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With millions of blogs being published every day, one of the greatest challenges content marketers face is overcoming content overload, or more aptly referred to as content shock. In fact, every 2 days we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time up to 2003, according to former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt. Whether it’s in the shape of ebooks, presentations, webinars, infographics, blog posts or videos, readers often times face a wall of content a mile high.
This abundance of information in the online world can make it impossible for organizations to cut through the noise and connect with the right audience. There’s no doubt that high quality storytelling, visually appealing graphics and content that’s optimized for search should be at the top of your list; however, are there any other untapped ways to differentiate your content? Yes, you guessed it, humor.
Imbuing humor into your content strategy can be an excellent approach to increasing readership and engagement. Using comedy in both your writing and visuals can grab your readers’ attention – especially when you’re writing about not-so-sexy topics – and knock your audience out of its state of content shock.
How to Mix Humor and Content Marketing
With degrees in engineering and business, a wife and 3 kids, and a house in the suburbs, I hardly have the background, let alone DNA, to be a comedian. And I’ve learned first hand that if you’re not a born comedian, it’s not something that can easily be learned in a class or from a book. What’s the average person supposed to do?
1. Do your research.
Here are some resources I stumbled across. . or for you content marketers out there…resources that I’ve “curated”:
- How to be Funny: 7 Comedians Give Awesome Advice – Not sure I got a lot from these comedians, but I saw Jerry Seinfeld in the mix and couldn’t resist watching his video. He used to do all his writing on paper, and I’m certainly not ready to go back to pen and pad with my illegible handwriting. (as if that’s all it takes to be Jerry)
- Four Commandments to Writing Funny by Joe Bunting – One of Joe’s recommendations is “Thou Shalt Use Metaphors”. A SlideShare presentation we did last year on content marketing ethics with a pirate metaphor worked well; however, I still cringe at our “Create, Curate but Never Pirate” tagline.
- The Secret to Writing Funny by Annie Binns of Write to Done – Her tip #6 “Edit the Crap out of it” caught my attention since that seems to be a standard best practice for writing any type of content. I’d prefer to have someone who’s really funny edit the crap out of my content to make funny.
- Funny Ideas for Dating Profiles on match.com – Call it morbid curiosity, but I couldn’t resist diving into this post even though it appeared to have nothing to do with content marketing. (who knows why it made it to the top couple of pages in my Google search?) My key takeaway was that I’m glad I’m happily married.
2. Use funny pictures and/or visual effects.
If you’re looking to spice up a boring topic or concept, use a humorous image to convey it in a bite-sized, sharable way. Memes (like the ones used in this post), gifs, or even images from popular tv shows or movies can help bring a touch of humor to an otherwise dull subject. Use sites such as memegnerator.net, quickmeme.com, makeagif.com and imgflip.com to find and create memes and gifs.
3.Be courageous and don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself.
Even the best writers have flopped when attempting to add humor to their prose or to stand out from the crowd. I’m sure that I’ve already done this several times in this post. Hence the importance of you, and hopefully one or two other folks, editing the crap out of your writing. Which leads to the tactic #4. . .
4. Outsource your humor.
I’m not indicating that you should abandon any attempt to inject your own humor into your writing; however, a little outside help and expertise would go a long way for most of us. Hire a comedian for your content marketing staff. Brainstorm with a comedian before you begin a piece. They will undoubtedly help you identify a good metaphor or a funny way to communicate your content in a way that will connect with your audience.
Content Marketing Humor in Action
In August, we asked Larry Kim, Founder & CTO of WordStream, to share his thoughts on the role of humor in content marketing. “It’s a huge competitive advantage,” he says. “News bloggers produce a disproportionate amount of content, maybe 6 articles per day on average, and can generate tons of pageviews – yet very few are ever considered to be ‘influencers’ due to the lack of an interesting pull. Generally, people forget the news, and they forget even more who wrote up the news article. There are two things that help improve the memorability of your content; (1) Interesting, non-obvious opinions (2) Humor.”
Marketers are taking more steps to inject humor into their content strategies to increase engagement. Whether it’s outsourcing joke writers, using clever images or even hiring a comedian to the team.
