Use Humor and Ridiculousness to Reach Your Audience

Tim Washer

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Tim Washer

Tim Washer, Cisco
@timwasher

Tim Washer, Senior Marketing Manager in Social Media at Cisco, joins the Social Pros Podcast this week to discuss the value in making your customers laugh, how to spend less and storytell more, and bringing ridiculousness to big corporations.

Read on for some of the highlights and tweetable moments, or listen to the full podcast.

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Tweetable Moments

“What you need is somebody who can tell a story.” -@timwasher (tweet this)

The Importance of Ridiculousness

As a comedy writer and producer, Tim’s main role at Cisco is to create storytelling content for YouTube. “I’d like to see us be more ridiculous,” Tim says, and his goal is to get Cisco’s content there. “Being ridiculous is a very small part of what we do, unfortunately.” On Facebook, though, brands are competing with your wife, with your friends, and with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, so in order to get engagement, Cisco has to put together fun content.

When he was with IBM, Tim was instrumental in putting together their first YouTube video in 2006. It was a huge hit, he says, because it was surprising that IBM would put out a self-deprecating, funny video like that. By taking the customers by surprise, Tim’s team was able to create truly engaging content. Even so, “comedy has a tough time in the corporate world,” Tim says. There is a risk that comes with comedy and with ridiculousness, and that doesn’t always play well in the corporate world of committees and consensus.

One of the many successful (and ridiculous) videos Tim has done at Cisco was a Valentine’s Day commercial he helped put together for the Cisco ASR 9000 Series Aggregation Service Router, a top-of-the-line router for big companies that costs about $250,000. What’s the best way to let you know you love her? The Cisco ASR 9000, of course!

The video got attention in the New York Times Blogs and earned more than 200,000 views – not bad for a commercial for something with a two-year buying process that most people don’t even realize exists.

Social Media Stat of the Week: 86% of brands to increase video ad spend in 2014

Adap.tv and Digiday’s Q4 2013 State of Video Industry Report last week told us that 86% of brands will increase their video advertisement spending next year. Where is this money going to come from? Many of the brands (31%) say that they will be pulling advertisements from TV, so their budgets will come from there. Still more of them (33%) said that the increase would not come at the expense of any other budget.

So what does it look like when more money is being spent on video? Tim speculates that a lot of it could go to unnecessary production costs. He operates with little, if any, budget. “What you need,” he says, “is somebody who can tell a story.” His advice is to connect with a film school or an improv troupe and ask them to create a video for you. The key is to not simply pay more of the people who have lived in the corporate culture – hire outsiders, hire freelancers.

Holy Social!

In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, women (well, people) everywhere are #mamming – that is, laying their (clothed) breasts on flat-surfaced inanimate objects. The idea is to show solidarity with the millions of women receiving mammograms this October. It wasn’t thought up by a brand or an organization, just two women (one of whom is a breast cancer survivor) who are passionate about early detection and women’s health.

Injecting humor, in this case, is successfully using social to generate awareness for the cause (and to let all of us have a little fun in the mean time).

Mamming

Four Your Information

How did you get involved with social media?
Tim’s first experience in it was with the aforementioned video he did at IBM for YouTube. Through the success of that video, he was able to find more work injecting comedy into the corporate social media world.

What do you like best about social media?
“It gives you an opportunity to make more people laugh, and that’s what I love about it.”

What do you like least about social media?
There is a lot of red tape in Tim’s line of work: external forces that need x, y, and z from him before he can put out a video. Unfortunately, none of those entities care if he’s created a good story. He has been trying to get the “good story” aspect into the discussion. “Once you start shaving off edges, you’re going quickly towards mediocrity.”

If you could do a Skype call with any living person, who would it be?
Tim would choose Norman Lear, creator of All in the Family (and many other shows). He was the first person to take on race issues on TV and make everyone uncomfortable in a brilliant way. “I really don’t know how he got around the censors [in the ’70s].”

See you next week!