What Social Media Managers Today can Learn from ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’

‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ is a show consisting of a group of performers who create characters, scenes and songs on the spot – in the style of short-form improvisation games.  Well, that’s from Wikipedia.

Last Saturday, we went to watch ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ in a theatre.  It was a show screened in two segments of 45 min each, with a 15 min break.  And I was laughing through every minute of those 105 min – even during the break, with the recollection of highlights of the first half. So, what is the connection between a stand-up comedy show and Social Media today?  Well, here are five things that Social Media Managers can learn from ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’:

Real Time Content Is Now Bigger Than A Content Calendar

‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ is all about improvisation.  It’s about listening to what the audience is saying, thinking, their moods and creating content that is pure entertainment, from there.  This is real time content creation in its purest form.  And today, this is exactly what is becoming successful for brands on Social Media.

Whether it be the case of Oreo last year or, more recently, Newcastle Brown Ale and every other brand jumping on the Suarez bite bandwagon, brands are using Real Time Content creation to engage the audience.  The days of predictable Content Calendar creation and staying true to that calendar are long gone.

Social Media Strategy and Community Management are two sides of the same coin

Through the entire performance, the cast of ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ were continuously listening, creating, gathering feedback, improvising, creating.

For example, they asked the audience to give them scenes that we wanted them to play for a segment called “In the meantime in….” and they would then play that scene.  Someone said “In the girls’ locker room”, and off they went playing the scene in the girls’ locker room.

While they played that scene, if the audience put in a sentence, or a remark, they would respond, and then take that into the scene itself.  The strategy of what they set out to do and the audience management became two sides of the same coin.  In fact, they fed off each other.  In Social Media too – it is exactly the same thing.  Your strategy is completely ineffective, unless you keep learning from the reaction of the audience, and improvise!

Humour is an underused tool compared to deference

When Andy Smart came on stage first – he spent the first 2 minutes making fun of himself and the situation during the last time he had performed.  The entire show is about taking ordinary things – situations, places, people – and having a hearty laugh. At no one’s expense, of course. And that grants a very powerful connection with the audience.

In Social Media, the greatest way to defuse an awkward situation – a product failing, a service being unavailable, or sometimes even the inability to compete (a la Newcastle in the Super Bowl) can be a great way to connect with a hitherto unexplored audience, and build an entirely new facet to your brand.

Saying what is not acceptable on your brand page is as important as what is acceptable

The performing cast laid out what was NOT acceptable right at the beginning of the show – nothing that was intended to hurt on purpose.  But they carried out fantastic caricatures of people and of themselves in a fun way.  I think the fact that they were very sure of what they would not use was as important as what they knew would.

In Social Media too, a brand needs to take a stand.  It is the transparency of the stand that is key in keeping the engagement with the target audience going.

It’s okay to not be perfect all the time

Beta is the new finished.  One of the pitfalls of stand up is that once in a while, you’re going to try a joke, and it’s going to bomb. And the brave part is to stand up and say – “Oh, that was terrible”. Brands too are beginning to accept and showcase that human side of their personas – gone are the days when everything that went up on a social property was crafted over a week in the design studio, and meticulously written and re-written by a copywriter.

Instead, primacy and recency have gained impetus as brands create content on the fly, course correct if it doesn’t go down well, and re-structure their content based on the feedback they have received. Consumers too welcome a brand that’s willing to give a sneak peek behind a campaign that deviates it  from the core positioning – a quick look at Harvey Nichols’s “I Spent It On Myself” shows a brand that’s willing to try something daring, and see how the feedback goes.


Tripti Lochan, CEO VML Qais, has been with VML Qais since 2005, and leading the agency as Chief Executive since early 2008. In her executive leadership role, Tripti consults on client businesses including Dell, Revlon, Swagelok, Mahindra, ICICI, 3M, BMW, Shiseido, and Hilton. Regularly sought for opinion on all matters digital, has judged numerous EFFIE awards and spoken at major conferences including a keynote at ad:tech in partnership with client Mahindra.A graduated from the Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical and Electronics, Tripti spends her free time with her husband and their two children. She enjoys reading, running and yoga. Follow her on twitter @TriptiLochan