April Fools Day can be a day when the social media and digital marketing teams can step out and have fun. However the 1st of April can also be a day when, in social media marketing, you can crash and burn if your judgement is off. Good April Fools Day content on social media requires some essential thoughts, some serious empathy and a degree of skill in coming up with a successful subject.
I’ve written a few half decent April Fools gags in my time as a writer in the digital space, so I thought I would share with you the breakdown of what makes a good April Fools spoof in digital marketing and the pitfalls to avoid that can save you from disaster.
The Process of Guiding Your Reader Through the Gag.
I see a great many April Fools spoofs that are badly written. Most times, it’s kind of apparent that they have been done in haste. Waking up on the morning of the 1st of April and realising that your peers and competitors are releasing spoofs is not a good starting point. You really need to plan ahead with this one, even more that your normal content.
A good April Fool story needs some serious thought and not only on the actual subject. How you tell the story, how you engage your audience and how the tale progresses are very important.
I’ve found that there are several steps to it, in the creation and execution. Here goes.
Here’s the 3 step formula for writing
You will have seen this at work, though you may not have analysed it as such. Indeed, like me, you’ve probably taken the bait from time to time and not given a thought to how it was constructed.
Step 1. The story. The initial declaration has to be believable and also something that would be quite desirable. That’s the bait.
In this example, the Yorkshire Air Museum’s Halifax engines are running live. This is something that everyone would love to see. For a variety of technical and financial reasons, it will never happen.
However, just imagine if you woke up and saw this on your feed? You’re going to bite and say ‘Tell me more?’ We used some deliberately low grade Photoshop skills to begin to give the game away.
Step 2. The reinforcement of the story, plus an addition which is a little less credible, however it’s still kind of possible. Maybe just a little unlikely. And as this one unfolds, the penny is beginning to drop.
Kind of like an ‘elevator pitch’ in a marketing blog post.
Here we are saying that not only is the aircraft now fully live, additionally, it’s going to fly. And the pilot will be none other than the Museum Chair of Trustees and former Vulcan pilot, Martin Withers DFC.
Unlikely. However, still believable.
Step 3. We then go all in on something so unbelievable that it’s obviously absurd. Ideally, something topical that ties in with world events in a fun way. The current technology movement towards electric cars is a great angle to use.
So for this one, we drop into the gag that Elon Musk offered to supply hybrid electric drives to give the Halifax cheap power and huge range. A hybrid electric powered WW2 bomber, so obviously fictional that nobody feels taken in any more. Some are laughing, hitting the like button. Others are checking the date and adding rolleyes…
Of course, this then sets us up nicely for the whole audience reaction and also the fourth vital step.
Step 4. Go all in on living the story with your audience. If you’ve done the first three parts correctly, then you will be getting some good reactions. Some will be inspired to comment and join in. That’s when you take it up a notch and buy into the whole story.
For example, with the Museum spoof, someone mentioned that the cable for the power was probably too short. The obvious reaction is to keep with the story, replying “Yes, we’re flying tethered right now for safety, however we can still manage to reach York and back again”.
This helps to build the fun element and also the spoof and tongue in cheek humour of the whole thing.
Important – The Essential Humour Warning
Here is where it can go wrong. And you will have seen this.
The most important part of this is whole interaction is, “Who is laughing at who?”
For example, if you make the spoof too authentic, too realistic, too believable and everyone genuinely thinks that it is a true story, then your audience feels that the joke is on them.
You’re laughing AT them rather than WITH them.
It’s the difference of a single word, yet it is the key to the whole success. You will have seen spoofs that were just that little bit too authentic. Where the storyteller became too engrossed with authenticity to stop and think about where the punch line was supposed to go.
Using our example above, I could have gone rattling on about flight test schedules, when you may be able to watch her flying from the airfield and so forth.
Here’s another way to think of it.
Have you ever watched a stand up comic performing and had that feeling that you were a little uncomfortable? That you were laughing because you were supposed to, not because you wanted to?
Some comics laugh at people. Others laugh with people. There is a huge difference.
If you’ve done your job well, then by now the result will be lots of people joining in, sharing the fun.
The final step that is a polite thing to do and also helps to draw the gag to a close, is to say thank you.
A thank you post afterwards reinforces the good intention of the humour and the fact that we were all laughing together. By thanking your audience for joining in and helping, it is a natural conclusion to the spoof and bonds everyone together, sending a good feeling out there.
If you’ve ever wanted to send out some April Fool content on your social channels, yet felt nervous about the whole thing, then I hope this post helps you.
Or if you’ve tried in the past and it hasn’t worked, then compare your own content to the recipe here. Perhaps it will tell you where you went off track?
Let me know what you think in the comments below.