[By Andrew Munday]

When stand-up comedians take the stage, they often have only a matter of minutes to establish a relationship with their audience. But, thanks to social media, the show no longer has to end when the stage lights go out.

Increasingly, comedians have been utilizing social media platforms to maintain offstage relationships with their fans and generate publicity. However, as with any attempt at audience engagement, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about this.

Comedians can use social media to establish and maintain their personal brands. Amy Schumer, a performer whose personal life fuels much of her comedy, understandably uses Instagram to allow her fans glimpses into nearly every aspect of her life, even using candid images of herself to spark conversations about body image.

Others use social media to directly engage their audiences and generate positive publicity, as Aziz Ansari did when he sent flowers and cookies to followers tweeting positive reactions to one of his comedy specials. In doing so, he simultaneously connected with his fans and attracted media attention.

At the same time, maintaining a personal brand and connecting with one’s audience can come at a price. Anthony Jeselnik learned this the hard way when he, a comedian known for courting controversy, tweeted a joke about the 2013 Boston Bombing, resulting in a massive Twitter backlash, including a #firejeselnik hashtag. While his tweet was in keeping with his comedic brand, Jeselnik was indeed fired, and his show was soon removed from Comedy Central’s TV schedule.

So, what can PR professionals learn from all this?

1) Social media can be a great tool for establishing your personal brand, both on and off the clock.

2) Engage your audience in creative and memorable ways. A little connection can go a long way.

And, 3)… Probably lay off the terrorism tweets.

(Photo by Carla de Souza Campos via Flickr)