Everyone loves a laugh…
“There is nothing in the world more irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” Charles Dickens said that. And apparently he knows a thing or two about writing.
Humour is a powerful tool. In the world of content marketing and social media, injecting humour into your strategy is a great way to grab attention, give your brand some personality and engage your audience on another level.
But that’s only if you pull it off. Humor is hard; it’s subjective and extremely polarising. When you try to be funny, you always open yourself up to the possibility of alienating large groups who just don’t get it. And even worse – if you offend people, you run the serious risk of damaging your brand’s reputation, losing customers or getting sued. Been there and yeah, not so funny…
So if you’re going to do it, you need to do it right. If you want to develop a funny social and content strategy that works for your business, you need to fully understand exactly why humour works and how it can be used effectively.
Why Humour Works
1. Humour Is Shareable
Like Dickens said, humour is infectious. It’s a method of social bonding. When you see something hilarious online, you immediately have the urge to share it with others or send it to someone you know will love it. Humour is a language that everyone speaks, making this kind of content extremely easy to share.
Although social networks have developed significantly since their inception, at their core Facebook, Twitter and Instagram etc are still social. Users login to get a break from the real world, to connect with others and to be entertained. If your content has enough humour to satisfy the latter, it has the potential to go viral and stir conversation.
2. It’s A Way To Sell Without Selling
Marketing your brand on social media is not easy. Users see straight through an ad or a blatant sales pitch. We don’t go on social networks to be sold to, so when we see clear marketing material, our instinct is to ignore.
Being funny therefore gives you the chance to sell your brand, without actually selling your product or service. For example, if you run a beauty business and you create a hilarious meme about lipstick that instantly goes viral, your brand name will appear in the feed of thousands of new people. You’ve significantly increased your reach and brand awareness without even mentioning what it is you do.
3. It Makes You Stand Out
With the constant flow of never-ending content on social media, it’s becoming harder and harder for brands to be heard among all the noise. Funny content, if it’s really funny, is always a surefire way to grab attention and stop people in their scroll. In addition, if you get people talking, you can bag some digital PR wins. For example, here’s an article the Daily Telegraph wrote about funny tweets from A Level results day, including one of mine (no.21) *proud moment.*
Humour is memorable too. It sparks an emotional reaction that lasts. If your content is truly hilarious, those who read it will be able to recall it weeks, months or even years down the line. Being memorable is valuable to brands of all kinds, but particularly so if your brand is seasonal.
4. Opportunity To Reinvent
If you have a brand with a longstanding history and reputation, taking your content in a new, humorous direction gives you the chance to reinvent how people see you.
Being funny can be particularly effective for non-commercial, or ‘boring’ brands. That’s why names like Old Spice and the toilet paper company Charmin have been so successful with their funny content marketing. When your industry isn’t inherently commercial, the unexpectedness of your humour makes it even funnier.
Smaller businesses with smaller budgets can do this just as well as bigger brands. For example, one of the brands I market, a small Northern Irish courier firm, NIParcels.com, was able to reach 2 million website visitors by simply steering our blog content in a funnier direction.
Instead of writing about parcel delivery, we turned our attention to the local ‘Northern Irish’ aspect of the brand. One blog post entitled “40 Things Only Northern Irish People Do” got over 200,000 hits overnight and racked up over 50,000 shares on Facebook. Not bad for a business based in a country with a population of just 1.8million.
Tips For Using Humour In Social Media And Content Marketing
1. Have Objectives & Make It Measurable
If you’re using social media to market your brand, you need to have objectives, just like with any other marketing channel. It doesn’t matter whether you’re posting a gif on Facebook or a call to action on LinkedIn – every single piece of content you promote on your social media channels should have a tangible goal that you’re able to measure afterwards. These goals should be in line with your overall corporate goals and marketing strategy.
When it comes to humorous content, your goals should focus on engagement, reach or brand awareness, rather than sales, lead generation or acquisition. This because humorous content very rarely drives direct conversion – it’s brand building and a method of establishing a relationship with your followers that eventually turns them into customers.
To give you an example, this morning I posted a meme on the Uni Baggage facebook page. My goal was to reach 10,000 students organically and increase our overall page likes by 50. Then I would use Facebook ads to target these 50 new followers with a sales ad, promoting Uni Baggage’s services and hopefully acquire some new customers.
2. Don’t Force It
Say something funny. Go on, tell a hilarious joke. It’s not easy is it? Trying to be funny and forcing humour is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a brand.
Being incredibly unfunny is as memorable as being incredibly funny. If your humour falls flat, people will remember you for all the wrong reasons and you’ll change how your brand is viewed.
3. Don’t Laugh At Anyone
Under no circumstances should you ever make a joke at someone else’s expense on social media. This is how businesses get sued. Steer clear of any material that’s racial, sexual or political in nature.
Self-deprecating humour works but there is a fine line. At Uni Baggage we post daily text memes poking fun at students and university life. Rather than being outright offensive, the tone is ironic. The audience understands and connects well with this which is reflected in our consistently high engagement levels.
4. Know Your Audience
Not everyone shares the same sense of humour, so if you want your content to resonate, you need to target it very specifically. For instance, 60 year old men probably aren’t going find Beyonce related gif as funny as 18 year old girls.
Use analytics tools to get to know who your audience are and carry out some research on what kind of funny content they like to share. This will give you an idea of whether their tastes are edgy, self-deprecating or slapstick.
5. Keep It Relevant
With the rise of platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories, social media is becoming more transient and impermanent. This has a huge impact on the kind of content we create and publish as it needs to be timely and ‘of the moment’. Content that spreads the furthest is always relevant in terms of cultural references and current affairs. To do this well, you need to have a solid understanding of what people are talking about here and now.
Spend time on Twitter every day looking a trending topics and coming up with ideas on how your brand can ‘hijack’ these stories and events in an interesting way.
6. Relate It Back To Your Brand
On that note, you must ensure that all content relates back to your brand. If you run a car dealership, there’s no point sharing a blog post of the 20 Funniest Cat Videos Of All Time to your Facebook fans. It might get some interaction but the numbers will be wasted as the subject does not relate back to what you’re selling.
For your business, social media is a marketing channel and all marketing activity must be measurable. Every like, share, retweet or comment needs to have value. If your content does not circle back to your service or product it can be very difficult to identify what your business is achieving through social media.
While useful and informative content is great for SEO and driving direct conversions, humour is the most effective way to generate enormous reach and increase your brand awareness which eventually leads to powerful relationships that bring about loyal customers and repeat sales.
No matter what your brand or business, there’s always a way to introduce a little playfulness with your content and social media efforts. You can create your own memes, gifs, videos or experiment with puns and witty Tweets.
The key lies in finding the right tone that fits naturally with your brand and your audience. If you’re able to find and hone that voice, you’ll always have the last laugh.