Laughter is one of the most wonderful gifts bestowed upon us by our Creator. But humor in Social Media is a tricky thing. My sense of humor is admittedly a bit nerdy and peculiar - and to many people, decidedly un-funny. Yet I persist in trying to make people laugh - or at least crack a smile. So if you want to try to be funny in social media - go for it (carefully) - the world needs more laughter.
Well - let me be a bit more specific.
The world needs more laughter - but don't let it be at your (or your company's) expense!
It's possible that you might just make a few strangers, friends, co-workers and colleagues snicker...but on the other hand, you might embarrass yourself in front of someone influential. Or (doomsday scenario) - you write something truly memorable and it goes semi-viral on you.
Social Media Best Practice #7:
Never make people laugh - unless that is the INTENDED outcome.
If you are making people laugh in an unintended fashion, odds are it's because you've unintentionally communicated something - and people are laughing AT you...not WITH you.
And 95% of the time, when people are laughing at you in this scenario, it is because you've done something very simple, and very preventable - you've massacred a sentence.
My First Massacre
One of my favorite sentences ever is "Flying around the room, I saw two birds."
A high school English teacher (Mr. Dick Mitchell - Amherst Central H.S. - if you are still with us, you were a great teacher) once wrote that sentence on the board. After a brief pause, everybody laughed - raucously.
It was clear what the sentence was SUPPOSED to mean - as well as what the sentence ACTUALLY meant.
I always think about that sentence when I write, and try to make sure I don't say anything that makes people giggle - thereby damaging the credibility of the company (not to mention my own reputation).
Witnessing a Massacre - first hand
The first thing I do every morning is read the news. I'm not sure why - it's rarely good.
But in this case, Google News brings up a headline about Governor Christie Outting Mitt Romney. Of all the people in the Universe, Mr. Romney is the last person I'd expect to be in this situation.
Governor Christie 'Outs' Mitt Romney? Really? As in "evict him from some self-imposed closet"?
I opened up the article, prepared for the shock - only to find out that it was simply a bad sentence. The editor (or author) wrote "Christie off to Colorado, will help out Romney" - rather than "will help assist Romney" or simply "will help Romney".
Word to the Wise - Massacres are Preventable
To paraphrase what a "shop" teacher in Jr. High School once told us, "read twice...post once".
I always leverage the skills of at least one other person to act as an informal "editor" - to read the text and point out obvious inconsistencies, errors or structural problems - and potential embarrassments.
As an allegedly professional Software Marketing / Strategy professional, I take extreme care when I publish things on the company website, blog, or other such places that bear the company name.
Granted, in my non-professional work - my personal "Software Marketing and Strategy" blog, I'm sure you'll find boo-boos - but that site doesn't say "Dell.com" on it (Dell is my employer). As my social media topics move further from "personal social media" and closer to "Professional/Employer-related" topics, the more careful I get.
And the most effective way to be careful - have other people READ YOUR STUFF before you hit the publish button. I've had the opportunity to work with some truly amazing writers. Not one of them would hit the publish button before having an "uninvolved" person read the piece first.
"A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client" - or so goes the old saying. The same holds true for a writer who is his or her own editor/reviewer.