Best practices for April Fool’s Day

My April Fool’s Day went much better than I expected with a lot of people believing that I joined Groupon. As you probably know by now, I didn’t actually join Groupon. In fact, I was on CNBC this afternoon talking about how I believe it will go to zero without significants changes in its model.

One of the things that struck me was how powerful social media have become. I got a number of inquiries from reporters about the move. Clearly, something like this was material news that might move Groupon’s stock.

Based on my experience, here are some best practices on April Fool’s:

For pranksters

  • Make it believable. Don’t make your jokes so ridiculous that no one would think it was possible. In my post, I criticized Groupon and didn’t talk about what a great company it was because no one would believe those words coming from me. Some people told me that “forward looking statements” footnote made it seem more authentic. I actually cut and pasted that from a Groupon press release. But I also added in a sentence: “The SEC particularly advises investors to be skeptical of announcements posted on April 1 of any year.” (This is why you should read footnotes in financial statements!)
  • Go all in. My prank spanned my blog, Twitter, Facebook, Quora, LinkedIn and foursquare. If you checked out my other presences, you would have seen a consistent story.
  • But know your limits. There are some lines you shouldn’t cross. Even though I could’ve played the prank out on TV or in other media outlets, that would have been wrong. I would not agree to do TV or interviews where I was spreading false information. I also would not have done this on a day that the market was open.
  • Be self-deprecating. Throughout the day, I retweeted tweets that called me a sellout or worse.

For prankees

  • Read the comments. Inevitably, someone will spoil the prank in the comments. I tried to remove some of the most obvious comments throughout the day. (But I was offline a lot of the day, so some slipped through.)
  • Respect the game. It may be tempting to show how smart you are by commenting that it’s a prank. Instead, privately let the person know that you got it. (I had quite a few people IM, SMS and email me.) If you must comment, make it oblique.
  • Spread the joy. Special thanks to Kevin Nakao, Arnie Gullov-Singh and Marc Bodnick for moving the prank forward.

As to whether I would actually join Groupon if they offered me a job… that’s a post for another day!


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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3 Responses to Best practices for April Fool’s Day

  1. Eman says:

    Really good one Rocky! I guess I was one of those that could have spoiled it but my comments were removed in time. At first I was so disappointed to see my comments removed and immediately I figured “Censorship” but now I get it. Thanks for always writing great material and if you do decide to join Groupon, it would be a good reason for me to buy their stocks at that time, but certainly not with their current model!

  2. You actually got my on April 2nd, after you carried the joke through today, I thought I could have been wrong. @knakao

  3. Ellie K says:

    Oh Rocky! I’m so relieved. I was really worried! I read you excellent post about Groupon, on Seeking Alpha, several days ago (it might have been your first time, writing there?} It was received with much praise. And the Seeking Alpha readers are tough old curmudgeons, much less inclined to suffer fools than HN, or blogs, or most anywhere else. But they agreed with you, were very appreciative of your insights.

    I returned for a visit to Seeking Alpha, after reading a lackluster Groupon assessment by Matthew Ygleisias on Slate (his heart was in the right place, in that he was troubled by Groupon’s business model, but he derided the importance of GAAP, unlike you, and unlike most readers). I was shocked to read, in the comments, that you had just accepted an offer to work at Groupon! Some suggested it could be merely April Fool’s Day. And in fact, so it was! Very good! I’ll let them know.

    Please consider writing another post on Seeking Alpha soon, okay? About any topic, preferably backed with the same solid financial accounting and analysis you did with your Groupon post! Keep up the good work,

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