A good sense of humor is a great way to humanize a company, and when properly utilized, can dramatically increase audience engagement and profits. In the same breath, however, misusing humor in your social media can be a death sentence for your brand, making it vitally important to consider whether humor is something your target audience would appreciate, or if your brand would be safer without it. With these tips and strategies, you can make sure you’re properly equipped with all the information you need in order to make the best decisions for you and your company.
Humor is a rare phenomenon that transcends boundaries and instinctively brings people together. As a marketing tool, humor is unifying, fun, and so effective at attracting an audience that many brands have begun putting it to successful use in their marketing efforts. A company that establishes a consistent, entertaining presence online is a company that understands its target audience, its personal brand, and its ability to create content that can bridge the gap between those two worlds.
However, when poorly used, humor can spell disaster for a brand. As a result, determining when—or if—humor is right for your company’s social media output can be a daunting process. The potential gains of smart social media humor can be astronomical, but so can the potential drawbacks.
Is it Worth the Risk?
People are drawn to things that make them laugh, and a brand that successfully nails comedy is a brand that audiences will be eager to interact with. Still, as is the case with many things, humor in marketing is not without risks. As you decide whether or not humor is right for your company’s social media, keep the following tips and strategies in mind, as they will help guide you toward the direction that’s best for your company.
People Notice Humor
It’s rare for an attempt at humor to go unnoticed by an audience. People flock to good humor—if you need an example, just look at this HubSpot list of brands who successfully use humor in their social media—and when a brand can successfully find a home for it in their marketing content, then it can be a great tool in converting clients and delighting customers. Poorly used humor, however, can be distracting at best and catastrophic at worst, derailing your marketing efforts and grinding your content to a halt.
As a result, you always want to make sure that if your humor is going to be noticed—and it will be—then it’s being noticed for the right reasons. There are far too many examples of a brand totally missing the mark when it comes to their social media marketing, and a lot of those missteps came as a result of misplaced humor.
There isn’t a universal answer to social media humor, but there are some things you can do to make sure that your brand knows when to use it and when not to. Your process should always start with your buyer personas: is humor something they would appreciate? Would it help drive clicks? Convert leads? Delight customers? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you can move onto the next step, which is deciding what kind of humor would excite your audience while also remaining in alignment with your brand identity.
Humor is Human
Humor is an intrinsically human exercise, and adopting it into your social media marketing helps to pull back the corporate curtain and reveal the real people who make it run. When a brand uses humor, it reveals to its audience a glimpse of the real people who make the company run. In the same way, when a company uses social media to highlight the personality of its employees and company culture, it will humanize the company as a whole and make it that much easier for audiences to engage with you.
When humor is used well in marketing, it helps create and maintain a repertoire between the prospective buyer and seller. Customers want to do business with companies they can relate to and interact with, and the more accessible your brand is to the audience, the easier it will be for them to do business with you.
Social Media Engagement Leads to Sales
People love interacting with comedy, and when you define your brand with a fun, comedic tone you’re also defining the ways in which your target audience will engage with you.
Look at Taco Bell’s Twitter account as an example. Taco Bell’s social media puts out a lot of the promotional material you’d expect from a brand, but they’re also in a constant dialogue with their audience, as a quick glance at their mentions and replies will tell you.
These interactions are playful and even sarcastic, but most importantly, they’re consistent, which means that when their audience interacts with the brand they know what they’re going to get. And the strategy seems to be working, as the brand currently has almost two million followers.
To help you keep track of people who mention your brand online, take a look at tools like “Mention” or “Google Alerts,” as they’re programmed to notify you when anyone tags your brand’s profile directly or mentions it indirectly. This way, you can keep a finger on the pulse of your customer base, and decide when, where, and how to engage with them.
The more personality you can inject your social media profile with the more personality you’ll get back from your audience. People remember personality, and even if your social media humor doesn’t yield immediate sales growth, it will build your customer base and exposure, which inevitably leads to future sales and customer conversions.
What Makes Good Humor?
If you’re going to make use of humor in your social media profile, then you’re going to want to know what makes good humor. Some people have a natural inclination for good humor, while others do not, and it’ll be important to fill your social media staff with people who can be discerning when it comes to what makes good humor and what doesn’t. If you look at the most successful brands who use humor on social media, some trends will begin to surface.
For starters, you’ll find that the most successful brands on social media use humor that’s sarcastic, and most importantly, self-aware and even self-deprecating. Wendy’s has gained a lot of attention for the way it will tease their followers on Twitter, but this approach is risky. It seems to have paid off for them, as most of their audience actually enjoy being “roasted” by the popular fast food enterprise, and will regularly engage with the brand in hopes of being noticed.
The trick to Wendy’s success is, ultimately, their understanding of their audience. If they had wandered into this kind of social media humor without first gauging whether their customers would be receptive to it, then they would’ve been running the risk of straying from their brand identity and alienating their customers.
Successful humor means; knowing the audience that will be on the receiving end of the humor; knowing when and how to interact with people in a comedic way; and ultimately, knowing what makes something funny. To help you navigate through these, take a look at the breakdowns below.
Know the Audience
Arguably the most important step in successfully integrating humor into your social media strategies is simply knowing your audience, and knowing them well. If you use humor without first researching your target audience’s likes, dislikes, and attitudes, then you’re setting yourself up for catastrophe.
The best approach is always going to be about your audience, so be sure to talk to them and use all of the demographic information you have to help dictate what form your humor should or should not take. At its best, Forbes says that humor in marketing is:
Relatable and humanistic
Will differentiate your brand from others
A colorful addition to your brand identity.
For example, let’s look at Denny’s. In the last several years, the restaurant chain has made attracted a lot of attention because of their great use of their public Twitter and Tumblr accounts. Instead of using their social media to advertise their restaurant, Denny’s predominantly shares weird and comedic content that encourages sharing, laughter, and brand engagement.
Denny’s has built an impressive following on account of their social media presence. In doing so, they’ve not only successfully re-energized their brand by understanding who their audience is and releasing content that appeals to a demographic who’s well-versed in Internet culture.
The more familiar a brand is with their target audience, the more equipped they’ll be to produce the kinds of content that their audience will find relevant, helpful, or enjoyable. There’s a growing trend towards emphasizing the “Delight” stage of the Inbound methodology, and successfully using humor to appeal to your audience is a great way to delight new and old customers alike.
Ultimately, there’s always going to be some sliver of risk when you try something new in your marketing, but it can sometimes be an even higher risk to do nothing new at all. As always, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of including humor in your social media, because when it’s done well, not only will humor boost your social media profile, but it can be a productive tool in your marketing that can nurture your audience during every stage of the marketing funnel.