“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
When we were asked this question as kids, many of today’s most lucrative and accessible jobs could not even be imagined yet. Stores devoted entirely to screen repair, app developers and social media marketers didn’t exist, let alone the technology that requires and supports them.
A few of us have experienced that special combination of luck, timing and generally being on-point that adds up to what many might consider a dream job: making money off of memes. If you’re one of these fortunate few, we imagine you must have had a lot of explaining to do around the Thanksgiving table – this is a very recently created job (yeah… if it pays the rent, it qualifies!) and many people who understand social media still can’t fathom how it’s possible.
So, we did some research. The following explains how people with a quick wit and an Instagram account have been able to trade memes for cash – and what to do if you’re going to give it a shot.
The most important factor in making money off of an Instagram account is a large following – and no one is going to follow you if you’re not producing quality content. Your first step is to start creating original content, or repurposing existing content in a fresh way. You can draw inspiration from other popular meme creators, but the key here is to find your own voice and your own niche. Remember: memes go viral because they’re relatable, so try to write jokes that draw on personal experiences or views that you know are shared by other people. This doesn’t mean you can’t be controversial – just that you can’t expect to gain followers if you’re the only one who understands your memes!
2. Build your following.
There are a few different ways to do this. One is to buy fake followers – but Instagram has been around long enough that people can now easily recognize when someone has a robot following, and fake followers won’t give you the comments, likes and shoutouts you need to grow your audience. The second method is to spend a lot of time smashing that like button and giving love to other Instagram users. Following and liking other peoples’ content is a great way to attract new followers, but beware – this might become your full-time job before you’ve even seen a cent. The third (easiest, and effective) way is to use a service like Archie, which automates the process of reaching out and engaging with other users. You plug in your location, themes, and Instagram role models and Archie goes out and gives people who will most likely appreciate your memes a follow and a few likes. Remember – stay gracious. If you’re re-posting someone’s content, give them a shout-out in the caption! This is also a great way to catch their eye and maybe get a follow from a popular account.
3. Find sponsors.
Meme accounts make money by posting branded content. Marketing teams for all sorts of businesses understand that their target audiences are spending more time browsing on their phones than watching cable television, so they’ve started to shell out the big bucks to Instagram “influencers” whose followers are likely to be interested in their product. This is another reason why it pays to develop a unique voice and find a niche audience: it will be easier to attract marketers if you have a big following that falls into a certain demographic.
4. Strike a balance.
Shy away from branded content and you won’t make any money, but be too aggressive with the sponsored shout-outs and you’re likely to lose followers. Instagram users are already grumpy that ads have started crowding into their feeds, so if your posts start to sound too sales-y you’ll annoy followers who are there for the laughs. Try to limit your branded content to 20% of your total posts, and when you are pushing a product or service try to make the post funny and consistent with your general vibe. Elliot Tebele, the man behind @fuckjerry, says “I’m very selective when it comes to partnering with brands. If they aren’t open to conforming to the FuckJerry voice, I typically would pass on the opportunity. At the end of the day, the more organic the post is. the better it is for both parties.” We’ll take his word for it – between his handful of Instagram accounts, he’s racked up over 20 million followers.
5. Take it further!
Elliot Tebele created a riff on Apples to Apples called What Do You Meme last year, and Josh Ostrovsky of @thefatjewish has released two wines, White Girl Rosé and Family Time Is Hard Pinot Grigio. Once you have a decent following and have made some income from branded content, you may have the opportunity to spin your Internet fame into a personal brand.
6. Stay current.
Lastly, be on the lookout for new developments in social media marketing. Instagram has long made it impossible to provide links within a post (hence the ubiquity of the phrase “link in bio”, which directs followers to the bio section of a user’s profile where links are permitted). But this might change soon. Given the direction of Instagram over the last few years, new features for marketing will continue to roll out, and you’ll always stand to benefit by being the first to start taking advantage of them.
There you have it! There are more and more ways you can make money on the Internet, and starting a meme machine is certainly one of the most amusing. Good luck – and thanks for making the Internet a little bit funnier!
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