Top 10 Tips for Using Humor Effectively (And Appropriately)

Screenshot 2015-10-08 at 1.51.17 PM By Christina Gaines | @stinaegaines

Using humor is a means to an end when it comes to your business’ social media pursuits. Cracking jokes or sliding in funny remarks makes people feel more comfortable, allows them to release tension and can make your message more memorable or easy to digest. If your brand’s social pages are entertaining, it is an added incentive for your audience to regularly check back in on what you’re posting. In fact, “entertaining” is so important that we use it as a pillar in our own copywriting. However, how do we best put it to use without tripping over a PR landmine? These tips will help you better convey humor and avoid offensive or inappropriate material- without the ground crumbling from beneath you.

1. Read (at least) 3 times before posting.

And I don’t mean in the same vein as your hasty “1 Mississippi 2 Mississippi 3 Mississippi.” I mean actually, re-read your slice of humor or whatever literary genius you’ve conjured that may stray from the norm. Does it make sense? Could it be worded differently? Should it be worded differently? After all, as the author of the piece, the first step is that you yourself can fully back it.

2. Show others before posting.

Another set of eyes - or two - is recommended for whenever humanly possible. Not only will there always be things you cannot catch alone, but if a peer does not understand your sense of humor, those on the receiving end of your message probably won’t either.

3. Does it translate appropriately to the geographical audience you are targeting?

Don’t fall into a ethnocentrist trap. Just because your joke or clever lingo may be understood through your hometown or specific side of the nation, doesn’t mean that someone from another culture will relate with similar caliber.

4. Don’t be vulgar.

This should be self-explanatory. Keep any hilarities that involve cursing either in your own head, or amongst like-minded companions.

5. Smart humor is better than potty humor.

Toilet humor or sexual humor is comprised of the off-color jokes you make about certain body functions… or parts. Don’t do it. This tip coincides with the next.

6. Do your jokes align with the image of the person or organization you are representing?

Hint: If you want to look professional, you should act as such. A little extreme, but put it this way- if you are representing and advertising for a non-profit, you wouldn’t poke fun at those it helps, right? Think carefully before you post as to whether or not it is consistent with your branding and values.

7. If you are questioning it, that is likely a “no-go” sign within itself.

This is the golden rule of social media for both your private and public profiles. You can “delete” until the cows come home, but with the handy-dandy invention of the screenshot, your mishap can be forever preserved in the realm of cyberspace.

8. Be aware of what’s trending, both for proactive and reactive purposes.

Don’t make the mistake of catching onto a hashtag without fully understanding its meaning. On the opposite end, do be aware of what’s trending in case it allows for (appropriate) comedy or a chance for you to jump in and engage and appear relevant to your audience.

9. If you find yourself explaining your joke, stay away from it.

You shouldn’t need to backtrack and give readers the low-down after you crack a punch line. Take direction from real-life scenarios here. It’s usually either not funny, confusing or very offensive.

10. Humor is an excellent tool- yet only when used correctly.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take this advice and wield it with extreme caution. I’m typically a firm believer of taking chances, but not when a consequence could mean damaging publicity or the birth of combative parties.


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