David Schneider, founder, That Lot
David Schneider, founder, That Lot
A view from David Schneider

David Schneider on how original, creative humour can boost your brand

My name is David Schneider and I'm a Twitter addict.

Even writing this article, which has to be longer than 140 characters, will be a challenge.

A healthy injection of original and creative humour can strengthen brand personality, particularly in social media, making the work more effective and engaging.

In fact, I doubt I’ll manage a sentence that’s longer than 140 characters.

Nope, still not managed to do it.

Still not.

But despite the hours spent clicking on pictures of dogs that look like Putin, I still maintain that being on Twitter hasn’t stopped me being a creative person, even if it’s a creative person who barely ever talks to his family – and this sentence is definitely over 140 characters, so hurrah!

Whereas I used to write sitcoms and films (some of which had 140 characters in the cast), now I mostly write tweets and Facebook posts and make Vines and Instagram pictures through my social-media company, That Lot.

It feels like I’m part of an inevitable drift toward the internet for creative output (and cash). Back in the 90s, I was in a BBC show called Friday Night Armistice, which did satirical mash-ups and Photoshops – or rather, we had a team of editors who did them because it was so time-consuming. Now, everyone can do them and TV is trying to keep up.

Within seconds of Event X happening (especially if Event X involves Justin Bieber or Katie Hopkins), Twitter is awash with jokes that have me, a professional comedian, BBOLing and ROFEing (Being Bitter Out Loud and Rolling On the Floor with Envy).

The internet, and Twitter in particular, is a wonderful democratisation of creativity; the brands that can tap into this can truly reap rewards.

There’s a current focus on scalable advertising and platforms, but it is creativity and originality that cut through the noise on social media. I like to look at a brand’s social output as a TV channel. What distinguishes you from everyone else?

Maybe it’s simply the quality of your content, as with the wit of @ArenaFlowers, which tweets jokes instead of talking about flowers ("When asked at a job interview for your weaknesses, look lovingly in their eyes, place your hands on theirs and say ‘YOU’").

Arena Flowers understood that a positive feeling about its brand converts to sales, even though it’s difficult to measure that directly (but I can say it worked with me – I use the company now, which was no doubt its ultimate KPI).

You could develop a strong identity for your whole Twitter output by building in recurring events, like a TV channel builds itself around particular programmes.

For example, @the_dolphin_pub has got itself trending through quizzes and innovative formats like creative retweeting (it only retweets rubbish 90s R’n’B stars and chicken shops).

Tent-pole events are powerful, too, whether it’s joining the conversation through live-tweeting a big football match or Eurovision, or doing what the JFK Library did with #JFK50 on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

It tweeted as if it were JFK tweeting in the month leading up to the fateful day, then switched to reporter Walter Cronkite’s viewpoint once the President was shot. Reading that final day’s tweets gives you more of a sense of what it was like to live through the assassination than any documentary or film ever could.

One technique we find incredibly useful is what we call (mainly because we can’t think of a better term) reactive listening.

It’s what the musician James Blunt does so well, searching out people talking about him and then replying to them brilliantly, so the person tweeting "James Blunt has an annoying face and an irritating voice" got a reply saying "And no mortgage".

His wit turned the perception of him round and created a buzz for the launch of his latest album. Like the JFK account, it was a real demonstration of the new creativity of social media and how it can get people engaging with your brand.

Right. That’s that written. Back to writing short sentences. #comfortzone *relaxes*