Using Humor in Social Media Marketing: Balancing Fun & Professionalism
Like many folks, I’m a fan of Larry David. Seinfeld is a frequent choice for a late-night watch, and while I can’t commit to watching five seasons of “Breaking Bad”, I have no problem with watching all eleven of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.
I took my love of laughter a little further than the average person, though, and I actually became a stand-up comedian. After several years of balancing a career in both comedy and content marketing, I get one question pretty consistently:
What on earth does social media marketing have to do with comedy?
The answer? Plenty.
When it comes to reaching your audience, there are few things more universal than a smile. Whether it’s putting a running joke into a live chat series, adding a well-placed emoji in a LinkedIn post, or jumping on a viral trend to make it relate to your audience, humor is all around us. Particularly in the world of high tech — where things are often serious business — a little levity can make you stand out from the crowd. But how do you know when a joke is okay, and where to draw the line?
When it comes to content marketing and B2B communications, I often think about the poster in the fictionalized version of Larry David’s office in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” It’s a 1929 Mather Work Incentive Poster that depicts a clown kicking a top hat, with the text “Funny? Jokes that injure others, waste time, hurt records…are never jokes. Let’s think twice.” While the poster is more of a satirical in-joke to David’s irreverant writing, it’s actually great advice for marketers. Here are some Do’s and Don’t’s for humor in your content:
- Show the lighter side of work. Did your team have a great time dancing together at a work event? Did you get a little messy volunteering outside of the office? Did you have a funny blooper while filming an industrial video? Show those things! It not only humanizes your company, it can also help attract new talent. This is especially important post-pandemic, when folks are more concerned than ever about work-life balance and the ability to bring their “whole self” to work.
- Weave humor into expertise. As a livestream producer, I’ve found that many people’s first instinct is to be very serious on camera, but being an expert doesn’t have to mean austerity. In fact, my biggest wins in livestreams have come from folks feeling comfortable, loosening up, and having a good time while presenting boatloads of information! The same principle can be applied to social media posts, blogs, and emails that are typically information-heavy. It is okay to bring some laughter to the table along with your knowledge.
- Use viral trends to your advantage. Is there a joke structure going around on Twitter that makes you laugh every time you see it? A popular video style you just can’t get enough of? A sound you’re hearing on TikTok or Instagram Reels that is just so relatable? Adapt it to your audience and your needs! If you like it, other people probably do, too.
- Injure others: It goes without saying that harmful stereotypes, culturally-insensitive slang, and jokes about marginalized groups are never okay. In stand up, this is referred to as “punching down”, and I’ve seen folks banned from performing in entire cities for it. If you have to question if your content involves any of those things, scrap what you’ve done and start over. On a less intense note, but still in the same vein, you should avoid mud-slinging at competitors or making a joke when a customer asks a question or poses a concern on social media. It’s just plain rude.
- Waste time: Don’t publish posts that have absolutely nothing to do with your page. Your audience follows you on social media, subscribes to your email list, and reads your blog because they WANT information about your company, services, or expertise. There are a million other pages they can go to solely for entertainment — don’t take up valuable real estate with content that isn’t relevant. It wastes your customers’ time and lessens their trust.
- Hurt records: Overstating expertise, abilities, or customer results isn’t just bad business — in some cases, it can be illegal. Avoid allegations of false advertising by citing sources or using specific examples. Be responsible with the claims you’re making in your marketing. Adding “a little razzle dazzle” (as I always say) does not mean outright lying. In addition, stretching the truth only serves to minimize your reliability, and no one wants to work with a company that’s disreputable.
The next time you are sitting at your desk, looking out the window and trying to think of a creative way to stand out to your customer base, think of Larry David and channel his ability to find the funny in everyday life. Heed the warning of the poster on his wall, but don’t forget: the combination of humor and your unique expertise can be truly magical, and your audience’s enthusiasm won’t soon be curbed.
Ready to balance humor with professionalism in your marketing? Dive deeper with Aventi Group and let’s make your audience smile––without compromising your brand.