Can you be funny on LinkedIn?
Why it pays for B2B marketing to have a sense of humour
April 12, 2016
An update from the Global Customer Director of Coca-Cola popped into my LinkedIn feed the other week. Maybe you saw it too? It had well over 1,000 likes and around 150 very appreciative comments. I liked and appreciated it as well – because it had something that far too few LinkedIn updates have. It was funny.
The update included a video. Now I’m not saying it was the funniest video in the world, ever. It didn’t leave me rolling in the aisle next to my desk while trying to stitch my sides back together. But it made me smile a very big smile – and that counts for a lot.
The other thing that I liked about the Coca-Cola update was that it functioned as an almost perfect analogy for B2B marketing’s relationship to comedy. In case you haven’t seen it yet, it goes like this: there’s a train filled with commuters, presumably on their way to work, who look like commuters oftentimes do: largely dead behind the eyes. Suddenly one of them starts laughing at something he’s watching on his tablet: it begins as a little rumble, becomes a bit louder, and culminates in a crescendo of ridiculously loud guffaws. At first the fellow passengers look slightly concerned (“Guard! There’s a nutter on the train!”), then they start to smile, then the laughter becomes infectious, and pretty soon we’re on the happiest train carriage outside of Thomas the Tank Engine.
When was the last time you tried to be funny on LinkedIn?
Can you be funny on LinkedIn? That was a question somebody asked in a post that I read late last year – and it struck a whole symphony of chords with me. An awful lot of B2B marketers out there seem to have decided that the answer is no; that you should surgically remove your funny bone before creating content on our platform in case you should experience a sudden loss of control, try to crack a joke and risk either offending somebody or hearing the virtual tumbleweeds go by as the gag falls flat. For various reasons, being funny feels like a risky strategy.
But why? Humour is an essential part of all life, including professional life. We laugh with the people we work with and that’s a big part of what gets us out of bed and into the office in the morning (fuelled by at least three double espressos in my case). Yet when we’re creating B2B content for other professionals, our guard goes up – and the humour shuts down. If the workplaces of the world were really filled with people so relentlessly serious as we seem to think they are, then the global economy would be in real trouble.
Why B2B marketing needs more comedians
Laughter (or even just a full-out, no-holds-barred smile) is something we yearn for as human beings. Humour evokes a powerful wave of emotions, catches our attention and influences us in powerful ways. The best B2B marketers know this. They invest time and money in making people laugh on LinkedIn – and they get fantastic results in the process. They prove that not only can you be funny on our platform, but where possible you really should try. Here are four principles they put into practice to stop your feed from becoming a laughter-free zone:
Know when it’s cartoon time
Visual comedy translates brilliantly on LinkedIn. The image dimensions of Sponsored Updates are perfectly suited to cartoons that can get across the absurdity of life in a single frame. Intel uses such images time and again to inject humour into its Sponsored Updates, and those updates tend to be amongst the strongest performers on LinkedIn. When Lenovo was looking to establish a more emotional connection with IT decision-makers, visual humour was a big part of its successful strategy. Brands like these prove it’s well worth mining your visuals for comedy potential. In fact, they’re able to pair funny images with more serious copy and headlines – and in that way engage with prospects on multiple levels.
Invest in video
The Coca-Cola clip I mentioned isn’t the only funny video to have generated great engagement levels on LinkedIn. Adobe has been setting the standard here for a few years now (here’s the latest in its ‘Do you know what your marketing is doing?’ series), and proves the value of investing in good production values, talented performers and great comic timing. But you don’t have to have big ad budgets to produce funny videos. This clip from TNS popped into my feed last year – and it shows what you can do with a clear message and an imaginative way of finding the humour in it.
Tell the truth – but find a funnier way to do it
All of the examples I’ve mentioned so far have a simple truth at the heart of them that anyone can recognise. Playing back such simple truths and giving permission to laugh at ourselves is a great line of engagement – and for a B2B marketer it’s also a great way of demonstrating that you understand the issues your audience faces. This can come across in a headline just as well as in a visual.
Don’t be afraid to share your opinion
The LinkedIn posts that made OMD’s Steve Blakeman LinkedIn’s Agency Publisher of the Year in 2015 were often funny – and they were at their funniest when taking aim at something that Steve felt passionately about. Me, My Selfie and Die took on the suicidal egotism of human beings; Who Asks the World’s Toughest Interview Question? turned into a funny take-down of the ideas behind Facebook’s interview process; Creative Business Leader? You have no idea centred on the egotism of bosses and why they are so terrible at brainstorms. Humour is often pointed – and this is perhaps why so many B2B marketers are so terrified of giving offence through using it. However, if you are genuine in your opinions about how the world could work better, and use humour to get that point across, you’ll often find that even those disagreeing with you enjoy the experience. And besides, it’s a lot easier to win an argument when you are making the other side laugh.
All too often we see humour as too risky to attempt in the context of a B2B environment – when in reality, it’s often one of the most powerful ways of helping people to see things your way. This isn’t to say that it’s easy being funny. The best comedy comes from keen insight and clarity of thinking around what you have to say and the most engaging way to say it. It requires time and effort – and a little bit of budget can sometimes help too. However, the appreciation and engagement levels you stand to achieve from our members can make it well worth your while.