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Online family-history company's April Fool's joke gets big response

Published April 1, 2009 5:57 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Provo company drove up its Web traffic significantly with a little April Fool's joke involving President Barack Obama and 18 million users of Facebook.

Familylink.com, a 2 -year-old family and social networking company, sent out e-mails to active users of its "We're Related" application on Facebook, the Web site that allows people to connect with each other and share information about their lives.

"Hi," said the e-mail, "Barack Obama (Washington, DC) has confirmed you as his fourth cousin once removed."

The e-mail mimicked those the company sends out to users of "We're Related," which allows customers to connect to family members via their Facebook pages.

Steve Nickle, president of Familylink.com, said the joke drove up traffic to the company's Web site, where users learned the message was an April Fool's joke.

"We already have very significant traffic," he said. "Today we've had three to five times more traffic than normal."

Nickle said that only a small percentage of people did not find the joke funny.

The company's Facebook application has been downloaded 34 million times, Nickle said, ranking it in the top five at that site. The e-mail was sent only to those who were actively using "We're Related."

Nickle said the application drives traffic to the company's Web site and also allows it to sell targeted ads.

The company, which is readying a family social networking site, provides access to genealogy and family history records. It has run on venture capital but Nickle said the company has a positive cash flow.