How Using Humor on Social Media Helps Brands

Previously on this blog, I’ve discussed the importance of having an authentic voice on social media in order to make your brand more personable. One way to show your personable side is through humor. Brands use humor in a variety of ways on social media by making inside jokes, posting witty commentary on current events, or engaging humorously with other brands. In doing so, these brands build their personality and humanize themselves, which appeals to users of social media. Furthermore, using humor encourages users to not only follow your brand, but to also share your content with their friends.

Brands Using Humor

One recent example of brands using humor occurred during the brief Facebook outage last Monday morning. Check out this example from Venus:


In this instance, Venus is making an inside joke that plays off of the stereotype that most of us are glued to social media throughout the day. This type of humor appeals to users because it is humanizing – it shows that Venus is paying attention to Facebook being down, just like the rest of us.

Another way that brands successfully use humor on social media is by engaging with other brands:


In this example, Taco Bell and Old Spice are joking as if they are not just fellow brands, but friends connecting on social media the same way that the average user does. Both Taco Bell and Old Spice are known for frequently using humor on social media. This seems to work for them, as Old Spice has 2.5 million fans on Facebook and Taco Bell has 10 million.

One final example of great humor use is Charmin:


With their silly #tweetfromtheseat, Charmin also brings humanity into their social media content, and they even allow users to participate.

Why Humor Works

So why does humor appeal to consumers? First and foremost, humor is humanizing. It shows that you are not just a brand, you also have a personality that users can relate to. In addition, humor makes excellent content for sharing. If something makes a user laugh, he or she is that much more likely to want to share it with friends. Finally, humor makes you likeable and unique. By using humor on social media, you are creating a social media presence that users will want to follow, and you are also making your brand stand out from the crowd.

When Humor Fails

Despite the fact that humor has huge benefits for brands on social media, there are cases in which humor goes to far. This tweet from Kenneth Cole is one that I have discussed before as a major social media fail:


Here, Kenneth Cole isn’t making a humanizing joke like the brands above. Instead, Kenneth Cole is making light of a serious political situation and using it to sell their products, which is obviously in poor taste.

Another excellent example of humor gone wrong lies in this tweet from Durex South Africa:


In this instance, Durex makes an obviously sexist joke that outright implies rape – again, this was clearly a tweet made in poor taste, to say the least.

Using Humor Effectively

How can brands use humor effectively on social media? First, remember that the best humor is that which comes naturally. If your humor seems forced, your audience is sure to notice, just as they will notice if you are using an inauthentic voice. Second, to avoid a social media snafu such as Kenneth Cole, it is best to shy away from joking about political situations or other controversial events. Finally, before making any post on social media, always take a second look. Is it possible that your joke could be offensive? If the answer is yes, it’s probably not worth the risk.

How has your brand successfully (or unsuccessfully) used humor on social media?

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Elizabeth K

Elizabeth Kent is a recent graduate with an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University. She earned her B.A. from Smith College with a major in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in Jewish Studies. Elizabeth recently relocated from the Boston area back to Western Massachusetts, where she spends her free time volunteering with a local non-profit organization. Elizabeth has worked as a writing tutor, archival intern, research assistant, and retail associate. Her interests include studying pop culture, kittens, and making meals with as little cooking as possible.

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