The Social Contact Centre

to a social networking way of working through the eyes of a Contact Centre manager

It’s all about meme

with one comment

I’ve talked previously about the underlying force beneath social networking. The timeless glue that unites communities: common beliefs, values, ideas and culture. It’s this uniting force which makes social media such a powerful force and why people embrace it so easily – it’s just a technology which speeds up and magnifies what we are all already doing.

Thinking through history there are examples of groundswells which predated Facebook and Twitter – the collapse of Communism in the Soviet bloc, the outpouring of national grief after the death of Diana, popular music culture, the rise of the ‘permissive society’, attitudes to the welfare state etc. It is very difficult to pinpoint exactly what triggers the ‘feeling’ but most people can put into words what the event itself looks like. In previous times a court case, a newspaper column or a TV show would have an impact that no-one could have predicted because it is magnified by prevailing economic or political events. Some pillars of our society ebb and flow on this ‘tide’ – attitudes to monarchy or Scottish nationalism are examples which have had varying strengths of feeling over centuries.

Underpinning this is the concept of memes. has a tidy historical context to its definition: “A meme is a discrete “package of culture” that would travel via word of mouth, usually as a mesmerizing story, a fable/parable, a joke, or an expression of speech.”

To me there are  two relevant aspects of memes in the social networking world:

1. How memes form

2. How memes travel

Memes are undoubtedly powerful – much of our day-to-day life and decision-making is governed by memes. Because of their complexity, they are impossible to create: it would be like trying to single handledy create a Mexican wave in a stadium. Social media creates a global melting pot for meme creation – faster and more powerful. The global element is important because social media fuels celebrity, and particularly in the UK, we are more exposed to American-generated memes than ever before. There is no point in trying to create memes but it is vitally important to try to understand them. This isn’t as easy as it might seem. Trending hashtags in Twitter are examples of meme formation but many of them are indecipherable without reading a good few tweets. Thankfully there are websites to make the identification easier – e.g. but these merely identify – not necessarily explain. the importance of understanding is that this is the essence of what your market, your employees, and your competition are “feeling”. Your communications can lock into the zeitgeist by careful choice of single words. Analysis can identify potential opportunities or, more often, potential pitfalls to be avoided. The most obvious pitfall is to place naked commercialism alongside heartfelt sentiment at the wrong time as with Kenneth Cole and the Arab Spring (if you are not familiar with the story here is a great Washington Post blog about it: .

Secondly, the method of transmission of a meme is fascinating and there to be exploited. There are words and phrases which develop and, from nowhere, become the everyday currency. As I write this Bradley Wiggins has just won the Tour De France and is being lauded for his performance. There are a number of other elements to the story which have gathered around it:

  • Mark Cavendish’s role as a supporting member of the team and hopes that he will get the limelight at the Olympics
  • Chris Froome’s role in the victory
  • Bradley’s upbringing and relationship with his father
  • An undercurrent to get Bradley Wiggins to light the Olympic flame
  • The phrase Allez Wiggo
  • Sideburns as a style icon
  • The style of his victory after he showed sportsmanship

These could all die away as the Olympics ensue and other issues get the coverage but maybe, just maybe there is a meme brewing. If I was going to guess which one it was? The sideburns have all the right characteristics – around the story (but not the story), actionable, unowned and transferrable. Undoubtedly the first stick-on sideburns in red, white and blue are on the production line somewhere. What a difference it would make if David Beckham and Prince William were inspired to grow them too.



Written by greencontact

July 23, 2012 at 9:45 am

One Response

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  1. Reblogged this on AshbourneVoice and commented:
    Wiggo’s legacy


    July 23, 2012 at 11:03 am

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