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4 Ways to Engage Your Audience Like a Comedian

4 Ways to Engage Your Audience Like a Comedian

Comedian Louis CK

Image credit: David Shankbone | Flickr
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Successful comedians, while funny, are also master brand-builders. They have a unique ability to engage audiences, elicit an emotional response and craft a voice that stands out amid the noise. This skill set is one that brands can benefit from in today's ultra-connected economy.

Related: Why You Should Make Time to Speak Up for Your Business

With so much competition for consumer attention, brands must be laser-focused on the audiences that matter to them, and create content relevant to their interests. You know, like a comedian would do. 

Here are four ways to engage audiences like a comedian, building your brand in the process:

1. Engage your consumers directly.

The only thing standing between a comedian and his/her audience is often a microphone, meaning that live comedy feels very intimate to those who experience it. Comedians feel a deep sense of connection to their audiences that brands typically neglect. Small, direct engagements with consumers can make a tremendous difference in their relationship with you. In other words, showing them that you care about them and not just their money can go a long way.

A good example of this would be Louis C.K., who in 2011 famously offered his Live at the Beacon Theater special as a "direct-to-digital" download for five bucks and earned $1 million in just 12 days. Since that time, many other comedians, like Aziz Ansari and Jim Gaffigan, have followed suit, and Comedy Central even developed an online marketplace for DRM-free (digital rights management) stand-up specials, launching with 22 original one-hour specials. Following up the success of his launch, Louis C.K. went on a live tour, selling tickets only from his website with no processing fees attached. The idea, of course, is simple: C.K. and comedians like him are removing the friction that makes it more difficult to engage with their content. With so many choices out there, consumers have less incentive to engage with your brand, unless you make it easy to do so. 

2. Go where the audiences are.

This may seem obvious, but to engage an audience, you first must find an audience to engage. Many brands push their messaging using outmoded or incompatable methods, meaning that even if the content is engaging or useful, consumers are less likely to see it and interact with it. This is even truer with older organizations newly adopting digital and other emerging communication channels into their marketing mix. Comedians, on the other hand, are always looking for an audience. Especially when they're starting out, many comedians perform in odd places like comic book stores or underground dive bars if that's where people are. In other words, they aren't proud. By building a strong following, they can start to draw a crowd to them instead of the other way around. Brands could benefit from this strategy.

Jerry Seinfeld is a good example of this idea, though he's certainly had no trouble finding an audience. When he launched his web series, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee on Sony's Crackle, some observers perhaps considered Seinfeld's move a step down for the television juggernaut. In reality, Seinfeld was recognizing the impending proliferation of online content and went where the audience was. Now, the series is entering its sixth season, has been nominated twice for Emmys and is Crackle's most popular series, with nearly 70 million streams since its inception in 2012. 

Related: How Improv Comedy Can Seriously Grow Your Business

3. Become a content monster.

Of course, the quality of a brand's content is the primary driver as to whether or not it will engage consumers. Along with content quality, however, content quantity is of equal consideration. Brands that engage consumers effectively consistently produce relevant content, which is a practice good comedians highly value. I recently spoke with Cameron Esposito, a comic who has been making a lot of noise in the entertainment world in recent years. Although she cited how important television appearances are for her to build her brand, she noted the myriad of other ways she works to engage her audience in between those bigger opportunities.

In addition to a Twitter and Instagram, for instance, Cameron has two podcasts and writes a regular column for The AV Club. As she says, "I have to do things to put out content for the fans that feel like they have a relationship with you and not just the show you're on. Because of the internet, you are able to create content that fills the gaps between your television appearances." This principle applies in business as well. Brands often focus on larger initiatives to market themselves, when there is incremental power in engaging audiences across multiple channels with more targeted, personalized content. 

4. Build a relationship with your audience.

A common misconception is that consumers demand perfection from the brands they buy. In reality, they just want to be treated well. According to mega-consultant McKinsey, 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated. At the end of the day, brands should focus on building a strong relationship with their consumer segments instead of pushing for a one-time sale. Not only will this increase sales in the short term, but it will increase long-term engagement and the lifetime value of that particular segment. 

Comedians understand the importance of building just such a relationship. They do this themselves by offering a deep level of honesty about themselves, their lives and their problems. Audiences can relate. And they often feel a closer bond to a comedian as a result. As Cameron Esposito noted, "We're all going through the same stuff. Our emotions are the same; [only] the details are different." As a brand, you should work to tap into those core emotions. If you succeed, you will engage your consumer audience and build a deeper, more meaningful relationship. 

Related: 4 Ways to Use Humor as a Marketing Tool