A good sense of humor is an undeniable asset in social media marketing. A study found that among viral content, "humor was employed at near unanimous levels." We at SMT have noted the power of humor online and the many reasons for being funny, but you might be thinking, "Good to know, but now what? I can't just magically become funny."
Wit is a gift, true, but you don't need to be Rob Delaney in order to be funny online. In fact, when we're talking about being funny online, maybe what we're really talking about is being creative online. The definition of wit, after all, is "keenly apt expression that awakens amusement." Therefore, you need not make sidesplitting jokes in order to have success in this category on social. Getting your audience to smile at your cleverness might be enough. And if the end result is no more boring content, you might consider that a win.
Five Tips for Using Humor Online
1. Subvert the everyday. Aristotle once said, "The secret to humor is surprise." Well, Aristotle never had a Facebook account, but the adage is still useful. What's an interesting metaphor or lens you can apply to otherwise dry subject matter? For example, the folks at Buffer were tasked with building an infographic on the ideal length of everything online. What's the best metaphor for that?
The Internet is a zoo. This original take made the resulting infographic more memorable. Apply this to your language as well. When writing a tweet, don't just post a headline. What's the most curious, clever, and interesting way you can say what you need to say?
2. Keep it short and sweet. "Brevity is the soul of wit." -Shakespeare. Sometimes cleverness comes from compression. Trust your audience. You don't need to say, "What do you guys think is the best livestreaming app online today and why?" Instead: "Periscope or Meerkat?" As our zoo infographic shows, the pithier the statement online, the more it gets shared. So, even if you're not writing an outright joke, try with each post to cut the language down to the quick. This restriction will force you to be creative with language in ways you may have never dreamed.
3. Use voice, be relatable. Again, the key to humor is subversion. Unless you're impersonating an old-timey figure, it's tough to be funny online using formal language. The advertising agency R/GA has this mastered on Twitter. Their tweets are often remixed commentary on pop culture written in fresh, beguiling language. If you can't write this way yourself, hire a creative to do it!
A password strength indicator that says "weak" no matter what you type or how many options you try- R/GA (@RGA) August 26, 2015
This Thing Is About to Change That Other Thing Forever- R/GA (@RGA) August 14, 2015
4. Know the limits. This one is all about targets. Humor is a powerful tool, and indeed it is perhaps best used to unite people against the absurdity of the everyday (See: Jerry Seinfeld). But, you have to choose your targets carefully. Social media is not a place, but if it were, it'd be the most public place on earth. As you dig your way in to the land of Internet jokes, you might want to keep it innocuous: the weather, the subway, traffic tickets. Mention politics or religion and you're in for a firestorm.
5. Poke fun at yourself. Even if you're a "serious" brand, you have the opportunity to win customers over by showing that you don't take yourself too seriously. Self-deprecation is potentially one of the most relatable traits there is! And, because it can be risky to target others, using yourself as a target means that no one gets offended. Unless you offend yourself somehow.
Why can't you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? Because the "p" is silent! Tweet your best clean #PottyHumor and keep us rolling- Charmin (@Charmin) August 25, 2015
Looks like it's going to be a ginormous latte w/4 extra espresso shots kind of day. (we're bringing the Charmin with us for the aftermath.)- Charmin (@Charmin) August 8, 2012