Why and how to inject humor into your social media branding

Clever tweets, amusing memes and funny remarks when you answer questions about your products can attract new customers and deepen the engagement of long-time fans.

Who doesn’t like laughing? Why not bring humor to your brand and make your followers happy?

A phenomenon has arisen in the world of social media marketing—the steady flow of humor as a consistent feature of a given brand.

That means not just being funny every now and then in a television commercial, but being funny in day-to-day interactions with fans and customers.

Why use humor?

Social media creates personal connections. By using humor you can show your fans that you your brand is human and relatable, so that more people will like it (actually like it, not just “like” it on Facebook).

In addition, humor grabs attention. It sets you apart from your competitors and gets people to notice your brand in a crowded field.

Finally, all these things contribute to more shares. More shares = more exposure.

So, even if humor doesn’t lead to direct sales, it is a great way to build consumer awareness and deepen fan loyalty.

Create your brand voice, and use it.

Your brand voice is essentially the tone—serious, informative, funny, helpful—that pervades your website content, social media posts and so on.

So, the first thing to do is to determine whether humor fits your brand voice.

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Are you generally lighthearted? Does the product you sell lend itself to being talked about humorously, or do you sell something like insurance—in which case you’ll probably be posting boring stuff like this entry from Progressive (we’ll get back to that in a minute):

If your brand does lend itself to humor, work on developing your brand voice. You can go for one of two options: Be funny and helpful, or just be ridiculous.

Decide on the proper tone for your posts, and get started. Present a unified image to your customers, though. If you are going to be fully ridiculous on social media, then you should be ridiculous on all your social media accounts and probably on your website as well.

Perhaps no brand has achieved this better than Old Spice. Not only has Old Spice created one of the wackiest sets of YouTube ads we’ve seen (if not check them out here), but it’s fully wacky on social media as well.

Or on Twitter:

Old Spice has created a strong brand voice that enables it to post stuff like the above tweet, which still promotes the brand.

Now, remember I mentioned we would get back to Progressive? Well, that’s because the folks there did something very smart.

Clearly, the Progressive line of insurance products is serious, so it isn’t exactly the place to inject humor, which is why they created Flo the Progressive Girl (a StoreYa customer)—their funny “mascot” who is the face of the brand in all of its commercials.

The beauty of this, aside from great TV spots, is that Progressive created a second persona for itself—it has the brand voice, and now it has Flo’s voice as well, which has enabled brand managers to post stuff like this:

This tweet wouldn’t fit in at all on Progressive’s feed, but it fits perfectly in Flo’s feed and makes people like Flo even more, which in turn makes people like Progressive.

Pretty cool, right?

Brand-related humor works, too.

Being funny on social media doesn’t mean humor can’t relate directly to your brand.

Newcastle Brown Ale has done an amazing job of joking around and talking about its product at the same time:

As you can see by the interaction with this tweet, people enjoy the brewer’s light touch.

Make your humor timely.

Remember Oreo’s clever tweet during the power outage at the 2013 Super Bowl?

This approach helps you to connect with your brand’s fans on two levels—first through humor and second by choosing events relevant to your target audience, so you can bond with your fans over a shared interest and experience.

Android’s Facebook page puts a different spin on this technique: It doesn’t just hop onto major events; it hops onto all events.

Find your balance. Maybe you want to have the brand that finds all the events, or maybe for you it would be better to tackle only the largest events.

Whichever strategy you choose, taking advantage of world events to be funny is a great social media strategy. (Just don’t make the fatal error of trying to be funny about a disaster or other tragic event.)

Tell a story.

Everyone likes a good story, including your social media followers.

If your social media posts tell a story, paint a picture or say something beyond the text, and your followers will love you more.

There are two good ways of telling a “joke story” as I’ll call it. The first option is something like this:

(First of all, hilarious, right?)

Anyway, this post contains the entire story in one shot. Simple: one post, one story.

The next storytelling technique is more complicated. Instead of just telling the entire story in one post, with this method you would draw out the story over a few posts.

JCPenney gives us an amazing example of this. During the Super Bowl last year (yes, another Super Bowl example) JCPenney started sending out some pretty nonsensical tweets, such as this one below:

These poorly written tweets started getting some attention from other brands:

Clearly something must be wrong with JCPenney, right?

Well, as things began to get more ridiculous, suddenly the brand managers sent out this tweet explaining the whole story.

This is an awesome example of brand managers’ use of storytelling not just in a funny way, but also in a way that promoted the company’s products.

Get interactive.

The point of humor is to engage fans, so why not make your humor interactive?

Try asking your fans to be funny, too. This is a common practice in social media marketing—for example, any time you urge your fans to “caption this photo,” you’re inviting them to be funny.

The second way to do it is to interact with your fans in a humorous way.

When a fan asks a question, if you can answer the question and throw in some humor, too, go for it. It will be appreciated.

Check out these witty responses from Pizza Hut and Domino’s.

To be ready to leave a clever comment—or respond to any complaint—use a tool like Mention or Google Alerts to follow all online mentions of your brand.

There are lots of ways to become an Internet jokester (and boost sales); it’s up to you to decide which methods to use.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Store Ya blog.


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