Social Media Trends

What April Fool’s pranks can teach us about trust on social media

Cops with crocs, baked beans with Weetbix and a Big Mac Special Sauce Sundae.

You probably saw a few pranks doing the rounds on social media on April 1st – we did and we were curious to see what sentiment would be attached to these posts. Using Zavy’s Map and Radar to take a look at some of the emotions and conversations around April Fool's 2022, we saw conversations were anything but optimistic.

In a time of uncertainty and chaos, April Fool's isn’t what it used to be; people are unsure what to believe because it feels like any news could be true. Trust has a huge part to play in jokey social media posts and it’s essential to understand the deeper nuances if you want to engage in an April Fool’s prank.

What lessons can we take from this day about trust and making jokes on social media?

Living in distrusting times

Distrust is now society's default emotion according to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2022. This has significant implications. You need to constantly consider that your followers come from a negative mindset in their approach to organisations, experiences, relationships, products. This means organisations fall faster and recover slower when it comes to trust.

This causes tension, especially in nations like New Zealand and Australia where humour is a core cultural code. April fools deception combined with a default emotion of distrust means humour is more of a delicate balance for brands. If you get it right, you will connect with your audience and be loved. Get it wrong, and you could be seeing a significant drop in trust toward your brand.

Value your audience’s trust

If you’re using faith in your online presence to prank your followers, tread carefully. You could risk damaging your reputation.

People instinctively trust in authority, such as their bosses and news articles from media companies, as well as in brands with which they have established an emotional relationship. Remember that even if it seems obvious to you that what you’re posting is outrageous and untrue, people believe what they see and hear – at least in the first instance.

If you violate the fragile trust between your brand and your followers, you could face some fallout. Or sometimes even fallout for another brand, as was the case when Wilderness Magazine posted a fake article saying DOC was closing all their huts for three months over winter.

An avid community of hut lovers was genuinely upset and unfortunately for DOC, they saw the risk this could do to trust in their brand and communications. “We get that in 2022 people want a laugh, but in 2022 this stuff just feels a bit irresponsible,” DOC said on Twitter.  

Any type of misinformation can spread quickly on social media – jokes can get out of hand fast, even if they seem small, and DOC saw the danger in this.

They also made a point about humour – quickly dispelling an April Fool’s joke doesn’t mean they don’t have a sense of humour and they proved that by sharing a photo of a seal rolling in grass. Well played, DOC.

How to pull off social media jokes

How to use humour, then? The closer humour is to your core brand personality the better. This doesn't mean brands need to play it safe, it just means the humour needs to make sense for your brand.

Any humour you use should also be in good faith – don’t punch down or take this as an opportunity to ridicule anyone.

Interestingly right now, businesses (and specifically smaller ones) are more trusted. People are expecting business leaders to play more of a societal role in their influence, rather than just economic. So making light of societal issues for the sake of an April Fool’s joke is a big risk – especially if your brand doesn’t have a voice outside of April fools supporting societal issues.

So, if you’re going to play a prank, keep it lighthearted, in line with your brand voice, and don’t be mean spirited.

Social Media Marketing award winner, Jess Bovey managed to find the right balance of humour and keeping up with the trends by posting Cops with Croc – a new uniform shoe for NZ Police that you can even personalise with charms.

The post played into bad taste humour and was in keeping with the friendly tone of voice of the NZ Police social media accounts. It was also a low stakes post – they weren’t risking reputation damage if anyone believed the post to be real.

The post inspired other police departments to jump into the conversation, with NSW Police Force commenting that it's “The collab we didn't know we needed”. While the positive sentiment of the post only reached 19%, this could be due to the opinions of crocs as a fashion statement.

Find out how your customers feel about you on social with Zavy's analytical tools. Request a demo in Australia or New Zealand today. 

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© Zavy 2021
© Zavy 2021