Why and how to use humor in your online health care marketing

A lighthearted approach can engage your community and put jittery patients at ease. To strike the right balance, follow these guidelines.

The ancient Greek physician, philosopher and naturalist Hippocrates once said, “Use wit in your dealings with patients because dourness is repulsive both to the healthy and the sick.”

No one wants to be called dour, especially your medical organization.

Medical organizations are impersonal. That’s what most think, no?

Humor can have its place in medicine, both bedside from the provider and online from the medical marketer, with appropriate context and prudent timing. Wit can convey caring, encourage online interaction with your brand, and ease a patient’s preconceived notions. Used appropriately, it can create an affinity between patient and organization and can develop rapport, while maintaining the integrity of the organization.

Here are a few guidelines for incorporating humor in your online marketing:

  • Go for mild. You don’t have to dig deep or dirty to strike comedic gold. Simple jokes, cartoons and plays on words will get reaction from your audience. People like “humerus” content.
  • Keep the jokes appropriate. Clearly you shouldn’t post anything that could even mildly offend someone, or wisecracks between staffers. Think patient-friendly and happy.
  • Make it a special treat. When you have too much chocolate, you don’t want any more, right? Use humor sparingly and unexpectedly to really catch attention.
  • Stay brief. Short and witty quotes are popular for a reason: They’re easy to read and digest, so people can move on with their day. Twitter is a great platform for funny one-liners.
  • Make it visual. Pinterest offers a trove of medical comedy. Though you’ll have to pick and choose, it’s a great source to discover, showcase and promote humor. You can share your pins and images across your social media platforms.
  • It doesn’t have to be original. Originality is great, but we’re busy people. If you borrow funny content, cite your source.

As marketers we know that audiences tend to be more responsive to brands that they see as friendly and trustworthy. Sure, they want medical information, but a good social media account will also entertain. People want to interact with companies that take on a moderately human personality; no one wants to talk to a robot.

Tickle their funny bone just a bit, and they’ll keep coming back for more.

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