Why You Should Be Funny On Social Media

By Mike Mitchell

Oxford English Dictionary defines “humor” as “something you shouldn't begin discussing by giving its dictionary definition.” … No, it doesn't. But now you get my first point.

It’s hard to put your finger on funny. Funny tends to have a certain je ne sais quois (which I believe is Gaelic for “snake that slithers westward”). I can’t comprehensively define “funny” but, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart defined pornography, I know it when I see it. For now, forget how and consider why your brand should use humor.

Whether your brand’s voice is wacky, serious, lighthearted, academic, inspirational, or anything in between, it needs at least a few moments of funny. Here’s why.

Numbers Don’t Lie

In the social media universe, humor done right can get you lots of attention. Several highly popular brands rely heavily, if not exclusively, on humor. Just check out Old Spice and its 2.5 million Facebook fans, or Taco Bell and its 10 million Facebook fans. Then watch the two interact on Twitter:

The results are wonderful, both in quality of content and quantity of interactions.

Humor Makes You Stand Out

What makes humor so effective? In his 2004 book Maximum Influence, Kurt Mortensen says that leveraging humor “in our fast-paced culture where most things are fleeting” makes those on the receiving end “remember you and continue to hold you in a positive light long after the initial exchange.” Any social network is a fast-paced fleeting content platform. Therefore, Mortensen’s advice can help your brand equity.

Being Funny Makes You More Likeable

Having your brand seem more like an interesting person than a pushy salesman can make real connections with social-media users, who are fine-tuned for detecting fakery. People can cozy up to a brand that feels human, effectively saying, “I like you. You’re a funny guy.” (Warning: Do not say this if the brand is Joe Pesci.)

The Contrast Makes Your Serious Moments Stronger

There’s a fine line between funny and offensive, between ha-ha and boo-hoo, between “That’s hilarious!” and “Burn in hell, you twisted monster.” Topics like race, religion, and sexual orientation should remain serious, no matter how many “A Bangladeshi Mormon walks into a leather bar” jokes you have. And, as Kelly Byrd pointed out in yesterday’s entry, always be respectful of other people, especially when handling highly sensitive events.

Now Make Them Laugh

How much humor you use is up to you and how it fits your brand. A fun electronics company has a lot of potential to use jokes, funny videos, etc. A non-profit dealing with a serious world issue will need to use humor more sparingly, but could still get creative.

In short, social media fans should feel like they’re listening to their neighbor talk, not hearing a lecture. That’s where humor comes into play. Whatever your brand, being funny can help transform a disconnected, corporate image into a familiar-feeling, humanized one.

Do you have personal examples of using humor to drive engagement for your brand? How did you leverage funny content?