HootSuite’s Prank? It’s Funny ‘Cuz It Could Be True

By Jason Menard,

HootSuite’s April Fool’s email prank worked because it preyed on two things: one of our greatest fears and one of our greatest weaknesses.

Many HootSuite users received an email, ostensibly from Ryan Holmes, the CEO of HootSuite, which outlined the company’s proposed move to social gaming with its new application Happy Owls.

It was just believable enough because there have been discussions about the long-term viability of third-party platforms. After all, if Twitter bars the doors, what happens to those left out in the cold? But what sold it was the CONFIDENTIAL & INTERNAL message line – and the follow-up email, which implored readers to delete and ignore the initial comment.

Both emails preyed upon one of our greatest fears in the business world: the Accidental Send All.

While not everyone has actually done it, most of us have at one point or another thought we did it! We’ve all clicked on the mouse after a particularly snarky comment intended to be read only by a trusted colleague – perhaps one attached to a forwarded email – and then we’ve all suffered through that moment.

You know the one: the suddenly clenched buttocks, the rush of blood from the head, and the racing heart. That’s followed by the frantic cyber-dash to the “Sent” file to check your recipient list. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, you’re the recipient of that welcome rush of relief. And that other one per cent? Well, that’s where the magic of Internet memes start.

Both of Holmes’ emails also preyed upon one of our greatest weaknesses: the desire to snoop.

Even if you ignored the first email, passing it off as just another automated message, that second note would pique your interest. And then, upon opening it, you’re told that the previous message was privileged information intended for the company’s higher ups? That “please delete and ignore” comment goes out the window!

We want to know. We want to be privy to inside information. We want to be part of the in-crowd, at the ground floor of someone else’s colossal screw-up.

It’s Cyber-Schadenfreude at its worst, and that’s why the joke worked.

The best practical jokes are the ones that have a firm rooting in the plausible. HootSuite’s Happy Owl campaign worked because of an understanding of corporate culture and our shared experiences – and fears.

And the most important factor behind making the joke work? Because we can all see ourselves doing the same thing – only we know that in the real world it wouldn’t be a joke.

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