To meme or not to meme? What real estate agents need to know

Key takeaways

  • Memes can be a fun way to inject humor into your social media and connect with people.
  • Being known for your funny memes can help you stand out from the crowd.
  • Agents need to be aware of potential risks of violating copyright rules and NAR’s Code of Ethics.
  • Be careful to post inoffensive memes — the wrong one could backfire and hurt your reputation.

Everyone loves a good meme. Whether it’s one of the thousands of hilarious cat memes, a movie star or a familiar TV show, a meme can be a quick way to get a laugh from friends, family and strangers.

Real estate agents love to share memes. One blog post from The Close boasts “107 Real Estate Memes Realtors Can't Stop Sharing.”

But memes aren’t just fun and games. Like all humor, while there is an upside to using it to boost your real estate business and stand out from your competitors, there are also risks. Understanding the hazards can help you address the potential consequences if you want to share memes on social media, your website or other public channels.

Could your memes be breaking copyright rules?

Most people assume sharing a meme is innocuous. We’ve all seen the same memes posted multiple times by our social media contacts and know about images, videos and tweets going viral. But have you ever stopped to think about who owns a meme? If you’ve come up with a particularly clever meme yourself, you may have wondered how everyone else could use it without crediting you.

Copyright laws protect writers, artists and musicians, so why not protect the creativity that goes into a meme? In fact, there are copyright laws that apply to people who create memes. However, the question of who owns a meme is debatable unless every piece of it is original. So, for example, when you use an image of Leonardo DiCaprio or Princess Leia, does the meme belong to you, the movie star or the creators of Star Wars? In those cases, it’s probably not you.

However, sharing most memes is protected under First Amendment and the doctrines of fair use, according to the National Law Review.

Copyright violations do come into play if you attempt to monetize a meme, such as by selling t-shirts with the meme or using it in your marketing. In that case, you leave yourself open to a lawsuit based on copyright or trademark violations. If you use memes with potentially copyrighted images, it’s smart to avoid putting your own logo or name on them. Memes should be part of your purely social interactions online rather than as a marketing tool.

If you’re creating a new meme, make sure you use an image that’s already labeled for reuse or is in the public domain to avoid copyright infringement. Remember that for all legal advice, consult an attorney.

Memes and the Code of Ethics

Beyond potential copyright issues, you should be aware that Article 12 of the National Association of REALTORS’ Code of Ethics could apply to memes. That section of the Code says that real estate agents must present a true and accurate picture of whatever is being represented.

Article 12 also states that real estate professionals must not post content on the internet produced by others without attribution or permission. So, if you want to post someone else’s meme, you should include a line about where you got it.

According to the Code, marketing materials must include an agent’s name and brokerage. Once again, if you use memes for fun and don’t attach them to specific marketing for a property or your business, you probably don’t need to worry about adding your brokerage to the post, according to the NAR.

Best practices for using memes

While memes can offer a moment of comic relief on a busy or stressful day, they also provide a way for you to interact with people online. Some tips from The Cyphers Agency on how to use memes effectively include:

  • Be sure you understand the meaning of the meme before you share it — you don’t want to inadvertently post something with an offensive double meaning.
  • Stay relevant with your memes to show you’re up on pop culture.
  • Include hashtags.
  • Don’t forget to make them shareable.
  • Leave out your marketing tagline so you don’t seem too self-promotional.
  • Avoid memes that ask followers to provide personal information. For example, it seems fun to play a little game to find out your pirate name, but you could be opening people to security issues.
  • Like most humor, memes should be used in moderation for more impact.

One meme you may want to avoid is one that laughs about homeowners dealing with broken appliances or a failed home system. It’s never fun or funny when someone is dealing with a home repair or replacement. But with a Cinch home warranty, you can help protect your sellers from covered breakdowns. See the details at

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