In WordStream’s strategy “No article is complete without at least one meme. Beyond that we use all sorts of jokes and haikus (etc.) to make our boring B2B content more funny.” Although he hasn’t outsourced or hired a comedian to his team yet, Larry is thinking about making some additions in the future. “I am seriously thinking of hiring a comic illustrator next year to produce professional looking comics like The Oatmeal.”
If you need additional inspiration, check out these awesome examples of how humor can turn blog posts, tweets and visual content into pieces that are hard to forget.
- 8 Myths of the Zombie Content Apocalypse written by Geoff Livingston on Copyblogger uses a comedic Walking Dead esque theme to dissipate common content marketing myths, receiving over 600 shares and 25+ comments – definitely memorable!
- Don’t Stop A-Meme-In’ – Using Memes for Lead Generation and Buzz Building written by Jason Miller on Marketo’s blog shows the effectiveness of using funny memes to build buzz on social media.
- New AdWords Ad Ranking Formula: What does it mean? written by Larry Kim and published on Search Engine Land uses a bit of sarcasm and comedic, snarky “translations” of what Google’s new ad ranking formula really means for marketers.
- The Old Spice Twitter account is an excellent example of using humor to create engagement in a target market. Check out their latest twitter campaign, #OldSpiceAdvice.
- Own your Own Content Farm comic by Brian McFadden in the NY Times pokes fun at the difficulty of a content marketer trying to break through the noise of the online publishing world. Ironic, right?
Larry Kim also uses his personal twitter account to publish funny tweets like this one here and finds that they always drive the most engagement amongst followers.
Key Success Factors for Content Comedy
Know your Audience
Make sure the type of humor you’re using is appropriate for you audience and your topic. To play it safe, stick with telling real stories, interviewing interesting people in your industry or using topic related parodies. Check out Marketing Prof’s Six Types of Humor to Lighten up your Content and Start Conversations for more ideas. If you can be a bit more bold with your audience, go for it!
If you’re witty, can write your own jokes and you’re up on the latest and greatest material in the world of comedy, it could be an excellent idea to get a jump on using that talent in your content strategy. If your idea of a good time on Saturday night is going to the library, then humor may simply not be your strong suit. It might be a good idea to hire a content comedian to help you out to ensure your jokes are met with applause – not crickets.
Beware of Potential Pitfalls
There’s always a bit of a risk when it comes to funny – sometimes readers will not always think your content is as comedic as you thought. Larry gave us an example of a recent comedy backfire.
Larry Kim did a post: 6 Reasons LinkedIn Is the New Online Dating Site that didn’t turn out as expected. “It wasn’t meant to be serious. Unfortunately, I got a dozen angry tweets from various women saying that women need to have a safe place to network without being hit on (which is a totally fair point which I failed to consider). So an attempt to be funny kind of backfired on me (I wasn’t intentionally trying to sabotage the women’s movement). However, I suppose if you’re not getting any complaints then it’s possible you’re not pushing the comedy boundary far enough.”
Make it Memorable
If you make your readers laugh out loud, take a controversial position or use a Mission Impossible theme to tell a story, your audience is much more likely to remember the post and share it on their social networks. Go into planning your next piece of content with the intent of making it something readers won’t forget.
“Sometimes when I meet people at conferences or connect with folks on social media, they say stuff like: ‘I loved your article about X,’ where X was a funny article,” says Larry Kim. “If you aren’t getting this kind of subjective feedback on your content, you’re probably just churning out unremarkable stuff. Same thing with conference presentations. Your session better generate the most laughs otherwise it’s not likely to be remembered.”
Measure the Results
Measuring the impact of your content is always an important step in strategy. If you don’t measure effectiveness, it can extremely difficult to recognize which pieces of content are resonating with your audience and which pieces fall short. If you want to really find out if your comedy is memorable, check the numbers. Have your new humor infused posts increased in mentions, social shares and engagement like comments and link backs? A noticeable spike in engagement is a good sign you’re making people laugh. Use our eBook, The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics & Metrics, to start measuring today.
Cutting through the noise of the online publishing world can be a daunting task – even when you’re doing everything right. Giving your high quality content a boost with some humor can be the thing that sets you apart from the other content publishers in your industry.
If you are thinking about using these practices to optimize your blog, download our eBook, Business Blogging Secrets Revealed for more blogging tips.