By Caitlin Brennan

July 21st, 2016

A horse, a dentist and a social media manager walk into a bar…

Ouch! Who put that bar there? This writer trying to give you an example of a terrible joke…that’s who! Depending on your brand and your corporate voice, judicious use of humor can keep those eyeballs focused where you want them. You’re still reading, aren’t you?

Teaching someone to be funny is best left for stand-up comedy workshops. We aim to show you how to leverage the additional reach on social and position yourself to gain.

But first, let’s keep our jobs
You need a brand voice, a consistent voice that doesn’t vacillate between decorous and droll on a tweet-by-tweet basis. If you’re trying to develop a brand voice, try experimenting with a benign joke and evaluate its reception. It’s risky to launch into edgy or absurd comic territory without first getting a read on the room. For example, if you manage the social media presence of a trauma center, don’t tweet “fail” videos of dopey teenage skateboarders colliding with the pavement.

One could go on for ages with this. If your brand is a funeral home, a white-shoe law firm or a blood pressure pill, just leave the jokes out of it. For the rest of us, don’t forget that your quips come with a corporate signature. Would your boss include that joke in an email with a new customer? If not, move on.

Why is humor important?
People like relatable brands. Humor goes a long way to personify and humanize a brand. It can start a conversation in a field usually spoken about in hushed tones. If you need to break taboos just to broach the subject, humor can set consumers at ease. For example, the folks at Squatty Potty, “the original toilet stool designed and made in the USA to give you the perfect posture for optimal elimination,” despite pitching a ‘personal product’ obviously do not poo-poo humor.

a funny tweet that got attention from squatty potty.

Squatty Potty didn’t balk at an embarrassing product, but embraced the embarrassment. That being said, what works for one brand may not work for another. Adult diaper shoppers might not dig the unicorn spokesperson. 

The more you know about your audience, the better you can create relevant and appropriate content. Evaluate your Twitter fans. What do they like or dislike? How do they describe themselves? What topics are they discussing and sharing? Be aware that your fans on Twitter may not be your fans on Facebook, or other social media channels. Also, conversations on Twitter will likely be different from conversations on Facebook.

“Non-sequitur” is a Latin expression meaning ‘it does not follow.’ Humor theorists say people find these funny because it interrupts the norm within a setting where one does not expect such a minor rebellion.

Take Denny’s. They serve bread in many forms – basic, french toasted and the legendary ham, egg and cheese between bread, aka Moons Over My Hammy. So, bread may very well be Denny’s BFF. Their tweet is simple, strange and shareable. Who doesn’t love bread? (no comment needed from the anti-gluten lobby.)


If you need inspiration, just imagine what Ralph Wiggum would say. If you’re not familiar with Ralph, he’s the king of non-sequiturs. State a product or attribute of your brand and juxtapose it with an unusual association.


User Generated Content
Lemme get a UGC Pick too! Maybe the humor muse hasn’t visited you today, stop fretting and thinking about “humor muses” and turn to your fans! McDonald’s created a compilation of McFans singing the praises of their $5 favorites.

UGC is an all-around win for brands – free content, increased audience participation and creating buzz. It’s pretty easy to start a UGC campaign, all you really have to do is ask and be specific.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 10.49.56 AM

The latest installment of the Ice Age film franchise, Ice Age: Collision Course, created a website to “uncover your pet’s prehistoric past.” Fans can add prehistoric cartoon features (tusks, trunks, big eyes, etc.) to images of their pets. Ice Age asked followers to share their photos and created the compilation above. This is a fairly sophisticated UGC campaign since it includes a special website, but you can replicate the campaign on a smaller scale. Asking for funny pet pictures is always a good place to start! As long as your request doesn’t compromise safety or scruples you should be golden.  

Poke fun at your customers
Communities are full of in-jokes. Using the playbook of a shrewd playground rabble-rouser who chants, ‘takes one to know one,’ Xbox acknowledges gamer stereotypes with this gentle holiday-themed ribbing.

At this point, Netflix is in on the joke (a joke we bet they wish they thought of). If your brand conjures certain connotations, capitalize!

Trending Topics
Trending topics and holidays are fertile ground for funny. If you know there’s an upcoming holiday (or “holiday”) or major event, save yourself time the day of by creating content in advance. By using social listening, you can jump into a conversation when a topic becomes popular.

Pizza Hut went the cheeky route by linking their product to #NationalNudeDay. Although this holiday might be a bit too ribald for your company, it’s a solid example of linking a product to a trending topic in a funny way.


Toys “R” Us likely planned this humorous video in anticipation of #WorldEmojiDay, (we assume Geoffrey’s social calendar is booked months in advance.) The tweet is a relatively low concept and fun way to link their spokes-giraffe to a trending holiday.

Feature Funny Products
Someone else has already done the work! If you sell funny products, don’t reinvent the wheel! Amazon adroitly positions an event promo, self-promo, and source of online adulation into one tweet! Target remarks on the joy we all feel when we don’t have to wear pants with constricting zippers and buttons.

Untitled design

Don’t overthink it and don’t overplay your hand. You don’t need to make a bon mot that cocktail party anecdotes are made of, you just need to make ‘em smile, while being respectful and relevant. By knowing your audience and staying true to your brand’s voice you’ll become a fan favorite, no joke.

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