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B2B Marketing

Social Media Marketing – Using Humor

There are different types of humor and senses of humor – silly, topical, defensive, nihilistic, farce, dark, slapstick, etc. – and people use humor for a variety of reasons. Some use satire in the hopes of improving things around them (the “it’s funny because it’s not” type of humor that often evokes serious thought from its viewers…or tries to). This is seen in social media marketing – people post jokes, pictures, and videos filled with humor – and sometimes brands do it, too.

But when a brand uses humor, especially a large brand, they are trying to reach out to a large audience in such a way that gives the brand a personality. Perhaps in an attempt to bring the brand “to life” and just be an “average Joe.” With social media marketing being as interactive as it is, feedback on a new ad campaign can be swift, either positively or negatively. Additionally, once it’s posted, there’s no turning back. It will be shared, duplicated, parodied, go viral – all of which can be fantastic for a brand, or disastrous.

The Challenge

This approach can backfire – in a big way. It also seems that, the bigger the brand, the bigger potential for mishap with its audiences. The brand must use humor carefully – or expect a backlash that could reach millions.

Two factors to consider when using humor in social media marketing:

  • Who will see themselves as the butt of the joke? Will they be hurt by it? This is not just referring to a few oversensitive people. If there are even five people who feel their way of life is being trashed or diminished in some way, in the world of social media marketing, their friends will learn about it, and may be offended on their behalf. Then, the attempt at humor to tease or make a point (such as the Ragu commercial that teases “when Dad makes dinner”) backfires, and a commercial intended to hurt no one winds up damaging the reputation of a company and how they “must” feel about a certain demographic.
  • Consider how the campaigns are rolled out using social media marketing. Are bots being used to choose a certain demographic and hit them up on Twitter with the link to an ad? Will the audience appreciate it? Did the roll out match the demographic that enjoyed the ad? Using the Ragu commercial again as an example – the Twitter campaign was rolled out to those who identified themselves as fathers, and it was rolled out as a first contact, unsolicited, and therefore seen as spam.

For any brand, it’s important to reach out to as many people as possible – be aware that the subject may not be in on the joke, and find it offensive or alienating. Social media marketing is about interaction with its customers – and attracting as many new customers as possible. It is much better accomplished with humorous tactics that welcome every demographic to join in the fun.

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Adam Vandergang

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