By Valerie Sprague
Humor humanizes. Well-placed wit shows off your brand’s personality and makes you more engaging and relatable.
Funny things get shares and retweets. Followers and fans love to share things that make them laugh.
It’s great for the bottom line. People who are in a good mood are in a good mood to listen to your message and/or buy. This is basic marketing psychology.
Here are some factors to consider when using humor to energize your social content:
- -The humorous tone should fit your brand voice and target audience. Are you gentle and family-friendly? Or edgy and a little out-of-bounds? Choose wisely when matching your tone to your audience.
- -Don’t offend. Shock humor can make people laugh, but you’re speaking for a brand. Vet your content carefully to make sure you don’t drive customers away or cause unintended backlash. (i.e., No discriminatory humor. Ever. You do not want to be that brand).
- -Remember that humor sometimes doesn’t translate well to written social content without adequate context. Tweets and Facebook posts should amuse without having to be explained.
- -Letting a character speak for your brand can work and make people laugh, if it’s done right:
@OldSpice uses a character persona to interact on Twitter. Mr. Wolfdog can say things that @OldSpice can’t. (Hey, he’s a Wolfdog and Wolfdogs do what they want, okay?)
- -Never use someone else’s clever line or funny quote without attribution.
- -Humor often has a target, and that target should point up; it’s sometimes okay to make fun of your brand or its image, but never your customers or the employees who work hard for you. “Visit our bakery; when you decorate a cake it looks like a Picasso. Did we mention a blindfolded, drunk Picasso?” is an example of a tweet that would likely be inappropriate for a grocery chain (but possibly fine for a local bakery with edgy cake designs and a cynical sense of humor that they often display online).
@fluevog using self-deprecating humor; here, the company acknowledges that their unusual shoe designs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. And this tweet is funny on two levels, since Buzzfeed simply posts random funny lists. There’s no lobbying involved in appearing on these.
- -Have fun kibitzing with your followers/fans, but don’t try to out-funny them, especially professional standup comics who drop your brand name. You will lose this battle.
- -Timing is everything. A well-placed line can be ten times more effective and shareable at the perfect moment, like this clever Oreo tweet when the power went out at the Super Bowl…
- -…but humor can also fail, badly, if you’ve pre-queued something clever and a natural disaster or national tragedy occurs. This would seem tone-deaf at best; aren’t you aware of what’s going on? Why are you kidding around at a time like this? Worst case would be a post that coincidentally references an event in this vein.
Things to take away:
- -If you’re not funny, or your agency doesn’t have a stable of consistently amusing social media copywriters, find someone who is. Twitter is full of comedy writers who know how to be funny on Twitter. Hire one. (They need the money.)
- -Trying too hard is obvious. Using an established brand voice is seamless.
- -Some comedy is edgy and some is safe. Is your brand edgy or “safe?” How about your target customer? What will make them laugh and share your content?
- -Being topical means being on top of all outgoing content…but hot topics often refer to headlines, and many serious issues are controversial and not fit for humorous treatment by a consumer brand. Good judgment is essential.
- -Few people like all kinds of humor, from puns to exaggerations to outright silliness.* (Rieck, 1996). You can’t make everyone laugh every time. Vary your approach.
- -Humor is often used to show others that they belong, because they’re sharing a laugh.** (Forester, 2004)
- -Humor helps to put an audience in a good mood, which makes them more receptive to messaging. They will like the brand a little bit more for making them smile, similarly to other amusing people they friend and follow.
- -Sincerity is easy. Comedy is hard.
Have fun with your content and with your customers online. Just be sure that you’re hitting the right note when you post.
*Forester, J. (2004). Responding to critical moments with humor, recognition, and hope. Citation: Negotiation Journal, 20(2), 221-237.
**Rieck, Dean, (1996). Funny Ads: Do Yucks Make Bucks or Cut Sales in Half? Via Direct Creative
Valerie Sprague is a day-to-day contact for clients working with LiveWorld to develop their online communities. We help major brands create strategies to better communicate with and learn from consumers via our own platforms, Facebook, and Twitter. Valerie specializes in social media management and strategy, copywriting, and metrics analysis to provide actionable insights. She’s really a better sidekick than front man.