A Fascinating New Trend

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"If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else."Marvin Gaye.

I just saw an image on Facebook of this quote. It’s not the first time. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed a veritable onslaught of motivation and personal development quotes that are embedded in images (with varying degrees of artistic quality). Some of them are profound and powerful and some of them are quirky and cheesy. My added interest in this trend is the request to share, comment and spread them.

What’s going on here?

What’s with the sudden fascination in sharing powerful quotes and why is this, primarily, relegated to Facebook? Have the people of Facebook suddenly had a global awakening that life is short and we need to cherish not only this moment but the people in our lives? Have we become tired of LOLCats, Someecards and  other random memes?

Fascinating memes.

The Internet provides a deep river of flowing memes that are fascinating (and funny) to watch. The most random of content spreads with a speed that is uncanny. On top of that, the majority of these memes disappear without notice as well. A few manage to have some semblance of longevity. In makes me wonder: if these random memes can go viral (and we can debate the definition of "viral" at some other point in time), why do brands (which have access to resources and more creative horsepower than the average human being) struggle so hard to find their groove?

Follow the memes.

As trends like these unfold, it’s important to put on your marketing hat and analyze the words, the images, how these memes spread, who is spreading them, what the comments look like and more. Is there hardcore data in this information? Probably not. It’s much more subjective than scientific when it comes to what captures people’s attention, but there’s one thing you can bank on: the people who start these trends are learning too, and the ones that are successful at it, tend to get better at it with each successive iteration on the theme.

With that, I’m still trying to figure out why these motivation quotes on Facebook are so pervasive and popular. What’s your take?


  1. I see two reasons for this trend: Pinterest and Facebook’s preference for images. Most people on Pinterest have a quotes board (myself included) and when I see a really good one or one I want to share with someone that does not have Pinterest, I will tweet or Facebook the quote. With many tpeople creating these quote memes for sites such as Pinterest they are bound to become common on other sites as well. Also, with Facebook timeline and changes to the newsfeed, it seems that Facebook is giving preference to posts with images. It seems that Facebook is trying to be more like Tumblr and less like twitter.

  2. Its kind of a normal evolution, really. Think of everyone you know who practices Yoga… meditates… eats vegetarian or vegan… uses anti-stress or visualization techniques… the list goes on. After a couple (or many) years of using these techniques, a normally constituted, inquisitive human being would ask: “But what’s behind all of this? How can I find even more inner peace? How can it become a staple in my life, in everyone’s life?” From this movement comes the yearning for a more profound change, a large upheaval towards empathy, understanding, inner and outer peace. Even Arianna Huffington is in the wellness business now with her GPS for the Soul!

  3. There has always been motivational post on Facebook as long as I can remember. A deep dive into what people post about, guess what it’s not about brands. I know this may come as shock to some, but people complain on Facebook and Twitter, in fact they complain a lot. Spouse, job and children issues along with weight, health and the dreaded Monday posts. My guess to combat this people send motivational posts to make others and themselves feel better. Just some of my thoughts.

  4. I completely agree with Richelle. It’s the rise in popularity of Pinterest and other visual medium paired with Facebook’s new Timeline format, which truly does prize images. Plus, in this economy, everyone’s looking for a little something to keep them going! Sometimes, seeing the words you already know to be true is enough to motivate you!

  5. Great insight.
    I think they are successful because pictures are what people look at when grazing content. The design of copy as web text is far less compelling than copy in a graphic poster.
    The poster design makes them more likely to be read in the first place.
    The more easily read, the more likely shared.

  6. Its the evolution of self-promotion on the web. We started by telling people when we went to the washroom. Then we followed by continuously posting pictures of our kids who are all becoming rocket scientists, the NBAs next star or NHL’s next Marty Brodeur. Then we started using it as a photo repository. And now finally, this personal billboard has evolved into the most popular place where we can show the world how enlightened we are. In a world where people are very focused on reputation (outside validation) rather than looking within, Facebook is simply a projection of that new reality.

  7. People love quotes. They always have and always will. What’s new? More people are publishing shareable memes with meaningful quotes. Let’s just hope it doesn’t become an overused trend.

  8. Maybe you’re reaching a point in your life where these quotes are starting to resonate, Mitch? Lol. I’ve noticed that a lot of those MLM marketers and Avon-style work-from-home salespeople use these inspirational images to build up the idea that their life is great, as a result of using the products that they’re constantly shilling (when not inspiring us).

  9. Perhaps people just want to feel good about something simple, and they want to share that feeling. To stop, if for just a minute, and reflect on a positive memory or event from the past. I can see where a warm thought would spread quickly, and then fade just as fast.

