Creating content that’s part of a larger cultural conversation is vital to growing audiences and keeping them engaged. Digital culture moves at light speed, but the most effective creators are those who stay on top of the latest trends and find a way to make themselves a part of developing conversations that reach wide swaths of the internet.
Memes and tags are some of the unifying forces on YouTube, which is home to hundreds of millions of creators. Driving conversations and making YouTube more of a community of creators and less of a collection of accounts on the world’s largest video platform, memes, tags, and trends are used by the savviest YouTubers to keep their content fresh, relevant, and entertaining.
Technically defined, a meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Memes are a staple of internet culture and based on common understanding are typically photos, short videos, gifs, or bits of text that are shared, edited, expanded upon, and passed around. They create a common shorthand among those familiar with the meme and often become part of cultural and political discussions.
Memes are typically humorous, often short-lived, and are frequently remixed and adapted by users to fit a wide variety of situations, contexts, and jokes. Grumpy cat, The Most Interesting Man, Success Kid, and Doge are among the most notable memes, and ones that continue to be used, reused, and changed as internet culture moves forward.
In the context of YouTube, tags and video trends are some of the most popular types of videos (like challenge videos or Draw My Life) that are created by a wide variety of YouTubers. For example, The Girlfriend, Boyfriend, and Best Friend Tags involve YouTubers and the person in question asking one another questions about how they first met, their weirdest habits, or films that always make them cry.
Draw My Life is a popular video construction in which YouTubers use a whiteboard to illustrate a narrated account of their lives. There are also challenge videos, like the Try Not To Laugh Challenge or food and makeup challenges, where creators complete a task or challenge in the course of the video.
There are dozens of ways in which YouTubers might fold memes, tags, and trends into their work. Some might use memes as a part of the work that they’re creating, discussing memes or using them to make a point or cultural reference during a video. Others make memes the focal point of their content.
The Harlem Shake, for example, was a wildly popular meme that blew through YouTube and saw hundreds of creators making their own versions of the popular dance meme. The videos that were uploaded in the height of the Harlem Shake craze were able to capitalize on the meme’s popularity to draw in viewers.
YouTubers might also use memes as a way to promote their content. Because memes travel quickly, are easily understood, and have a relatively short lifespan, they can be an effective tool for promotion on social media.
Creators might use memes on Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat to make themselves a part of the developing conversation and to give their content a degree of timeliness to attract interest.
Tags and video trends provide a way for YouTubers to create within a proven framework. By tackling something specific, be it the Girlfriend Tag, Draw My Life, or the Try Not To Laugh challenge, YouTubers give viewers an idea of what to expect and capitalize on an ongoing conversation around a certain type of video.
These tags and trends work in a number of different ways. First, they allow YouTubers to diversify their content. For the most part, challenges, tags and trends work on a wide variety of channels, even those that don’t normally do specifically vlog-focused material.
Many channels benefit from a specific focus like beauty, fashion, gaming, or comedy, but almost every channel is at its best when it includes a variety of different videos in different formats.
Tags and trends also lend a degree of personality to a channel and help viewers form a personal connection to the content and the creators. Audiences want to know more about the creators behind the content they love, and tags and trends give YouTubers a structured way to talk about their lives and reveal aspects of themselves that may go unexplored in the course of their regularly scheduled content.
Finally, tags and trends give viewers an avenue to discovery that may lead to new fans and subscribers. Challenge and tag videos provide an easy in for new viewers who may be curious about a channel’s content or a creator’s personality.
Certain challenge and tag videos are a draw for viewers on their own and may attract new audiences, and because videos of the same tag are related, viewers may follow one video from a creator they know to a related video by one they’ve yet to discover.
There are dozens of ways for YouTubers to use, reference, and capitalize on memes, trends, and tags to diversify their content, help viewers get to know them better, attract new audiences, and promote their content with a timely element that speaks to broad sections of users who are plugged into internet culture. Memes, by their very nature, are constantly evolving, and so too is the way in which YouTubers use them to strengthen their channels.