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TweetBait, April Fools and Jokes on a Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 1st of April 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Just after midnight last night (as it ticked over here to 1 April) I posted that I was launching a new ProBlogger service – PayPerTweet – a service that pays Twitter users to Tweet about products, services and websites.

Of the 100+ commenters to respond to the post so far the majority noticed the date and time – although what unfolded exceeded my expectations for an April Fools prank. In this post I want to tell the back story of the idea (the idea actually is bedded in reality to some extent) and share some of the ‘results’.

The Back Story

On Saturday I received an email from someone asking me to Tweet about them in return for $20. I won’t out them here but they wanted a little ‘Tweet Love’ to help them build their own twitter follower numbers and were willing to put up $20 to get it. I refused the offer and suggested to the person that there were better ways to build your Twitter following.

Last night at about 11pm my time I Tweeted about the experience of being paid to tweet. The responses from followers were varied from shock, to intrigue, to humor, to a few saying that they thought it was a good idea. These responses reminded me of the launch of PayPerPost. I immediately thought of ‘PayPerTweet’ and looked it up to see if anyone had registered the domain (purely curiosity). Funnily enough the domain was registered in 2007!

I tweeted my findings about the domain.

At this point I began to think about how I could make a spoof PayPerTweet like site and IM’d Chris Garrett with the idea. He quickly reminded me that it was April Fools day in just a few hours (actually it was 30 minutes away for me here in Australia). He suggested I write it up as a post on ProBlogger.

To this point I’d not been planning any April Fools Day posts (I’ve never really got into it) but began to write a post anyway – just for fun. I only half thought that I’d post it – I’m always nervous about playing jokes on readers (perhaps it goes back to an April Fools joke played on me in my childhood!)

I IM’d my draft post over to Chris – he laughed and said I should post it. On the spur of the moment I did just that and then Tweeted it for good measure.

The Response

I was nervous about the post. I’d included a few ‘hints’ in the post about it’s true intentions but still was nervous about how it would be taken. I was quite relieved to see the first comments and Twitter replies come in. Most people spotted the dates – although a few did not.

I stayed up for another hour watching the fun spread across Twitter as people Re-Tweeted the ‘news’. The story spread and traffic began to arrive at the post.

The response to PayPerTweet was mixed and I’m not sure I’ve seen it all yet as it got tweeted and blogged about quite widely. Here’s some of what I woke up to this morning:

  • 100+ comments on the PPT post – most saw the joke, a few were completely taken in by it, a few were angry, a few thought it was a great idea.
  • 18 Serious Enquiries – surprisingly this morning I have 16 emails in my inbox and two direct messages in Twitter from people who wanted to know more information about PayPerTweet. The ‘press release’ post had a fake email address in it (the date of April 1) which would have bounced for anyone sending email to it – but 16 people emailed via my contact form. These ranged from potential advertisers wanting to know prices to Twitter users wanting to know how to sign up for the service.
  • Blog Posts – I’m not sure how many people have written about the story on their blogs but there are definitely a few (track it on Technorati). My intention with this was not link bait – but it was the result, to some extent. It even made it to Techmeme. The posts have ranged from those writing about April Fools day through to a number who thought it was serious to a few who I’m still not sure if they got the joke.
  • Twitter – Twitter lapped this one up. It was Tweeted and ReTweeted more than I know how to track (you can see some of it on ProBlogger’s Quotably and this search result for PayPerTweet on Quotably). I helped it get kick started by direct messaging a few Twitter friends who gave it mentions. These drove a fair bit of traffic and also drove up my follower numbers (up about 160 so far since midnight). I guess this was good ‘TweetBait’.
  • Conversation – what I’m most happy about with this whole PPT thing is that it’s actually generated some fascinating conversation and perhaps pointed to an issue that the team at Twitter is going to have to deal with in the coming months. The fact that someone is already offering Cash for Tweets shows that people are already attempting to manipulate the tool. The serious enquiries that I had as a result of posting also indicate that there is some kind of market for this type of thing. How long will it be before someone actually develops the business model for this? How will Twitter protect itself? Should it? Will Twitter be monetized and will see ProTweeters emerge? All of these questions and more have been thrown around over the last 12 hours – fascinating to watch.

So it’s midday here in Australia and that means the jokes are over and sadly (or happily for some) the PayPerTweet can be relegated to the deadpool (at least for me).

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. It’s incredibly awesome that your off-hand project took off so well. I guess that’s one benefit to being a highly-followed person like yourself.

    By the way, I’m looking forward to your re-tweet project!

  2. It was quite a funny joke, I to be honest thought it actually was real, I’m new to the blog so really didn’t know what to expect :).

