Using Humor in Social Media

Social media is a great way to connect with customers on all kinds of levels – through posting statuses about what the company’s doing, planning, and even having a little fun with consumers. The average John and Jane Doe are constantly posting status updates on their Twitter or Facebook, sharing videos, pictures, and funny thoughts to share.

This doesn’t have to be just for them, though – companies and corporations can get in on the fun, too…and make themselves more “real” to their consumer base. However, using humor to spice up a social media site is a risk, and there are some “dos and don’ts” that are important for companies to follow if they want to reach a big audience. Below are 3 tips and tricks to making the most of humor in social media.

1. Know the Butt of the Joke

The best start with using humor in social media is to be aware of whom the butt of the joke will be, and to make sure it’s not going to come off as harsh. One of the more recent examples of a blunder in social media was made by Ragu, when they ran a Twitter spam ad campaign that targeted “Dads” having to make dinner. The idea, of course, was not to alienate fathers as bumbling fools who stumble around the kitchen with zero parenting skills – but that is exactly what wound up happening.

Looking back, it’s easy to see the two major mistakes that Ragu made when performing this attempt at humor – spamming, and not knowing their audience. Ragu is a convenience food – sauce in a jar that makes pasta taste good, without a huge amount of work. So it would seemingly appeal to those parents who are busy with work all day, and having to come home and whip up dinner on the fly. No problem with that…however…

By sending out a blast Tweet to those who were not regular customers, and therefore, not necessarily their target consumers, they missed the mark with those fathers who take pride in their cooking skills, are careful with their children, and would otherwise be insulted by an ad that pokes fun at those Dads who are more “convenience oriented.”

The second mistake was targeting an audience as the butt of the joke, when there are a number of men and women out there who don’t find picking on dads very amusing. The critique of Ragu went viral – and their sales may very well have suffered as a direct result of this social media interaction.

The easiest way to avoid causing a scandal is to really analyze what kind of joke is being made, and if a customer base will be hurt or put-off by it. Social media is humanizing, but that is not Carte Blanche to pick on any group of people, only to later have to say, “sorry, just kidding.” Also…avoid spamming. People don’t like it and will be more likely to react negatively to a joke advertisement.

2. All in Good Taste

Avoid being crass, using profanity (obviously), or being insensitive to a particular world event – for example, Occupy Wall Street. Keep political humor out of the conversation. Though these might seem obvious, sometimes it’s easy to make a flub that will cost customers.

For example, Kenneth Cole once posted that the reason that millions were “in an uproar about Cairo” was because they’d all heard that KC’s Spring Collection was available online. This comment, made by Mr. Cole himself (as it was signed “KC”) did not go over well with his audiences, and he removed the Tweet. He then issued a statement on his Facebook page regarding the incident.

Oftentimes, it is much easier to avoid this kind of mistake altogether rather than having to apologize for it later and attempting to save face.

3.  Self-Parodies Work

While making fun of others and parodying their products and services can come across as mean mud-slinging, audiences love when a brand makes fun of itself. Sometimes it’s worth the risk to be a little goofy with one’s own product.

Naturally, make sure the parody doesn’t go overboard to the point where people are replying, “this is a stupid product…” Have fun with it, and know when to stop. Because social media is instantaneous, something that’s put out there can go viral in (literally) seconds – make sure it’s going viral for a positive reason.

Be genuine, and stick to wit and observational humor, keeping it light and clean in order to have fun with audiences and avoid alienating anyone. Attracting new customers is often the goal of social media. To do so, it’s best practice to avoid spam, and follow the above tips for an interactive, “real” experience with consumers.

Pam Velazquez is a content writer for

Image credit ahmeddin

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