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:
- 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.
- 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!