The Brief: We interviewed Samir Mezrahi, creator of all the Kale Salad social media accounts about viral content, crediting creators, meme culture, new platforms, political memes, and more.
Samir Mezrahi, the admin behind the Kale Salad social media meme network shares top viral posts to his millions of followers across several platforms. Although he’s probably best-known for the Instagram meme account @KaleSalad, Samir’s Twitter account directly retweets original viral content, ensuring that creators get credit rather than Tweet Deckers or meme aggregators who are notorious for passing stolen content off as their own. In February, Kale Salad posted a sponsored meme for Democratic primary candidate Mike Bloomberg which received over 142,000 likes.
Samir currently works as Publishing Special Projects Lead at BuzzFeed where he applies his knowledge of social media platforms and BuzzFeed content to optimize existing practices and tackle new areas for growth. In an interview, I spoke to Samir about his experience with @KaleSalad, the future of memes, TikTok, and his consumption of kale salad itself (he eats an average amount).
I retweet the best things on Twitter. If you think your followers would like this please RT this to help get the word out. Thank you!!!
— Kale Salad (@kalesalad) June 9, 2017
When did you get started with Kale Salad and what has the mission been for that?
I started around 2016 and it was originally about sourcing memes and viral things to people. It was just kind of random things on Instagram and I really noticed lots of engagement and appreciation for this type of content. Memes are the format but I think of it as more like short stories – like me and my friend went to the mall, we did this thing, and here are pictures of that. And from there it just kind of really blew up. And it transferred over to Twitter where back then there were these aggregator accounts like @Dory or @CommonWhiteGirl, but they were just screenshotting tweets, so what I was doing there was just retweeting the original tweet and the account just kind of blew up from there.
Do you ever run into issues with people not wanting their content to be reposted or not having a way to tag them across a different platform?
Not for people not wanting to be reposted. What happens a lot is people go viral and if it’s like their kid, people [in the comments] are really mean about their kid and their parenting so they might want to take it down after a while just because the comments can get really mean.
What I realized from the Twitter [account] is a lot of people post things because they want to go viral. Especially on Twitter, my accounts can be an engine to make content viral.
How long have you been on TikTok and how have you seen it grow and change?
I think I started an account last summer, played around with it, maybe I stopped posting for a little while, and then picked back up in November-ish. I mean obviously TikTok is a lot of fun…it’s like the place for people to spend their time and to make content. So much stuff, even just UGC (user-generated content) has really kicked in over to TikTok [where] people are posting it there first instead of Instagram or Twitter. The growth is really fun on TikTok too. But like any video can go viral and [so can] anyone … so you’ve got these people who have like one video that goes viral and people are following like crazy so someone will have one viral video and then they’ll have like 30,000 followers and it’s funny because you go over to their Instagram and they’ve got like 200 followers on Instagram…there’s such follower inflation on TikTok because so many people have so many followers.
How did you end up making a meme for a political campaign – Mike Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential primary run? What was that process like?
I was just part of that Meme 2020 group. They created the memes and I posted [them].
What do you think that says about the state of memes and politics?
It’s pretty clear how that disrupted the night and was the conversation for a little while, just like how powerful [memes] are. And I don’t know what the number is but the amount of meme engagement on Instagram is such a crazy amount, so it just further shows how much reach and engagement, and how powerful meme accounts are.
Since the premise of memes is often to remix some piece of content or to repeat something, how, other than when there’s a Tweet copy/pasted with the author’s name removed, how do you determine what’s original content vs. something that was plagiarized?
It’s part just like experience – there’s a lot of things that’ll bubble up and I’ll be like oh I’ve seen that before, it’s part that and part of just like kinda googling around – just being on the internet, you can tell when things bubble up and then try and find the source, with the amount of the content, it’s sometimes harder to exactly nail the source, but often they surface, so like if it does look kinda sketch and like maybe you’ve seen it before, the replies is a good place to check because someone very often will be like “oh you got this from here”
Do you see memes as more for comedy, communication, culture, or something else? And what do you particularly like about memes and meme culture?
I mean it’s like everything, you can have just like memes where everyone knows what’s going on to like the most niche – your high school basketball team, you know that’s like a way to communicate broadly and like within any group. I think it’s interesting, there was this Instagram event where Taylor Lorenz interviewed some teen on stage and they like plugged in their phones and showed what was on their phones and everything and one of them had like a meme Insta with friends only and they just made memes for each other, so you’ve got [everything] from the broadest meme account to [people] making memes for five people.
You can find Samir’s Kale Salad accounts on Instagram at @KaleSalad, @FailSalad, @KaleSaladAnimals, @KaleSaladVideos, and @KaleSaladQuotes, on Twitter @KaleSalad, on TikTok @KaleSalad, and on YouTube.