Three meme lessons that we can learn from (stupidly annoying!) Be Like Bill

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Be Like Bill came out of nowhere and now has 1.5 million Facebook likes. Here are a few lessons you can apply to your own meme-making.

As Winter Storm Jonas ravaged the East Coast this weekend, an avalanche of passive aggressive stick figures descended upon your social feeds. Bill isn’t new; Moldovan artist Eugeniu Croitoru created the character a few months back. But its popularity is relatively new, all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all of a sudden.

Be Like Bill is polarizing. For every person who shared it, there seemed to be another (full disclosure: like me) who was like, “Ugh, this is not funny! What is wrong with you people?”

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If you’re a marketer, polarizing isn’t necessarily bad. A lot of people hated the Allrecipes.com redesign, but the site still saw an increase in engagement afterwards. Whether or not people were logging on to collect ammunition for their scathing comments on my article, they were still logging on.

“Try to be polarizing” isn’t good advice because it’s just as unpredictable as going viral. Here are a few more practical lessons you can take from the Be Like Bill craze.

1. Be timely

Last February, The Dress was so big that just reading those words capitalized like that, I’ll bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s not always a lot of time or even a need to strategize; sometimes silly things trend for no apparent reason. Alopecia UK was smart to use the Be Like Bill bandwagon to raise awareness; the charity’s tweets usually get a couple of likes and retweets, but this one garnered more than 100. That probably wouldn’t happen three days from now.

2. Be relatable

Be Like Bill cartoons admonish people for doing annoying things on Facebook: making sure everyone knows every detail about their workouts, complaining that tomorrow is Monday, oversharing about their kids. Part of Bill’s appeal is how universal his messages are. The buzz started because so many Facebook users are on the same page, re: those things being annoying. If you don’t think so, maybe you’re one of the perpetrators?

3. Be clever

This one should go without saying, but it doesn’t. Every time we scour Twitter for the trending topics that week, we come across brands who jump on the bandwagon in a half-assed way. If your meme isn’t going to capitalize on a trend in a clever way, it’s not likely to get shared and there’s no point in even bothering (note: this means you, “Keep calm and…” people). Rather than just do the tired “Bill shops at Morrisons,” the UK supermarket took it one step further and made it into a story, for example. It’s ultimately the same message, but it comes off much fresher.

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