  3. Good one: although not really fair on us this side of the world. April Fool’s day hasn’t even started over here!

  4. If anything else, it was the email address that should have been the biggest clue to those 16 emailers.

  5. Well I totally fell for it!!! That’s what you get for reading Problogger before you fully wake up in the morning!!! LOL. Well, I didn’t get the nickname “Lightening” (yes, it’s “Lightning” spelt wrong) for nothing! :D

  6. Darren,

    I got confused. Then I laughed. Then cried. Then laughed again.

    Nice work.

  7. Darren – that was absolutely marvelous, mate. :-)

    I got caught big time with that one and thought WTF!!!

    Kudos… ;-)

  8. It’s april fool today, dude! Lucky for me that i did not fall for this.

  9. Thank goodness! I was one of the people who wrote to find out more because it was like watching a train wreck, I could not look away.

    You had the advantage that for most of us it was still March 31st.

  10. great publicity for the fellas who registered paypertweet.com back in 2007 –

    great joke though. My first thought too was WHAT?!?! then … how many followers do I have? Hey, always thinking…

  11. Great background to the post. I thought it was masterful LOL

  12. Dan Schulz says: 04/01/2008 at 6:54 pm

    I didn’t fall for it either. I took one look at the blog entry from my feed reader and said to myself “Cute joke – how many will be suckered by it?”

    I’m still shaking my head at this one…

  13. I got stung by April fools jokes last year. I made sure this time that I took everything as a joke until I heard otherwise.

    NIce Job though :)

  14. Well, you probably sent a a bunch of traffic to that paypertweet domain! Pity you could not get it.

    BTW damn good one. I myself tot it was a great idea for a money making venture.

  15. Blogging from Australia, you had the “advantage” of starting April 1st earlier than the rest of the world – which probably tricked many readers in Europe and America who were not expecting such early pranks.

    Hawaiians have bad luck there – they start april 1st after we are all aware of (and overfed with) pranks.

    One effect of the internet: Dates get fuzzy…

  16. Classic. I missed it but its still funny reading some comments.

    I did not think you were the joking type though.

  17. Lol I was totally sucked in by it, I never even considered the date at all! I thought to myself how innovative you were being with Twitter and vowed to do better myself lol!

    WTG Darren, that’s made me smile :)

  18. Adam Burton says: 04/02/2008 at 12:30 am

    Good one Darren. By the way, I didn’t know you were also working for Google as Agent Rowse, trying to track down the John Chow Google Android!


  19. Video kill the radio star. Darren killed twitter. LOL

  20. I thought it was hilarious. I probably would have fallen for it (with some consternation) if it hadn’t been for the comments, but I will say, the entire time I read the post I was thinking, “This is so unlike Darren, it just doesn’t make sense.” You’re such a trustworthy sort of person.

    There have been some pretty silly & bad AFD pranks out there, but yours was delightful and just spot-on.

  21. “Darren killed Twitter.” hahaha! That was so funny, how that whole thing happened and is still echoing through the blogosphere.

    I was just on a webinar with over fifty people, and some of them there were outraged that you would start a service like that, and how it was going to ruin Twitter!

    I tried telling them it was an April Fool’s Joke, but, I don’t think they were paying any attention to me!!

  22. So how much is it going to cost to sign-up on PayPerTweet? I can’t wait for the launch – Count me in!

  23. Gosh I am so out of the loop I just made a twitter account a week or so from that blog you posted and haven’t even done a thing with it! Maybe someday I will be one of the cool kids…


  24. Well Darren, i must say i was totally taken in by it and did send an email inquiring about the service, but as mentioned in this post, the email bounced back. It didn’t even click to me at that point, i thought there might have been a problem with my email or whatever, but it was a good joke. You had me going, that’s for sure. (but that isn’t hard to do anyways!!)

  25. I actually get paid to tweet for a buncha fortune 500 companies. :)

    If you have wordpress get the twitter plugin it tweets your blog posts.

  26. Doh! You got me. I fell for it. Although, it wasn’t April Fool’s Day when I read the post in the U.S. Still, I should’ve known better. Nice one.

  27. Hey Darren, it was quite funny April’s Fools day “problogger” way. I don’t know about other bloggers but I was quite prepared for this such kinda events. So did u really or how much did u make of this paid to tweet? Cheers.

  28. So, Darren also plays pranks! Nice to know the humor side of such a great blogger!


  29. LOL people believe anything you serve them on your blog! Just like people keep me asking many thing about gadgets which I post in my gadget blog like where to get battery relaced, where to buy and some even think that I sell it.

  30. It’s almost April Fools Day again. I may just sign up to twitter to see what happens this year. This was very fascinating.

  31. I’ve only just discovered the joy of Twitter, and the first thing I thought was “wow, how can I make money doing this?”

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