April Fools’ Day (or poisson d’avril) is near and you know what that means – beware of a slew of humorously untrue news stories and pranks from different brands. Remember that viral story about Google launching their own SEO company? Who else almost fell for that? What about that one time Google turned Maps into 8-bit images? And who could forget YouTube’s compilation of viral videos in physical DVD disc format?
If you’ve been paying attention, April Fools’ Day isn’t just a day to pull pranks anymore; it’s a very effective way to make a post go viral. Yes, you’ll be fooling people, but they usually take April Fools’ Day pranks in stride, unless of course you steal their money, burn down their crops, cast a plague or poison their water supply, which I doubt you’ll do just to pull a viral prank for your brand.
So here are top tips on how to use April Fools’ Day for building links and viral marketing.
Compile a List of Pranks
Sometimes, the simplest ideas can bring in a flood of links. Larger media sites, for example, have been successful in getting swamped with traffic simply by publishing a list of the best April Fools’ jokes. With some creativity, going viral will be easy peasy.
Make your article a roundup of the best pranks in your niche market. You not only attract readers looking for some laughs, you also draw in your target audience.
Partner with Other Sites
A good idea for a prank, especially if you want to involve other people or want a wider reach, is to get two or three other sites to play the joke. You can target a wider audience and increase your chances of success. Win-win!
Keep in mind that people should believe the prank is real. This means that you’re going to need high-quality or clever writing, amazing Photoshop skills, or whatever it takes to create a successful hoax. Things like images, interviews and quotes can support your story. Notice how the page for Google’s TiSP used pictures to make their fake product believable.
Take Advantage of Current Events
Popular current events already rake in a lot of media attention. By jumping on the bandwagon, the popularity of the news event may rub off on your own story. If your story is shocking, funny or amazingly incredible, the media might pick it up and it’ll end up viral. The most important thing here is that all other sites should link back to your fabricated joke.
Create Content for All Types of Media
You’ll have higher chances for success if the content can be delivered through different forms of media, like YouTube, flickr, blogs, television and radio among others. Use highly-esteemed media outlets as well, like PR-Newswire, as they are well-respected.
Reveal the Joke on April 1st
For this to work, you need several pieces of (fake) evidence that will support your story. Spread the proof over several days prior to April 1st, and then reveal the prank on April Fools’ Day. As you develop the fake story, make sure that it’s believable enough to make people decide that it’s real. That way, the big bang on April 1st will be much more effective.
Use Popular People
Creating false stories around celebrities might get you bashed, but April Fools’ Day is the only day you can do it and get away with it safely. Famous people are always under the scrutiny of the media and writing about those same famous people will get you media attention quicker.
For instance, in 2011, Smosh.com posted this article for April Fools’ Day:
Another way to use celebrities is to get them to tell the story. If they’re pretty convincing, you’ll create one of the most believable hoaxes that ever went down in history.
Last year, in a video from Mashable, comedian Conan O’Brien announced his big news: he purchased Mashable.com and took over the social media news site. The video was uploaded on March 31st, but the next day, another video was posted on the same channel with O’Brien saying he “resigned” as the new Mashable CEO.
It’s All in the Planning
Plan early so that all the elements are in place on the big day. Planning is the key to executing your elaborate joke successfully.
Make sure your post has the right social sharing buttons so it’s easy for your audience to share your content online.
Beware of Time Zones
Take these two things into consideration: (1) your target audience’s location and (2) April 1st starts earlier in certain parts of the world. To maximize traffic, launch your practical joke as soon as April 1st hits the first country/region in the world to start the day.
That would mean, for some countries, your prank will happen a day early, but that could be a good thing because people won’t suspect that your story is a ruse.
Think Outside the Box
The whole tradition of April Fools’ Day requires thinking outside the box. Be creative and use your imagination. Of course, you can always draw inspiration from pranks others have pulled off. Visit websites like MuseumofHoaxes.com to get ideas from the top April Fools’ Day hoaxes in history.
Creating content and building relationships through content can be the hardest parts of online marketing, but doing harmless pranks without negative consequence is one of the easiest ways to build presence on the Internet. Hope you get loads of ideas from these tips. Tell us about your jokes this first of April!