Why you shouldn’t replicate the #nomakeupselfie


How do you create an internet meme? In my head I can picture Communications Directors frantically trying to brainstorm how they can jump on the momentum of the #nomakeupselfie and create their own meme.

Incase you have been in a coma for the past day the #nomakeupselfie is a internet meme which has seen women post pictures of themselves with no make up on. This has seen an astonishing £1 million donated to Cancer Research UK by text within 24 hours.

My answer for all you would be meme creators is that you can’t just magic up a meme from thin air and below I outline the reasons you shouldn’t try to.

For a period during 2011, I was the Social Media Manager at the children’s charity the NSPCC. Just previous to me joining they had enjoyed the benefits of another internet meme on Facebook which saw people change their Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from their childhood.

I can’t remember where the meme originated from but like the #nomakeupselfie it wasn’t created by the charity. In fact the message evolved for months until at some point someone included the NSPCC’s name in the post.

This was the meme Facebook post:

“Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood & invite your friends to do the same, for the NSPCC. Until Monday (6th Dec), there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is a campaign to stop violence against children.”

The meme was hugely popular, the charity received great praise, their Facebook page popularity rocketed and the donations rolled in.

This sparked great interest in Social Media in the Charity, very quickly it realised that social media would be at the heart of its communications going forward.

But there wouldn’t be another Facebook meme for the NSPCC just a shift towards high class social media service and content planning. As the Social Media Manager at that charity I felt any attempt to replicate or rekindle that meme would have been doomed to failure.

Why? It essentially comes down to ownership and trust. The non-profit sector in the UK receives incredible support from the public but large charities now operate very much like big brands when it comes to communication. Slick images accompany Facebook posts, beautiful animations flood YouTube.

The message is donate, campaign or become a member of X charity and you will be the type of person who cares about; cancer, human rights, animals, climate change, essentially whatever the cause charity works tackling.

The good news for charities is that these methods work. People like well planned, polished content, it engages target audiences creating social media comment, donations, people running marathons and advocates who will campaign on behalf of the charity.

The reason memes like #nomakeupselfie work is that they come from outside of the organisation. They are not polished and they tap into an innate feeling we all have to be the centre of attention. Like the NSPCC cartoon meme the #nomakeupselfie gives us a chance to say something about ourselves.

Any attempt by a big charity to create a rough and ready meme may generate interest from their core support but it will feel forced and look out of place alongside the daily corporate communications style of the charity.

My advice to charities is if memes come your way, enjoy your day in the sun. See it as an opportunity to build long lasting social relationships with your new supporters and use the money donated wisely. In my opinion you will be best served studying the conversation happening about you and the demographic and behaviours of the meme participants.

* I highly recommend reading this post by my ex-colleague and friend Madeleine Sugden outlining how to react to a #nomakeupselfie style meme.

Use the useful information you learn and implement that in your next campaign, appeal or social media update. Your goal should be to convert your meme fans into long term supporters.

My message is simple don’t get extracted by shiny things just keep focused on creating great content that meets the needs of your charities audience.

P.S: We are all beautiful with or without makeup.

Digital communications with a difference:

We’re passionate people who want to create a better world, we care about social issues and we care about the work we do. If you want a communications agency prepared to tell you the truth and be with you every step to create an extraordinary digital communications experience get in touch with: damien@socialchicagency.com