, when we receive a linkedin endorsement, we’ve cornered a bit of the market of attention. It may be a bit demoralizing to think we are in the same boat as I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER. [This is our career, after all!] But maybe there something to be gained from meme culture, from thinking of our job search in the same with mindset as we consider Hey Girl, Keyboard Cat and David After Dentist.
Consider Jonathan Perelman’s rules for what makes the most successful social media memes:
- Have a Heart – Audiences value uplifting content over negative content.
- It’s about Identity – Audiences share content that reflects them, or indicates how they would like to be perceived.
- Play up Humor – Chuckles offer us commonality and an easy inroad to conversation.
- Appeal to Nostalgia – Shared remembrances similarly offer a common denominator among audiences.
- Don’t underestimate Cute – All kinds of cute, but particularly cute animals are powerful and cross cultural.
Jonathan Perelman argues that our society clearly values “EQ over IQ.” It is the Emotional Quotient that resonates and prompts investment and interest. Of course, I don’t advocate making your resume look like a blog post on Cute Overload, or peppering it with references to the Honey Badger, but Perelman’s rules for viral messaging reflect something we’ve been told over and over again on our job search: Our messages take hold when they are human and emotive. We should fill our networking and interviews with personal stories, and our resume and cover letters should be written in a human voice.
We should feel confident to make a joke, and to find outside connections with those we meet. Pug picture in your boss’s office? Ask its name. Then tell him your dog’s (awesome) name. Talking to someone at an event wearing cute heels? I’m granting permission to deviate from the elevator speech to find out where she got them. The Emotional Quotient allows us to be interested in others and allows them to be interested in us in turn. Of course, its our impressive skills make us qualified, but this list of qualifications might not set us apart or allow us to make a memorable connection. Go viral with your networking and job search. We can still be professional while playing up a funny reference, a heartwarming tale, or pop culture connection when it presents itself.
I guarantee you there’s worse that can happen.
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