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?

[...] blast your fans with boring, self-serving content. Be original, creative and (dare I suggest) funny! When planning content, ask yourself if you would share the post with your friends and family. If [...]
[...] Mitchell, of Likeable.com blog, also makes a strong point about the “human factor” [...]
Colleen Fischer October 4, 2013
Cannot agree more with this. They key is: don't try to be funny. Be funny.
Mike Mitchell October 8, 2013
Well put, Colleen. Thank you for your comment!
Lise Winther-Rauman September 23, 2013
Great post! I am also a big fan of companies using humor in their company branding on social media. I canalso really relate to your statements about how I as a consumer get a good vibe around these brands (remembering them) - which ultimatly means that me and my friends "like" them, write more about them and spend more money on them. You mention Old Spice and Taco Bell as two good examples of companies that embraced humor on social media platforms, but when I come to think of it I actually have a hard time coming up with more companies engaging in the "funny" branding on social media. Like you say the numbers speak for themselves so why haven't more companies engaged in the humor-spreading through social media?Are companies just too self-important? Or are some companies just a bit slow picking up on the informal tone on the social media platforms? Hmm I guess one true answer is properly hard to find... But thanks so much for a great post :-)
Mike Mitchell October 9, 2013
My initial reply to this has not shown up on the page, perhaps because I pasted a link, so I'll direct you to the link verbally: In this blog, under "Numbers Don't Lie," the word "Several" is linked to a piece that outlines 14 brands that use humor in their social content. Hope that helps, and thanks so much for your comment!
Lise Winther-Rauman October 10, 2013
Hi Mike thanks so much :-)
Guest September 23, 2013
Great post! I am also a big fan of companies using humor in their company branding on social media. I can also really relate to your statements about how I as a consumer get a good wipe around these brands (remembering them) – which ultimately means that me and my friends “like” them, write more about them and spend more money on them. You mention Old Spice and Taco Bell as two good examples of companies that have embraced humor on social media platforms, but when I come to think of it I actually have some trouble coming up with more brands engaging in the “funny” branding. Like you say the numbers speak for themselves so why haven’t more companies engaged in the humor-spreading on social media platforms? Are companies just too self important? Or are some companies just a bit slow picking up on the informal tone on the social media platforms? Hmm I guess one true answer is properly hard to find J But thanks for a great post!
Guest September 23, 2013
Great post! I am also a big fan of companies using humor in their company branding on social media. I can also really relate to your statements about how I as a consumer get a good wipe around these brands (remembering them) – which ultimately means that me and my friends “like” them, write more about them and spend more money on them. You mention Old Spice and Taco Bell as two good examples of companies that have embraced humor on social media platforms, but when I come to think of it I actually have some trouble coming up with more brands engaging in the “funny” branding. Like you say the numbers speak for themselves so why haven’t more companies engaged in the humor-spreading on social media platforms? Are companies just too self-important? Or are some companies just a bit slow picking up on the informal tone on the social media platforms? Hmm I guess one true answer is properly hard to find J But thanks for a great post!
Sylvie St-Amand September 20, 2013
I can't argue with that - humour, done intelligently, lightens up the day and brings good feelings. Anyone that can put a genuine smile on my face has my vote!
Mike Mitchell September 23, 2013
Then you have *my* vote, Sylvie!
MOS SEO Services September 19, 2013
That's true, applying humor in social media is pretty tricky, especially since not a lot of people might share or understand your tone.
Mike Mitchell September 23, 2013
Thanks for reinforcing that point, MOS.
[...] the Original article Funny Media Should [...]
Teresa Pangan September 15, 2013
Agree - humor is great with social media. When done right it gives a positive feeling which imprints on human minds much better than useful content. Maya Angelou's quote applies here: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Mike Mitchell September 15, 2013
Theresa, I heard that Maya Angelou quote for the first time just recently -- I was watching an interview she did with Oprah from years ago -- and it has stayed with me since. Thanks for bringing it into this discussion.
treb072410 September 14, 2013
Great post I really had a great read.. Thanks for sharing the post!
Mike Mitchell September 15, 2013
My pleasure! Thank you for your kind words!
Ali (at) iSocialYou September 13, 2013
love it being funny connects you with more people I believe
Mike Mitchell September 15, 2013
Ditto, Ali. Thanks for your comment!
[...]   [...]
Amber King September 12, 2013
Being funny makes us likeable. I have to agree with that. It exudes an aura of openness.
Mike Mitchell September 15, 2013
How very well put, Amber. Thank you for your comment.
[...] 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:  [...]

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