Using Humour in Social Media. Seriously.

Using Humour in Social Media. Seriously.

Using humour in social media: I'm not talking about sharing funny cat pictures or the latest online meme. I'm talking about injecting a little strategic humor into your content. For some brands this may come naturally based on their product or target demographic. Or perhaps their VP of marketing was a comedian in a previous life. But for most of us, our company is 'serious business' (see what I did there) and using humour can be difficult and/or scary - especially when the internet is full of horror stories of 'brand humour gone wrong'. How about this tweet from The Onion about 9-year old actor Quvenzhané Wallis, or this one from Home Depot which was for ESPN's 'College GameDay' show. And then there was the time KitchenAid made fun of US President Barack Obama's deceased grandmother.

What not to do

Just like when you're in a group of people that you don't know really well, avoid hot button topics like religion and politics. Avoid profanity and politically incorrect terms. Avoid interacting with other inappropriate posts in case you get any backlash.

Timing is important: if you are using humor and you schedule posts in advance, don't "set it and forget it". When a tragedy occurs and word begins spreading across social media, immediately review your upcoming posts to ensure that nothing you have planned could be seen as offensive considering current events.

And though it seems like common sense, don't post when you're upset or have had too much to drink. And make sure you are comfortable switching back and forth between your personal and business accounts so you don't accidentally post an off-color joke meant for your friends to your customers and fans.

What to do

The thing to remember is that in most of those cases the posts were either poorly timed or thoughtless. Think carefully before you post, and you should be fine. Before you click 'post', consider the following:

  • is 'someone' (person, group, company) in your post the butt of the joke?

  • does it reference a tragic event?

  • do you have the urge to write 'haha' or 'just kidding' anywhere in your post?

  • did it come to you in a 5-second flash of inspiration and you just had to share it?

  • having you been laboring over your post for an hour?

If you answered yes to any of these, you might want to hit the backspace on your keyboard.

The true comedy test: imagine you are face to face with a customer. Would you be comfortable speaking your post out loud without hesitating or cringing? If yes, then post it!