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This post is by Stephen Easley, vice president for government affairs and general counsel of F2 Technologies, a wireless data technology company. He is attending his 25th SxSW Festival.
The only reason for companies to use humor on Twitter “is to differentiate yourself from the ‘White Noise’ that Twitter has become. … Humor brings warmth and humanity to the brand,” according to Ross Morrison of Huge, Inc., while speaking at the SxSW panel “Being Funny on Twitter (Without getting Fired).”
Chapin Clark, the Twitter voice of R/GA, said the reason to use humor in a corporate Twitter feed was not to makes jokes, but rather to bring humor into play and to imbue the brand with a more human face — a warmth and familiarity that people can identify with. Where humor simply is not appropriate, such as banking or the government, Morrison suggested that the Twitter feed be more “conversational,” allowing ordinary people to identify with the brand.
According to Clark, Twitter, at its most basic level, is reading material and should always be adding something to the discussion, from relevant, reflective or useful information to insightful or funny messages. On a practical level, both speakers said they have used Google searches to scrape information from the Web to pass along to followers, but emphasized it was not enough to re-post content; it is most important to provide a point of view.
A few of the duo’s tips for providing compelling, engaging, funny content:
- A successful Twitter stream provides an “angle” and answers the question, “How does this information affect you?” The quickest way to become invisible is to be self-promotional. You gain credibility and build goodwill by noting the successes of your peers — even your competitors.
- You need to be obsessed with consistency and avoid the trap of “playing to the room.” Don’t focus on only appealing to your circle or the cognoscenti, but instead look to your entire audience.
- Twitter authors in a corporate setting should remember that they are not the brand — the company is. Your job is to know the customer.
- It’s not important to be edgy, but to be true to the your brand. And if the brand is on the edge, such as Morrison’s client, Adult Swim, then such humor might be appropriate. Remember that humor is very subjective. Focus not on sidesplitting humor, but more on the “bon-mot” or “witty aside.”
- If you have any doubt about using humor, rely on your gut and avoid it. If it has to be explained, then it’s not funny. Morrison reduced it to an objective test: If you find yourself laboring over a Tweet for 20 minutes, abandon it — the truly funny and useful ones flow in about five minutes.