The power of LOLing

Social Media Week

Social Media Week is a leading news platform and worldwide conference that curates and shares the best ideas and insights into social media and technology's impact on business, society, and culture.

47 days until 20,000+ global leaders come together for SMW November Conference. Learn more.

“I’m here today to speak about a controversial subject”

“NIPPLES! Nipples are very controversial!” – Uma Polêmica, video made by @mamilo_boy

Lucas Couto - @lucascsantos

Maybe you are not amused by this video (it’s ok, you probably don’t speak Portuguese, or it’s not your kind of humor), but it has almost 1.5 million views. And what’s the connection between a kid saying “NIPPLES” and social media? Well, I believe I don’t need to reveal to you that a huge, really really big time major huge part of the internet is made of LOLs (I think it’s only behind P#RN, you know, RULE 34…).

Well, last April we had in Brazil the youPIX Festival, the biggest event here about internet and digital culture, and it was amazing to see how far a Meme could go, really getting out of the “digital world” to the “real world” (does this division make any sense these days? Well, never mind…). And also, how laughing can be the best social glue ever.

One of the lounges of the youPIX Festival

Here in Brazil we perceive a huge digital movement, going beyond the Alpha Users, and reaching a great part of the connected population. What begins in that twisted geek mind as a nonsense remark, days, weeks, or even months later, reaches, through email or Orkut (yes, we use Orkut), the guy who just recently started his digital life. And this ends up attracting more and more attention to the internet universe.

But this is just part of the power that the humorous content carries. Besides this democratizing effect, it also works as a self-expression highway, leading to a discourse more similar to what the person really thinks (a very important change in a country where people sometimes tend to be “nicer” than they should).

The comedian Rafinha Bastos

It’s not a coincidence that Rafinha Bastos, the “Most influential person on Twitter” is a comedian. But what sometimes isn’t said is that his style is acid and sarcastic, targeting all minority groups (even his own, as he has jewish ancestry). Rafinha is not that famous just because he’s a comedian, but because he represents a person who says things that a lot of people think.

So – you’re now thinking – what the heck does all this have to do with my company?

First point, it’s ok if people, in their daily lives, ignore the power of this LOLing spirit. But the unfortunate part is that the companies (the companies’ employees, to be fair), often ignore the potential of this power.

Most companies are made of Engineers, Economists, Administrators, and other professions that give a lot of credit to controlling, categorizing and ranking. And that was (AND IS) a very important aspect of building major brands and industries. But, nowadays, it can’t be both the beginning and the end of a company’s strategy. The current business scenario goes beyond the need to measure everything. How to classify a remark on Twitter like “Ow, I REALLY LOVE this new Starbucks coffee!”? There’s no way to be completely sure of what that person meant? This effort to understand all the variables of this statement while not completely in vain often leads to an environment where people tend to reject nuance and think only in terms of rational, rigid and formal relationships.

Even worst, we still have in most companies, groups of people who can’t accept that the times, they are a-changin. Some individuals within companies continue to fear not being taken seriously which reflects directly on the way they manage their company’s communication, resulting in brands that insist on calling me SIR (“Call me Lucas, please“), or keep talking to me about their qualities, becoming skittish when I try to discuss their failures. This only reflects the value behind the big shiny logo. These brands are afraid of being in a real relationship with their consumers, where you can laugh, criticize or complain failing to realize that these dynamics result in stronger consumers ties.

While some companies still deny that humor can indeed help nurture connections, I believe that the best way of showing self-esteem is to laugh at yourself. Companies that strictly focus on being taken seriously will be taken as seriously as that old cranky teacher which we respect (do we?), but would never call to have a nice cold beer.

So, if you have any contact to the social media management in any brand or company, please, start to spread this lighter and funnier atmosphere that the internet has through your office’s corridors. Do that and the next round is on me… =)

Lucas Couto is a contributor for the Social Media Week Global Editorial Team based in São Paulo/Brazil. He leads the Social Media Week platform in Brazil, and is the co-founder of It’s Digital, a social media strategies startup. Follow him on Twitter @lucascsantos.

Want to write for Social Media Week?

We're looking for individuals around the globe to contribute articles on marketing, media, technology, and more.