  10. I guess that many times it has got to do more with our own realizations of mistakes that we have made before and could have avoided by applying those “tips”. The natural behaviour is to share it in case someone else can find it useful before making those same mistakes. I guess I prefer too think that people are good by nature 😉

  11. I agree with Al, I don’t see this as something terribly new – it definitely is rather pervasive. Visually augmented version of the thought/quote for the day things that started in newspapers, See a lot of same on Twitter (without images, natch).
    As you mentioned there is a whole spectrum of these sorts of things; from the political, to the spiritual to the idiotic. It seems a basic mechanic of online social interaction – “I posted this, it means something to me – does my social graph validate this?”
    The whole social trajectory of memes is a fascinating topic.

  12. The hit and miss of a capitivating motivational quote I think has alot to do with the inner world of the receiver. It’s like getting a Hallmark card for no other reason than it echoes a personal life challenge you face. Additionally, they are short, throw away, require no action, but gives the receiver a little burst of an instant feeling of being understood.

  13. I think it is all about personal branding. Facebook IS your own brand, it is on the majority a well thought out picture of you, your life and your outlook. I do think people want to share things that make them feel good – like quotes, or may make others feel good – but on the level it is still telling the world about the best parts of YOU.

  14. I totally agree with Richelle, Pinterest is to blame for that! With social media, we are able to follow ordinary but inspiring people on a daily basis, in their daily activities. I see a lot of that on Instagram and Pinterest. I follow foodies and trainers who did not have an audience not so long ago. They are my foodspiration and fitspiration. And let’s not even talk about thinspiration. So yes, there’s tons of quotes on social media, but I think it’s deeper than that. We need this inspiration and motivation to get through the day, and quotes are much cheaper than therapy.

  15. I think of Facebook as the family reunion format that you share information that makes your connections smile or laugh. We work with brands that are about inspiration and find that quotes get more reactions and shares on Facebook that any other posts. It does go hand and hand with Pinterest as well.

  16. Many of the commenters make good points that I agree with; but I think Davey hit it on the head: people are craving simplicity and hope now more than ever. From a sociological perspective we’re living in an increasingly complex, digital and global culture. With that comes the desire to display our humanity as a means of achieving balance and relevance, and the urge to “use our powers for good” (i.e. use technology and global reach to share the much needed hope and reassurance we all crave during times of change). This can be seen in everything from the rise of personal branding (establishing relevance) and use of quotes (such a simple form of communication) to Samsung’s latest tag “Create wonder” (simple, empowering and nostalgic with a twist). With the ongoing melding of technology and emotion that’s occurring, an increase in quotes as memes is only natural.

  17. As a few others have said, images tend to garner more attention than plain text. As for the quotes themselves, I think in most cases people read something that resonates with something happening in their life and they feel compelled to tell the world that they can relate to it. Unfortunately I think many kid themselves that hitting Like or Share means they are actually doing something – after all it’s so much easier than taking meaningful action to improve your situation.

  18. Mitch thanks for another great thought provoking post. Our world with the assistance of technology has become more connected than ever in our history. With that connection brings awareness and enlightenment. We have always relied on the media for our information. We no longer accept this and understand that all information we receive from corporations has a purpose that leads to some financial gain. We also become more aware of the wasteful behavior that government and big business has become. Our tolerance level has diminished. The positive are humanity can come together and stand together to tackle these major issues as one. I believe that these quotes and visuals stimulate us that we are not alone and that together we can make a difference.
    Make it a great weekend!

  19. These warm fuzzy quotes appeal to the masses – they are not something out of the “expert” content genre. They are not controversial so everyone feels comfortable sharing. I think it’s an indication of just how pervasive “content marketing” and sharing has become. The real head scratcher for me is that these words are all being shared as images, words alone no longer seem powerful enough. That’s where I think the real communication impact is being felt – we have become far more visual creatures. So what does that mean to brands? Communication in general? And the tools we use?

  20. The trend is images, not “inspirational quotes”. Since image-centric social media channels get higher shares (likes, pins, retweets) and clickthrough rates than text-based ones, quotes are now rendered as typographics and blog posts are turned into ersatz infographics.
    I dislike the trend, but recognize that people have a more primal connection to images. Why else would pay good money for a wall-mounted picture of a rowing team just to reinforce some platitude about teamwork?

  21. This is about people with a need to be heard and feel good about themselves. Sharing some “inspirational words” written by someone else is a quick, painless way to say “look at me!” and (presumably) give others the impression that you are thoughtful. It’s incredibly cheap and shallow, in my opinion.

  22. This is about people with a need to be heard and feel good about themselves. Sharing some “inspirational words” written by someone else is a quick, painless way to say “look at me!” and (presumably) give others the impression that you are thoughtful. It’s incredibly cheap and shallow, in my opinion.

  23. I’m going to go out on a cynical limb here, and guess it has something to do with social media burn-out. Everyday users are wired in all the time, and it’s making some of us miserable (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/12/facebook_is_making_us_miserabl.html), so I’m guessing a lot of people are latching to inspiring words of self-empowerment to reassure themselves that they are still their own person inside — with their own talents and potential.

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