While many students consider the Duke-UNC rivalry to be an irreconcilable division, some things transcend rivalries — like the musical "Hamilton" and meme accounts.
Two students, one at Chapel Hill and the other at Duke, run a "Hamilton"-themed meme account with nearly 50,000 followers.
Brooke Bekoff and Sara Shmueli attended the same school from kindergarten through high school.
Now, Bekoff is a sophomore majoring in political science and history at UNC while while Shmueli is a sophomore majoring in economics at Duke.
“We had this group chat, and originally there were three of us,” Bekoff said. “We just started sending each other Hamilton memes using the notes app in our phones. We posted a picture and then typed a caption, completely as a joke. And then we piled up and accumulated so many we decided to make an Instagram account and made it public, and I think the first day we had like 500 followers.”
The account, meme.me.inside, was created in August and is a reference to the musical's song, "Meet Me Inside."
As of Sunday, the account had 48,900 followers. Shmueli said they hope to have 100,000 followers by the time the account is a year old.
Bekoff and Shmueli said many of their followers are young — between 12 and 16 years old — but a fair share of UNC and Duke students follow the account.
Running an account with such a large following means a lot of DMs. Bekoff said the account has around 1,000 messages they've either chosen not to answer or haven't been able to reply to.
“People are like, 'Hey, love your account can I help co-run it?' and you’re just like, 'Oh wow, what great criteria," Shmueli said.
They also receive a lot of messages of people asking to have their content posted. Bekoff and Shmueli said they like to keep the content featured original, although they have used suggestions from people.
“We’ve made everything ourselves,” Shmueli said. “We find the picture and write a caption then use a site to generate the meme then maybe a little Photoshop, but everything is produced on our end.”
Coming up with the memes is not too difficult, they said, because there are two of them.
They also said they know pretty much every line in Hamilton.
The originality of the memes, Shmueli and Bekoff believe, is the reason people followed their account in the first place.
“When we first started, Arthur memes were trending so we made those at first and there was nothing like it,” Shmueli said. “We took advantage of a trend and it got people’s attention. We don’t post Arthur pics now, but it definitely helped us get started.”
Elise Fernandez, a Duke sophomore and close friend of Shmueli, agreed.
“When Sara first showed me the account it had like 5,000 followers and was posting Arthur memes," Fernandez said. "Now, it has such a large amount of followers and I see their memes reposted in other places.”
In the beginning, Bekoff and Shmueli did not expect the account to become so popular, but they're now taking full advantage of the opportunity.
“Once we got a large number of followers we thought we could definitely make money off of it,” Bekoff said. “We found these advertisements on our Facebook page of people trying to sell their Hamilton-related products. And we just kind of reached out to them and said, you can reach a much more dedicated following on our Instagram than on Facebook, so now we have several of our own advertising clients.”
After seeing how well the products advertised through their account have done, Bekoff and Shmueli plan on launching their own merchandise store.
“It would be different types of merchandise, like T-shirts, posters, mugs and hats,” Shmueli said. “Different things that have designs we’ve made that are somewhat witty, clever and funny. And maybe they have a political undertone. Something our followers would relate to.”
At the end of the conversation, the two had a request.