According to the king of comedy, George Carlin: it is the duty of the comedian is to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately. Naturally, this means that the is to learn the words that poke the most fun at yourself – and then poke yourself in the eye deliberately.
Just kidding. You should only poke yourself accidentally (and in public) if you're looking for pure entertainment.
The thing is, I can't see if you're laughing, poking (or both!) or just staring blankly at the screen while you're reading this article (If you do laugh and poke yourself, don't blame me if you start crying from sheer awkwardness). But isn't that the thing with comedy and content marketing?
Things can get awkward super fast. You write something silly with the hope that the audience likes (and laughs!) at what you write. And you won't know if your content makes (or misses) the mark until after you hit publish. But when done well, humor in your marketing gets your content shared, commented on, and can deliver a ton of traffic. So, how do you use humor in content marketing in a way that works?
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Know your audience
There's a 99.9% chance that if you're reading this, you're a smart human with a sarcastic sense of humor (this stat is 100% made up). So let's sit back and ponder how you'll use your wit to hit the funny bone of your audience.
When you know your audience, it doesn't matter whether you use humor on Instagram, Twitter or in a YouTube video – your humor works across all of the various platforms that you use. But first, in order to better understand your audience, you'll want to do a bit of research to determine who is actually consuming your content.
A younger audience is usually more loyal to brands who do content marketing right. According to NewsCred, nearly two-thirds (62%) of millennials feel a direct correlation between content marketing and brand loyalty. So if your audience is made up of a younger generation, make sure that the format of your content is age appropriate for your audience (note: GIFs are always a good idea).
Getting this right means a lot of trial and error in the beginning. But when you get savvy in how your audience consumes your content, you make it easier for your customers to love the content that you create.
2. Don't force it.
If you're not a naturally funny person, you don't want to force being funny (that's awkward for everyone involved). But if you have even an ounce of a personality, inject a bit of it into your work. Just make sure that someone edits your words before they see the world. The wrong type of humor can rub your audience the wrong way, and in the worst case scenario, it can damage your brand's reputation.
But don't let this get you discouraged. You can ease your way into humor by hiring the Jim Gaffigan's of the world. Or you can study the work of professional comedians to eventually create your own comedy gold.
Another example of this is the 2015 State of Marketing blog post, where Salesforce Marketing Cloud paired GIFs with a survey to integrate humor with (otherwise somewhat boring) facts. This demonstrates that Salesforce can keep up with cultural memes while sharing informative stats.
When you don't force it, your humor will naturally reveal itself (and improve) over time.
3. Be yourself.
Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. – Oscar Wilde
More important than being yourself, is to know yourself. The good news is that you don't need to know Oscar Wilde to get a little wild with your humor.
The good (and bad) news to writing comedy for the web is that you can't see people's reactions to your words. When you're a stand-up comedian, you can instantly get a sense of your audience's reaction. But since I'm not standing in front of you, I have no idea if you want to 1) throw tomatoes at me or 2) buy me a trip to Tahiti so we can laugh at the Universe together with mojitos in our hand.
If it's the latter, shoot me our itinerary (me and my bikini are ready to go!)
The funny thing that happens on the way to being yourself is that you become confident enough to not care about what other people think. This can help or hinder your humor (depending on how funny you are). Sure, you may still care what others think. But not enough to withhold yourself from being seen.
If you're a big goofball (like me), and you don't take yourself too seriously, stick to silliness and self-deprecation.
4. Play with your words
When you play with your words using literary techniques (such as metaphors and alliterations), you make your words and stories come alive. But you can only do this if you know what a metaphor is in the first place. You do know what this word means, don't you? No? Ok, let's briefly enter English 101:
A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. And in doing so, you can make boring topics burst with brilliance.
For example, in this article on How to Write Like a Boss, I use a play on words (using the word wiener) to make semantic search sexy. I swear it's not as inappropriate as it sounds…or is it?
In my story, I explain how Google knows that when I type “wiener” into my search bar, that I (most likely) want to search for something related to wiener dogs (and not something that Anthony Weiner sexts).
When you know your audience, you can use your wit and sarcasm to win the content marketing memes. Whether you use wordplay or just write to play, humor gives your brand a winning personality. Use yours today.
my wiener dog chasing a seagull
5. Hit Your Marketing Goals
Don't get discouraged. Not everyone can be Amy Schumer or Tina Fey (including me). You don't have to give your readers big belly laughs for your content to be effective. But it certainly helps if your goal is to get your readers to remember your content. According to The American Psychological Association, humor produces psychological and physiological benefits that lead to learning.
It's not always the size of your content that matters. Rather it's what you do with it to hit your marketing goals. The thing is, when comedy and content collide, your business has a better chance of getting big so that you can hit your marketing goals.
But don't take my word for it – decide for yourself. Or poke yourself. (The joke is on you).
Work with me if you'd like help with your marketing or messaging. You can find out more here.