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Humor is the great equalizer, especially on social media. Social platforms welcome funny content as a way for brands to engage audiences.

But how you use humor and in what context matter. Because stepping over the line with offensive humor can have dire consequences.

Let’s break down the value of humor and also talk about what type of humor brands should avoid.

Use humor to get your foot in the door

Social media users are not fools.

They are keenly aware when a brand is trying to sell them something. If that brand comes across as salesy, they will reject the product. Consumers will believe the company is more interested in profits than in their wants and needs.

But if you post content that is humorous, it puts people at ease. Everyone likes to laugh, so humor helps break the ice.

Humor is an effective way to reveal the “story” of your brand or, in other words, the human side of your business.

Posting video content of employees in funny situations at work is a great example. Social media users will believe that your employees are normal people trying to do their best every day.

And once you have used humor to break down the walls between your brand and social media users, you create an environment where you can build trust.

Content that drives an emotion performs better – humor can break through the noise

Humans are estimated to have the same attention span as a goldfish, which is pretty sad if you think about it.

Humans are also bombarded by messages every day. The increase in messages drives a tremendous amount of noise. Businesses need to stand out in order to cut through the clutter. Once you cut through the clutter, you have a split second to convey your message. Even after the message is conveyed, it is unlikely to be remembered. Content marketing that is humorous, has a better chance of being memorable as people remember funny things. Funny things are more enjoyable and easier to recall.

Different styles of comedy appeal to different types of people. So think carefully… would your target audience find a silly joke funnier than self deprecating cynicism?

Customize your jokes towards your reader so that you have the best chance at cracking a smile and generating results.

Use humor to take advantage of pop culture events

One reason social media is so popular is that users can react to breaking news and pop culture events as they unfold. And that same opportunity for topicality exists if brands want to take advantage of timely events by spinning them with humor.

Oreo used this technique to perfection during the 2013 Super Bowl. The game was interrupted by a blackout that resulted in a delay. During the delay, Oreo posted a tweet with an image of a single Oreo cookie washed in a spotlight, while the rest of the photo was dark.

The caption read, “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.”

The tweet went viral on social media. It earned 16,000 retweets and became one of the most talked-about moments of the Super Bowl.

But, guess what?

Although the tweet took advantage of an unforeseen event, Oreo’s social media team was ready to craft that tweet. The team had spent 18 months prior to that Super Bowl implementing a social media strategy. This strategy resulted in the team posting at least one piece of content every day. As a result, Oreo’s social media teams were uniquely positioned to respond quickly and cleverly to an unforeseen event. They were then able to spin the event to the brand’s advantage.

Best of all, the tweet was funny.

So think about how you can take advantage of a breaking news event in a humorous way.

For example, during the recent Sony Pictures email hacking scandal, a computer security firm could have posted funny social media content. They could have referenced the scandal and how the breach would not have occurred if Sony had installed its software.

Use humor to hide your sales pitch

Humorous social media content also deflects attention from the fact that your posts are designed to market a product or service.

Charmin is a great example of a brand that uses humor in a way that disguises its sales approach.

The company has a significant Twitter presence, where it posts daily advice to help people in different situations in their lives. But what is really interesting is that every tweet in some way refers back to Charmin toilet paper without the tweet screaming, “Buy our products!”

One funny tweet with the hashtag #HowToGetOutOfAConvesation read: “. . . tell them you have to uhh . . . go.”

Another funny tweet read: “#RelationshipsTheseDaysAre like toilet paper. Either they are super plushy, strong and awesome . . . or they are full of crap. Choose wisely.”

The funny pieces of advice are not only applicable to real life situations but the innuendos align with the products the company offers, a two-for-one accomplishment that is every marketer’s dream.

Be funny, not offensive

It is important to remember that crude or offensive humor will likely turn off your audience unless you are a brand that is known for stepping over the line.

For example, Barstool Sports has branded itself as an online sports media company that frequently posts crude and sexist materials that appeals to its demographic of young males who are attracted by the brand’s willingness to go where others will not.

For most brands, however, humorous content on social media should be clever, easy-to-understand and family-friendly. Companies that can consistently produce funny content that humanizes their brands, puts users at ease and takes advantage of pop culture events can attract attention, increase prospects and boost their bottom lines. To learn more about creating social media content that can convert readers into customers, contact us today.

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