On this day in 2011, the then Labour MP Ed Balls entered Twitter infamy by tweeting his own name. The story goes that he was urged to search Twitter for a story about himself, but instead of entering his name as a search query, he tweeted it by mistake. His blooper remains on Twitter to this day:
— Ed Balls (@edballs) April 28, 2011
It’s a sign of how unforgiving the internet can be that April 28th has since become known as “Ed Balls Day”, and even a decade on, people continue to have fun on Twitter at Balls’ expense. With the gaffe now 10 years old, we thought we would look back at how it has been “celebrated” every year since.
Strangely, Ed Balls Day passed largely without note on its first anniversary, perhaps as a sign that Twitter was still emerging and that these online crazes sometimes take a while to get going.
It wasn’t until two years after the goof that Ed Balls Day really became a thing. In the weeks leading up to the anniversary, a Facebook event page was set up in honour of the occasion, encouraging people to tweet their own name on April 28.
At 4:20 pm that day, thousands of Twitter users did just that, or retweeted Balls’ original tweet. On hearing that he had become an online sensation, Balls initially hinted that he would be avoiding Twitter on the day, but eventually he joined in:
Ok, ok.. Because it would be rude not to..! RT @edballsmp: Ed Balls
— Ed Balls (@edballs) April 28, 2013
Balls took a slightly different approach to his own day in 2014, making a pun on his name while on a bus journey:
Greetings and a Happy Day to you all from the top of the 141 bus, now crossing (where else?) the Balls Pond Road…
— Ed Balls (@edballs) April 28, 2014
That fitted in with a generally more creative tone to the tweeting, such as this effort from the Daily Mirror’s data analytics arm:
— Mirror Earth (@TheMirrorEarth) April 28, 2014
Amid the usual Twitter tomfoolery, Balls printed out a framed picture of his tweet, signed it and auctioned it off to raise money for the Labour Party.
Balls was even more creative in 2016, creating a cake commemorating his mistake. Perhaps an early sign of his culinary ability that came to the fore in winning this year’s BBC Celebrity Best Home Cook?
— Ed Balls (@edballs) April 28, 2016
By now, Balls had become something of a name in showbiz after his respectable performance in Strictly Come Dancing in late 2016, yet in 2017, amid the backdrop of Brexit and the recent announcement of a snap election, Ed Balls Day took a turn for the political. Most notably, the National Trust had some fun with it, making light of recent criticism from the then Prime Minister Theresa May about its omission of the word “Easter” from its season egg hunts:
Despite the headlines, we’re in no way downplaying the significance of #EdBallsDay. We’re proud of our part in…(1/2)
— National Trust (@nationaltrust) April 28, 2017
It was “Balls” in more ways than one on year seven of Ed Balls Day, as he tweeted this image of himself on the hallowed turf of Norwich City FC, where he was a director at the time:
Ed Balls pic.twitter.com/Z5CT6aYyAb
— Ed Balls (@edballs) April 28, 2018
Recent years have seen the day not quite hit the heights of 2013, but nonetheless, 2019 saw the Labour Party Graphic Designers have some fun, and even a piece of verse from perhaps Twitter’s best-known poet, Bryan Bilston.
A very happy #EdBallsDay to all our followers
It's easy to get lost in the flurry of activity during Ed Balls Day. May you get chance to take in the beauty and true meaning of the season
— Labour Party Graphic Designers (@LabourDesign) April 28, 2019
— Brian Bilston (@brian_bilston) April 28, 2019
Last year, with lockdown in full effect, Balls did his bit for home schooling with a BBC Bitesize video about…what else? Balls!
— BBC Bitesize (@bbcbitesize) April 28, 2020
Over the years, Ed Balls has reacted to the ongoing craze with a weary sense of resignation, leading to the belief that he may as well take it in good humour and join in the fun. As his blunder turns 10 years old, today is sure to see it resurface with a vengeance.
At Engage Web, there are two points we can take from it – one is that the internet doesn’t forget mistakes, and the other is that hashtags and theme days can really take off. Why not mark Ed Balls Day by asking us about your social media campaigns and how to make the most of what people are talking about and searching for online?