Take note of others’ laughter and it won’t be long before you recognize this peculiar truth: most of us will laugh at anything.
Laughter has very little to do with jokes. In fact, it’s more about expressing how closely connected you feel to somebody, and building and maintaining relationships.
Make ’em laugh
Influencers know how to win over a crowd, so it’s no surprise that the best of them harness the power of laughter. Again, it’s not that they have to be funny – they just have to laugh.
What often gets us laughing the most is somebody else’s laughter. We’re more than 30 times as likely to laugh together than alone – and this is especially true for those with whom we identify.
If you want to see the effects of this powerful persuader for your own brand, look for influencers who laugh spontaneously in their videos. Chances are their followers will be laughing right alongside them.
Laughter’s impact on influence
Finding an audience that laughs might be as simple as finding an influencer laughing, but how does laughter drive persuasion, and why is it key to influencer selection?
Here are my three favorite insights, the last of which made me personally rethink the nature of laughter.
Laughter drops our guard
When we laugh we release endorphins (feel-good hormones) that relax and lull us into credulity. Suddenly, we ditch our critical faculties and enter a state of greater trust. We no longer notice the inconsistencies in an argument, or care to challenge what’s claimed; instead we accept things at face value and welcome new ideas with open arms.
It’s a huge plus for brands struggling against a growing resistance to traditional ads – and probably why advertisers have been throwing jokes at us for years.
Laughter drives disclosure
Discussing our vulnerabilities make us vulnerable, so we tend to avoid doing so when we can. But get somebody laughing, and it’s a whole different story.
Laughter increases the likelihood that we’ll reveal intimate information about ourselves – truths we’d otherwise keep hidden, like our relationship troubles, financial worries or health concerns.
How does this relate to influencers? Firstly, influencers who disclose more will be liked more. And likeable influencers are influential influencers (since we tend to agree with those we like and look to their advice).
But it goes further than this – when somebody discloses to us, we feel the need to disclose right back, building and strengthening the bond. And if we’re also laughing, well, the beans will be truly spilled. This means more active engagement in the comments, more social proof and greater ROI.
Laughter signals friendship
The acoustic qualities of laughter mean that it carries far and penetrates deep. The loud initial outburst, the high pitch and rhythmic, repetitive bouts all mean that if somebody’s laughing in a room, no matter how crowded or noisy it is, we’re likely to spot them and register the laugh. The fact that laughter is highly contagious only multiples this effect.
Laughter has a distinctive sound and is relatively unique among our vocalizations, in that unlike speech, which moves the tongue, the lips and the soft palate, laughter comparatively just opens the mouth, creating a sound physiologically more akin to an animal call than the delicate, complicated productions humanity is typically accustomed to.
Still, this sound is distinctive enough to offer the listener a great deal of information. Not only are we great at detecting a real laugh from a fake one, but we’re better able to detect friendship from a few seconds of shared laughter than from snippets of conversation.
Laughter, then, may be the means by which a follower judges the relationship between those featured in an influencer’s video, as well being as the glue which brings everyone together.
To learn more about laughter – and other key drivers of influence – head to Tailify’s Influence Lab, where I’ll be discussing my field guide to influence with Tailify’s marketing director Esme.
Alan Gray is senior research psychologist at Tailify.