Duolingo’s Viral April Fools’ Prank Didn’t Stink. Here’s What You Can Learn From It
Between the longer days and flowers blooming, there’s a whole lot of things to love about spring time. Yet, because of the endless dad jokes and cringe-worthy pranks businesses try and pull, one thing certainly not making that list is April Fools’ Day.
To set the stage for the prank, over the past month, the internet world has had a field day making fun of Duolingo’s pushy, persistent notifications they send to app users – which often resort to shaming customers for missing their scheduled lessons.
While the online fun-poking took in many forms, most were memes or screenshots that spread like wildfire across social media, like the one below.
Duolingo decided to jump into the mix and respond on April Fools’ Day. Their team created an ad promoting their satirical feature, Duolingo Push, where their green owl mascot, Duo, shows up at any time of day to guilt users into finishing their daily lessons.
The Results, and Why It Worked
On top of positive response from online audiences, the prank drove tangible results as well. When looking at the Duolingo’s social media metrics on Social Blade, it appears their average increase in Twitter followers per day is 553. Yet, on April 1st, 2nd and 3rd, the app saw a dramatic daily increase to 1,409, 1,699 and 1,117 followers added per day, consecutively.
So, why did it work? Simple, Duolingo humanized their brand. They made it seem alive and likable where other brands are either playing it too safe, or are being inauthentic and corny while trying to be “hip”.
Thanks in large part to the rise of social media, today’s business landscape looks a lot different than it did 15 years ago. Nowadays, consumers want to spend their money with companies that have a personality as opposed to ones that are out of touch. An example is Wendy’s wildly popular Twitter account, which hilariously insults its followers.
In the wake of huge brand hiccups and missteps like those made by H&M and Pepsi, it’s refreshing to have a company humble enough and plugged in enough to not take itself too seriously. Here’s how you can do it too:
1. Get active on Instagram.
At this point in time, Instagram is “winning” when it comes to reflecting internet culture – and the platform is only growing bigger by the day. From meme accounts driving millions of engagements per post to influencers pitching yet another sundress from Fashionova, Instagram is where pop culture happens – love it or hate it.
To stay up-to-date on online trends, running jokes, breaking news and more, start following meme accounts like Daquan, as well as public figures like Gary Vaynerchuk. By doing so, you’ll never be on the outside of an inside joke again.
Let me be clear here: I’m, in no way, saying you should go make memes or publish funny posts simply because some accounts got famous by doing it. In fact, if it doesn’t align with your brand’s core values, it would do more harm than good by making you look like the company trying to be the “cool dad”. All I’m saying is by being aware and having a pulse on internet culture, you’ll know what’s trending and what’s not, making you able to act accordingly.
2. Take advantage of social listening tools.
By leveraging social media monitoring apps like Brandwatch and Twitter’s Advanced Search feature, you’ll be able to eavesdrop on your audience and find out what they’re really saying about you when you leave the room. You’ll be able to get a pulse on which parts of your company’s image are well-received and which aren’t. Using this information, you can adjust your sails in terms of how you position your brand in the marketplace.
By listening in on what online audiences really thought about their way-too-pushy push notifications, Duolingo was able to play off it as well as play it off with their April Fools’ Day prank.
3. Show your fun side every once in a while.
For the love of all things holy, have some fun every once in a while. If it fits in with your brand, post a humorous picture or joke on your company’s social media every so often. It’ll show that, in addition to selling an awesome product or service, your business is also powered by awesome people.
Over the years, there have certainly been some cheesy, ineffective tries by companies during April Fools’ Day. But this year, Duolingo made the holiday a big win in more ways than one, and you can do the same by applying the same principles. Best of luck.
This article is from Inc.com