Yesterday, April Fool's day, Sloof Lirpa from Latest Sightings tinged an incredible sighting. It went viral, with unprecedented shares and engagement. At one stage, there was a comment a second. This blog is an analysis of why we think this prank went viral.
Right since the start of Latest Sightings in 2011, we have always stayed away from anything that can cause controversy (news stories, religious-based holidays and politics), so making an innocent April Fool's joke is always a highlight for us as it can get our whole community involved.
But with the always-changing algorithms and ways of reaching people on social media, a post that one thinks can do well, may never reach its full potential. And so to make something such as an April Fool's joke go viral, we need to look into a myriad of different aspects.
We learned to look at the story. It must be believable but also not so believable.
Our first ever April Fool's Joke was a tiger hunting a narwhal at Skukuza (a rest camp in the Kruger National Park).
This was funny and people loved it, but the story was just way too obvious! You don't get tigers or narwhals in the Kruger. So the most this would have done is just stump people for a moment or two, before realizing today's date.
Since then we have been focussing on making the pranks using animals found in the park.
Like the one a couple of years ago, where we shared a sighting of a male lion in the road suckling a baby leopard.
But we stumbled upon another aspect that made our April Fool's jokes not perform as well - the photo itself. The photoshopping skills are just as important as the story. We shared the lion suckling the leopard photo and all the comments were about the photoshopping skills being terrible. It was way too obvious! This took away from the whole joke, as it completely stood out, in your face, that the leopard was floating in the air. There was no chance people would even share this. And we saw this early on when this was the worst performing joke so far.
Taking all of this into account, we to tried again last year with 2 cheetahs swinging from a tree.
We were on the right track! We found a story that fitted with a photoshop job that could pass as somewhat decent. And all of this paid off! It reached over 200,000 people on Facebook and received over 2000 likes on Instagram, all organically.
But the final revelation was our engagement.
Upon analysis, we realized that we didn't jump into the conversations that people were having around the joke as much as we could.
So finally, this lead us to this year's April Fool's joke:
This post went viral immediately, and I attribute this success to the following factors:
1. Timing: This year, April Fool's day fell on the Easter weekend, on a Sunday, so many people had the time to spend on social media.
2. Story: The story involved lions and elephants, two of the most sought after sightings in the Kruger. The narrative was also a bit touching, with the elephant caring for the lioness, so this played on the readers' emotions.
3. Photoshop quality: We had spent hours perfecting the photoshop. We wanted it to be good enough to fool most, yet obvious enough to cause the "Fake" or "Photoshopped" comments to come through, as that is engagement.
4. Engagement: We tried to respond to as many comments as possible, which led to a lot more engagement, thus putting us at the top of most people's social media feeds.
Some of our favourite banter moments:
The results? At the time of writing:
Facebook: 4,000,000+ people reached and it is our most successful post on the page to date with over 38K+ likes.
Twitter (@LatestKruger): Most successful tweet with over 75,000 retweets.
Instagram (@LatestKruger): Most successful post with over 7,000 likes and 600 comments!
I have been contacted by reputable news media worldwide, asking if there is a video to buy...
Judging by people's comments, some saw through the joke immediately, while we are not sure about others! We gained thousands of new members to our community, and spent April Fool's day chuckling continuously with the whole world. Now, we have a year to plan the next one - watch out for another wildlife miracle from Sloof Lirpa in 2019!