With the rise of social media, more and more people are trying to understand the logic behind engaging content. Contently researched how and what we share on social media and Kelsey Libert from Fractl has looked into the science behind viral content.
According to her research, viral content has certain characteristics that are common to all ages and genders: positive feelings, emotional complexity, and the element of surprise. Wonder if there is something that combines them all? There is – humor.
Laughter is a contagious social emotion, just like yawning (but admittedly much more exciting). Comical mood often includes the element of surprise, can capture a wider range of emotions, and is in most cases pleasant. However, the stakes are high and the line between funny and offensive is very thin. Many have crossed it and were grilled all over social media. Humor evokes people’s emotions, which can work both ways, that’s why the context matters.
Kenneth Cole learned this the hard way, when tweeting about the uprising in Cairo and repeating his mistake with his tweet on Syria . The web doesn’t forget easily and neither do Twitter users, who are still making fun of his insensitive use of humor under hashtag #KennethColeTweets. HubSpot on the other hand succeeded in making fun of a popular smartphone app with their YouTube episodes of Foursquare Cops.
However, it’s not just poking fun at certain topics that makes us laugh and share. Nothing gets people’s sympathies as big brands mocking themselves. Microsoft recently embraced user complaints about their browser and made them a part of their campaign to promote IE9: The Browser You Loved to Hate| Internet Explorer.
How about using humor against your competition? Remember Apple’s Mac vs. PC campaign? It promoted Apple computers by poking fun at the rivalry between the two competing products. Funny videos highlighted advantages of Apple computers and software without appearing boastful. The campaign was not only widely shared on the Internet, it also increased Apple’s sales in 2006 by 39%.
And brands aren’t the only ones embracing humor to promote their products. Politicians are using it too, to draw attention to serious topics. To the surprise of many, Jón Gnarr, a comedian, former mayor of Reykjavik, and leader of the Best Party, got elected thanks to his humorous campaign videos.
On a similar note, Old Continent Agency motivated young people to vote at the last European elections with the video We’re not sexy and we know it. The video used stereotypes about European politics and broke them. Though it’s hard to measure whether it achieved its goal, it certainly got a lot of attention on social media.
Last but not the least, Jean-Claude Juncker, new President of the European Commission, used humor to make critics work to his advantage. In this video that ZN made, Juncker showed he had a sense of humor and made a political statement about the topic.
Does humor win? Be funny, campaign, and let us know!