Ten years ago on October 6, Instagram went live. Since then, memes have become an integral part of the platform’s culture, as well as social media as a whole.
So integral that Instagram hired Ricky Sans, the Strategic Partner and Manager for Memes.
It’s his job to “identify new creators that are pushing culture forward on Instagram.”
“My job is to make sure that we have someone from Instagram close to the meme community to build a deeper connection with bigger meme accounts, and also identify the next generation of meme creators,” Sans told me. “I want to make sure that I have a hand in creating a diverse representation of meme creators that are celebrated on the platform.”
When asked about the future of meme culture on Instagram, Sans says he expects memes to expand to include original video memes, much like we’re seeing with Reels and TikTok videos, but memes will always have that deep-rooted connection to current topics.
“Meme creators have an innate understanding of society and of how people engage with the platform,” Sans told me. “AR will also be a space to watch on Instagram in the next 10 years. Creators like @Pablo.rochat take memes to a new level with his clever ability to create content that subverts expectations and makes a statement on singularity in an oddly humorous way, like a comedic version of Black Mirror.
“We can also expect meme creators to start building experiential brands, @pizzaslime have created a meme lifestyle brand through their fashion, record label, advertising agency, and TV shows.”
Additionally, Sans expects more entrepreneurs to bloom with Instagram expanding monetary tools across IGTV, Reels, and Shopping, which the platform announced Tuesday during their birthday celebration conference, though no additional details on potential timelines were released.
Monetizing content like memes has been around for years and Doing Things Media are no strangers to the practice. Since 2015, Reid Hailey and Derek Lucas have been creating memes and established their company in 2017 to include more than 20 accounts reaching more than 60 million people. Doing Things Media quietly runs popular meme accounts, like @NoChaser (7.9 million followers), @ShitHeadSteve (6 million), and @AnimalsDoingThings (4.6 million). They also specialize in creating ads for companies like Bud Light that resemble memes.
“Videos are being meme-ified,” Hailey told me, referring to TikTok and Reels video formats. “It’s so shareable and caters to that audience with no attention span. I think that’s what we’re going to continue doing in the future the space. That content, the short, really funny content, where you just open up your phone and 10 seconds later you’re dying laughing and then you go about your day or whatever. And it might change shape or form but you know the entertainment value is always going to be there.”
Since the release of Netflix’s “Social Dilemma,” social media companies have been scrutinized for their addictive and divisive qualities, which Sans and Hailey have different approaches to.
Hailey simply tries to avoid controversial or political topics with their memes, whereas, Sans embraces the diverse content, as long as it’s accurate and informative.
“Meme creators play a part in bringing our community together, and have become instrumental to get important, factual information out to their communities on Instagram,” Sans told me. “So many teens and millennials use Instagram as their main source of news. Meme accounts can be a great way to make sure that reliable information reaches a broader audience that doesn’t follow traditional media. We’ve seen different accounts rise up to the occasion especially during these times to help inform and educate their followers and support others in the community who are hurting right now.”
Sans points to @hippypotter, @rinnyriot, @latinarebels, and others. An example he points to is @Dudewithsign, an account managed by Jerry Media, when he stepped up during COVID to share a series of memes on Instagram inspired by guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) to share accurate information about how to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
“Memes are always evolving, which is the amazing part of meme culture,” Sans told me. “In the future, we can expect to see more niche communities and new diverse voices leading the conversation in meme culture.”