I pity the fool.
/ If you want to skip the narrative and just get to the steps to take to create a successful April Fool’s prank online, just scroll below to the Seven Simple Steps… In the narrative we describe why it makes sense to joke it up a little with your audience./
With apologies to Mr. T (well, to his character, Clubber Lang, actually), we wanted to write about April Fools, which appears to have become a corporate day of hijinks. Have you noticed that there seem to be an increasing number of jokes out there on April 1? Why is that? Well, we think the answer is pretty clear: the Internet.
What do we mean by that? It’s a given that an entity’s online presence is the first place most people will discover information about the entity. At GoatCloud we tell clients there are two types of audiences out there: those who know about you and those who don’t. Seems obvious, right? But they are too very distinct sets of people with different feelings about interacting with you. With our online presence we seek to reassure those who know about us, and we seek to find those who don’t. April Fools jokes, done well, cater to both audiences.
How? An April Fools joke let’s those who know about us into the inner circle. We issue a joke with the wink of an eye and the recipient feels they are that much closer to us. Who do you tell jokes to, after all, but your friends? “Hey friend, let me share a clever joke with you.”
Those who don’t know about us will, we hope, encounter the joke, and see that we are human, not so serious. A good joke, broadcast well, brings new people into the fold, converting them from people who don’t know us into people who do, getting them that much closer to the inner circle where they feel welcomed and, ideally, to a point where they will transact business with us at some point down the road.
So how do you get your April Fool prank online? First, you or someone you can rely on better have a sense of humor. Second, come up with a timely joke. (Timing is everything in comedy, they say.) Third, broadcast it in a timely and strategic fashion.
At GoatCloud this year, here’s how we took part in April Fools, creating a 3.4 times website traffic boost over three days, March 31-April 2 (and a whopping 5.8 X boost for a single day) (compared to traffic from two weeks prior). See image below (click on image to expand).
Seven simple steps to create a website traffic boost with an April Fools prank
- Have a sense of humor. Look, we don’t pretend to be comedians, but we don’t take life too seriously. If your jokes fall flat, or offend, find someone whose jokes make people laugh and have them come up with a joke for you.
- Find a timely topic. In 2014 (well, and in 2013 too, actually), we riffed on the Google, which is renowned for its own April Fools pranks, which fact helped us to broadcast our own joke. We had come up with the joke about a week or so before it was time to execute.
- Create a joke. This year, we reported in a simple website post that we had heard that Google (always a good target for jokes because it’s a behemoth and always doing unorthodox things) was buying up all Bitcoins, and distributing them to the public like John D. Rockefeller used to do with dimes. Bitcoin has been in the news a lot lately. Rockefeller not so much.
- Put the joke on your website, before April 1 in the U.S. (Recall that March 31 in the U.S. is already April 1 in Europe and Asia). Here’s our April Fools joke. All we needed was text and an image (Which we created. Larry Page is in a top hat. Now that’s funny.). If your joke is more elaborate, like Google’s was this year, you may need more time, to create videos or whatever form your joke takes. (In 2013, we wrote about Google abandoning the search industry.)
- Broadcast the joke. We sent this out via all of our social media channels (Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like), and added humorous comments and a link back to the joke page. Always bring people back to your website.
- Continue the joke. We searched for news items on Google’s own April Fools pranks and posted additional “hooky” comments (e.g., “Can’t believe Google bought all Bitcoins, though distributing them all is good philanthropy.”) on well-trafficked relevant websites, with links back to our joke page. These produced the most traffic. And, these links back to our site should be beneficial for SEO for a long to come.
- Let people know it’s a joke. There are always some people who take offense or think the joke is not a joke. Note that in our prank, there is a link to the Wikipedia entry for April Fools. There’s your wink of the eye.
So next year, take part in April Fools. If you do, make sure to send us a link! (Or if you need help, give us a ring.)
[2016 update: Make your goat shopping easy!]
What do you think are the best Internet April Fool pranks? Leave a comment below.