The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), one of the most serious and traditionally bureaucratic government agencies, has recently embraced Gen Z’s social media culture, making waves on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. The IRS has ventured into integrating its usual tax-related content with relatable memes using Mean Girls, Stanley Cups, The Grammy’s, and even the beloved Sesame Street character, Elmo. While this move aims to connect with a younger audience, users have taken to LinkedIn to voice their concerns for this content from such a serious government agency. The backlash has led to the agency turning off comments on their Instagram page.
Despite the opinions of many that find the IRS’s approach unappealing and make the statement that some accounts just are not meant for funny content, I have taken to the keyboard today to disagree.
Why Funny and Relatable Works
Users need a break from gloom and doom
If you scroll through your favorite social platform for more than five minutes, you are guaranteed to have some sort of depressing news story pop up on your feed. We are exposed to this content on a daily basis, so users will look towards funny or relatable content to provide a mental break from the depressing aspects of our current society. Gen Z would much rather see a “spicy meme” than a news story about the latest political affairs because of the comedic relief that it provides.
Funny makes you approachable
The IRS can be a scary government agency to deal with. Many have the belief that if you make one wrong move on your tax return forms, you do not pass GO and go straight to jail (without collecting $200). However, when fun/relatable content is integrated on social media for “serious” agencies such as the IRS, this makes them more approachable and an avenue for open dialogue to ask questions. If a user has a question related to filing their taxes, relatable content opens the floor for nuanced conversations that may have not been had before if content continued to be serious and unapproachable.
Using relatable content makes difficult information digestible
To be completely transparent, my public highschool did not equip me with the knowledge to file my taxes. I have NO idea where to even begin. Knowing that I am not the only Gen Z out there who feels this way, I commend the IRS for approaching their content in a much more digestible and lighthearted manner. Making information accessible and understandable by forming it into memes or easy to digest graphics/videos can help users get the information they need without having to do
How to Approach Creating Funny & Relatable Content
Mix humor content with education
Funny and relatable content is great for engagement, but this should not be the sole strategy for social media posts. Agencies and brands should be mindful of the content they are posting and make sure to have a healthy balance between funny and relatable with more serious and educational content. If you are too serious, you will be seen as hard and unapproachable, while if you are all humor and relatability, you will be perceived as unprofessional and not reputable. It is important to hit more than one content bucket when creating content.
Make sure that funny and relatable content fits
Social media trends come and go on what seems to be a daily basis, so there are plenty for an agency to jump on. However, it is important to be mindful of how a trend fits to your brand or entity. You cannot force being funny or relatable, and doing so can make an account come off as “trying too hard”. If a trend could seem like a reach for your agency to jump on, or your involvement could be seen as offensive, it’s best to shy away from these trends. Make sure what you post ties back to your goals of your content.
Be equipped and ready to battle the internet trolls
When the IRS pushed the envelope by integrating funny and relatable content, they ruffled the feathers of many social media users. This is inevitable, as trying anything new on social accounts can open the door for criticism and hate comments. It is important to prepare in advance for comments such as these, as the comment section is where many agencies and brands can win over an untapped audience. Be prepared to provide informational resources and insightful replies to comments questioning relevance and purpose, as this will put those internet trolls in their place and get audience members to understand your credibility and purpose behind your content.
Although I believe that the IRS has some ways they could improve on their content, I believe the risk that they took posting Elmo and Mean Girls is very commendable and a step towards government agencies becoming seen as more approachable and less as a looming presence to be feared. I am excited to see where this new wave of relatability takes social media and its relationship with governmental entities.