There is a saying that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown. Why do we not incorporate such thinking into business? For one, we can save energy, which can be distributed in better ways, and two, there is increasing benefit to being in good spirits.
The mass world of agents of humor - outside this blog post - include comedians, researchers, Forbes journalists and piggy back bloggers to name a few. With social media being the connector of players alike, it is without a question, that humor and social media go hand in hand. Like in any system, the application of humor can be compared to the application of an energy force that operates within a contained space. But its effects are unlimited, with this energy operating to help build social cohesiveness, group dynamics and collaboration. What laws of energy, then apply to the notion of humor and social media?
1) Humor is like a motion, it can continue, until it is stopped
It is increasingly important to use humor for the right purpose and setting. This can be done by focusing the message to the audience and knowing when to stop. If you are a comedian, then the essence of your livelihood lies in creating a flow of perpetual humor. While if you are doctor, you may want to crack a sincere chortle before giving your patient a big needle.
As such, keeping the audience and purpose of the joke in mind is central to getting the right outcome. Therefore, while setting up your social media strategy, it becomes important to measure and deploy the right dose of humor at the proper time.
2) What goes up must go down
Emitting humor is like turning on a vibrant light or heater, it can be felt by others. At times, people will feel your energy; other times, they will not. And eventually, the original effects will fade away. Thus analyzing and creating a timely humor strategy becomes crucial. How are my competitors using humor? What are other factors that are influencing my industry’s environment at the moment?
3) If something is really not funny, people will not find you funny
Humor is also not standardized and will be received differently by diverse backgrounds, cultures and industries. It is thus important to verify what kind of humor dynamics flow freely within your chosen system. For example if you are an investment banker you may not want to poke fun at your managing director’s conservative fashion sense; although, if you are a lady, you can likely get away with it :-)
Moreover, conventional wisdom and “gut feeling” are omnipresent across cultures. If you are saying something insulting, even if you are in a direct culture, it is not funny. If you are using humor to increase your self-worth, it can also not be funny. Respect is a universal concept; thus, there is really no need to bend the limits.
Does it pay off? When used correctly, it does. Here we present 2 great examples:
Burger King ran an ad with with a man dressed in a trench coat resembling the infamous Ronald McDonald. The man was ordering food at his competitor’s restaurant. The message is clear (the competitor is not so bad), clever (discreet play on ubiquitous symbols) and cheeky (provocative and hard to forget), rendering it highly effective.
In December 2013, Paull Young, the director of digital media of a charity fell off of his Citi Bike on the way to a meeting. Mr. Young decided to tweet about the incident; and in a response to a friend checking in on him, Paull tweeted that his pants were ruined along with the hashtag #PLEASESENDPANTS. Citi Bike quickly noticed the tweets and instantly sent Mr. Young J.Crew gift cards for some new pants along with a reassuring message and the hashtag #PANTSFORPAUL. Again, this message was genuine (done with the right purpose in mind), witty, and timed just right.