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ShitheadSteve creator shares 3 things marketers need to know about meme pages


By Audrey Kemp | Junior Reporter

March 9, 2023 | 10 min read

As TikTok’s fate hangs in the balance, Reid Hailey, chief executive of Doing Things, reminds marketers about the power memes continue to have over culture.

doing things media sasquatch logo

Doing Things' meme pages show how diverse digital ads can be / Credit: Doing Things Media

When it comes to creator partnerships, many brands prioritize influencers. In doing so, they neglect another flourishing online community with millions of engaged members – meme pages. It’s a community that Reid Hailey, founder and chief executive of Doing Things, has built a career around.

Hailey’s business began in 2015 when he created the meme page ShitheadSteve. Since then, he’s created a portfolio of 35 original content brands under Doing Things that have “become household names and bonafide businesses,” according to the company’s website.

These include popular Instagram pages Drunk People Doing Things (10.4 million followers), ShitheadSteve (7.1 million followers), Trashcan Paul (2.8 million followers) and Middle Class Fancy (2.7 million followers), as well as Recess Therapy (the YouTube channel that put the viral Corn Kid on the map) and the All Gas No Breaks internet series fronted by Andrew Callaghan.

Earlier this year, Doing Things acquired Instagram-famous pages Overheard LA and Overheard in NYC, which share eavesdropped conversations in both cities to a follower base of 1.6 million combined.

Meme pages represent a subset of the $105bn creator economy, with which most people associate influencers and personal brands. Doing Things behaves like an influencer, creating original content for innumerable brands from Anheuser-Busch and Paramount to Tinder. However, its ad deals deviate from typical creator partnerships, appearing less like a candid endorsement and more like a meme that effortlessly incorporates a product.

“What I’m most excited about is where we sit in the creator economy,” says Hailey. “We’ve always been creators, but we don’t have a face. We’re more behind-the-scenes.”

Take this Roomba ad, for example, which may not highlight the product’s features but instead appeals to consumers by utilizing the ironic humor that dominates online communities today.

For this reason, Doing Things is very selective about the brands it works with. Its brand partners often seek to be culturally relevant, authentic and aligned with real-time social media trends. They are willing to go outside of their comfort zone, “have a little fun, and are willing to trust [Doing Things] on what will resonate with [their] audience,” he says. Here are three things marketers should consider before working with a meme page, according to Hailey.

1. Understand the difference between ‘community’ and ‘audience’

High engagement matters more than a high follower count. “Make sure that whoever you’re working with has a real community,” says Hailey. “Sometimes, companies and agencies will be quick to work with creators whose audience is hard to verify. Look at their engagement before looking at the audience number.”

For example, TikTok creators often build large audiences by happenstance, appearing on the app’s ’For You’ page, but they lack a loyal, long-term community like an Instagram-famous creator, whose content consistently appears in their followers’ feeds. “Most TikTok celebrities don’t have a community; they have an audience. A lot of TikTok stars try to sell merch and they can’t … It feels like ‘flavor of the day’ to me.”

2. Check social media frequently to understand cultural nuances

The only way to create content that resonates with people online is by checking social media frequently. For content inspiration, Hailey says he turns to comedians, or even random people, on Twitter.

Instead of checking social media themselves, marketers could hire an expert to create content for them. “There are a million companies talking about cultural relevance and making viral content [but] 99% of them are not what they say they are. The reason why we continue to have multiple successes in the viral content space… is because we had to do that to get any eyeballs on us early on when we were just meme pages.”

3. Diversify your social media plan

Last week, the House passed legislation to ban TikTok over possible national security concerns. This could take away one of the most powerful social media tools for brands. For Hailey, whose pages rose to fame on Instagram and YouTube, this doesn’t pose a threat.

It could also present a new opportunity for brands to hire meme creators that have honed their skills on existing platforms. “If you want to do a brand deal with someone who’s only on TikTok and only familiar with TikTok, you’re kind of playing roulette. If you want to hedge your bets, do all the platforms. You don’t know what you’re going to get on TikTok. You could get zero views or 100m views, so it’s good to try everything.”

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