Earlier this year, Forbes published a piece advancing the notion that funny people may actually have an edge in business. They note that when people use humor successfully in their business interactions, “they are connecting with people and building relationships, which creates opportunities that other people may not have.” The same can be said for social media.
A good sense of humor is a valuable asset in life; not just for individuals, but for businesses as well. The saying “everyone loves a good laugh” is worth remembering when you’re formulating your approach to social media marketing/engagement.
Here are five things to keep in mind when using humor as part of your social media strategy.
Choose Your Topics Carefully
Our politicians and political parties (on both sides of the spectrum) often make it embarrassingly easy to poke fun and score cheap laughs at their expense. It’s your brand, so stay true to yourself, but tread carefully with topics like politics, religion, race, and gender. One ill-advised gag could falsely identify your brand with a political movement or ideology, whether you like it or not.
Also, keep in mind your target audience. What plays well in one part of the world may be completely lost on another. Will that wisecrack elicit a chuckle in Spain or India as easily as it will in the United States? Humor is subjective and varies across borders.
Focus Group It
Everyone loves a good belly laugh, but humor is highly subjective. To successfully add humor to your social media activity, it may take some focus grouping. That doesn’t mean assembling a group of randomly selected people in a room each time you wish to tweet something you think is clever; the logistics would be a nightmare. Bounce your humor off co-workers, however, whenever possible and see how they react. I’ve had some of my own groan-inducing “zingers” excised from my posts in the past, and I’m probably the better for it.
Keep Your Finger on the Pulse
Your social media team should stay on top of what’s happening in the world of current events and pop culture. What’s popular right now? What are people buzzing about? Take this recent example from Sesame Street, a brand that’s done a terrific job of social media engagement. Team Sesame took a highly popular song and produced a parody featuring one of their most beloved characters. Your brand may not have Cookie Monster at its disposal (big stars like him are too pricey anyway), but keep an eye on social media’s trending topics to get ideas for good parody or satire-worthy content.
Don’t Overdo it
Unless your brand’s name is The Daily Show or Jimmy Kimmel Live, there is no need to make every tweet, update or blog post a laugh riot. Unless humor is absolutely central to your brand’s identity, you don’t have to become the social arena’s class clown. If you received a good response to a recent humorous tweet or update, leave things on a high note. Don’t risk losing your audience with a steady stream of increasingly swing-and-miss gags. And when a crisis hits, put the rubber chicken away and slap on the serious face.
It Really Can Help the Bottom Line
An old, but oft-noted 1993 study in the Journal of Marketing found that:
“Humor is more likely to enhance recall, evaluation, and purchase intention when the humorous message coincides with ad objectives, is well-integrated with those objectives, and is viewed as appropriate for the product category. Under such circumstances, humorous advertising is more likely to secure audience attention, increase memorability, overcome sales resistance, and enhance message persuasiveness.”
They were referring to traditional marketing back in ’93, but I believe that line of thinking still stands with regards to social media marketing and engagement. Agree? Disagree?
(Note: This post originally appeared on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud blog on September 6, 2012.)