Humour in Social Media
The Social Florist

Humour in Social Media: A Guide

Laughter might be the best medicine, but what one person might find funny, another person won’t. The ability to navigate that very fine line is what distinguishes some brands’ marketing tactics. Of course, there have been some famous flubs, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid going for a laugh. Read on to learn some dos and don’ts for injecting humour into social media posts.

Don’t…

Take Yourself Too Seriously

Taco Bell is known for its funny social media posts. Thousands of people follow its social media accounts because they know they’ll always get at least a chuckle when the fast food chain pops up in their feeds.

Taco_Bell

What’s Taco Bell’s secret? It doesn’t take itself too seriously. One popular Facebook post featured a bunch of tacos, drinks, and packages of sauce. It was captioned “Family portrait.” Taco Bell’s attempts at humour come across as spontaneous and almost effortless. You get the impression that the brand’s social media marketing team doesn’t stress in an effort to get laughs.

Do…

Stay True to Your Brand Identity

Another popular brand to follow on social media is Old Spice, the men’s line of grooming products. Like Taco Bell, Old Spice’s social media posts generally get lots of giggles.

Old_Spice

The brand doesn’t try to make jokes about deodorant or body wash. That’s because Old Spice developed an oversized, laughably macho online persona that, again, doesn’t take himself too seriously. And the company always posts content in that persona’s voice and style, even if the message is not related to anything Old Spice sells. Take, for example, a tweet from November 2015: “Every day is abs day when you’re a snake.” The lesson here is that once you’ve developed a brand identity, everything you post should be in line with it.

Don’t…

Be Afraid to Break out of Your Comfort Zone (But DO Keep It Appropriate)

During the last few days of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, the burger chain Wendy’s made waves on social media for breaking with its wholesome, noncontroversial, and safe image. A Twitter follower accused the franchise of using frozen beef (when it claims not to). Wendy’s fired back with a not-so-subtle dig at the tweeter’s intelligence. The exchange of tweets was so out of character for the brand that Wendy’s had to reassure its followers it hadn’t been hacked.

Wendy’s snarky tweets changed the way people perceive the brand. As a result, it’s now seen as edgier and bolder. However, Wendy’s never crossed the line of being insulting or mean. While it hinted that the Twitter user accusing the company of lying wasn’t the brightest, Wendy’s never came out and called him a name (stupid or worse)—as is so pervasive on Twitter these days.

The takeaway is that you shouldn’t be afraid to channel your inner comic, but there are a few best practices to keep in mind. If you’re not already using much humour online already, be prepared for a surprised reaction from followers. Don’t let that sway you from being funny. Stick with it, so long as you don’t engage in any cruel behavior.

Do…

Stay Current

In a February 2017 tweet to remind students to submit their federal financial aid forms, the US Federal Student Aid Office incorporated an animated GIF of a triumphant Lady Gaga concluding her Super Bowl halftime performance above the following message: When you hit “Submit” on your FAFSA. #DropTheMic

Lady_Gaga

Hundreds of people liked the tweet and shared it.

This tweet played up an event that many people had just seen and it included a video, which is quite popular nowadays. Circling back on our aforementioned list of dos: the federal agency made sure the tweet wasn’t offensive, couldn’t be misinterpreted, and fit in with its core mission.

Don’t…

Try to Make Death or Tragedies Funny

Actress Carrie Fisher passed away at the end of 2016. Her most famous role was Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” movies. In the first film of the franchise, Fisher wore her hair in two enormous buns on either side of her head. To mark Fisher’s passing, the cinnamon bun chain Cinnabon tweeted a picture of Princess Leia in profile, superimposed with cinnamon buns and this message: RIP Carrie Fisher, you’ll always have the best buns in the galaxy.

Cinnabon

Many in the Twittersphere thought the post was in poor taste. They believed Cinnabon was trying to make money off of Fisher’s death. The company deleted the tweet, but not before attracting a great deal of ire and unwanted attention. Here’s the moral of the story: it might make sense to acknowledge a celebrity passing, but don’t try to get a laugh from it.

Using humour can endear you to customers … when you utilize it correctly. Keep in mind the best practices mentioned above, and your followers will be laughing with you, not at you.

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Rachel Levy Sarfin
Rachel Levy Sarfin is a Toronto-based freelancer who has written about technology for a variety of publications and blogs.
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