The April Fools’ Joke That Went Viral – aka The Button

You know what’d be a fun April fools joke?  Get thousands of your website users to spend hours over the easter break ignoring family and friends, staring at a button on your website.  Then, let’s get them to start discussing arguing about the moral choices of pressing, or not pressing a button.

Sounds crazy right….

That’s exactly what reddit achieved with “The Button”.

The Rules Were Simple.

The button has a timer, that starts at 60 seconds and counts down.

Users can press the button, and when they do the timer resets to 60 for everyone.

Users can only press the button once.

Game On!

As of 2/4/15 – with over 500,000 simultaneous users viewing the button screen, I’ve rarely seen the timer rarely gets below 57 seconds before it gets reset.  This one little button is driving hundreds of posts, likes and shares as to why you should or should not press the button.  New threads are spawning by the minute where users get to discuss argue with each other about the varying theories of the button—and what will really happen when it gets to zero.  This is the genius of The Button.

Buttonology – Gamifying the Website.

Imagine you have a website.  Your website’s primary objective is to have people visit your site and discuss various topics.  When gamifying anything, good ideas always spawn from clear identification of purpose: what is the outcome of the game from the perspective of the business, not necessarily the player. 

Perhaps it was actually to troll their users—or perhaps reddit was super, SUPER smart.  I suspect they are SUPER smart. 

What if we created a game element that sits on the screen and users were so compelled to stay and watch—deciding when, and if, they would play; hanging on the edge of their seat to see how the game “ends”. 

They would stay on your site, consume and create website content as they go, becoming more and more addicted with every second that goes by.  “Tick”, “Tick”, “Tick”, “CLICK!”

Creating The Perfect Storm

Often when people think about gamification they want to “force” their players to behave a certain way or do a certain thing.  This is the opposite of what creates an insanely compelling game.  Rather than forcing players to do anything, you create a compelling environment, and allow the player to choose—and experience the consequences of their choice.

The Button has one choice, one decision.  Press or Don’t Press.  It’s insanely simple.  What makes it genius is the environment the “players” are put in.  Logged in players are tagged as pressers or non-pressers, forcing a segregation.  So in the chats, when people are posting their opinion / decision / religion about the button, we can clearly see the truth.  Are they are pusher, or a non pusher.  The honest truth is revealed in black and white, or grey and purple as the case may be. 

Pressers can be seen throughout the pages luring non-pressers to succumb to the will of the PURPLE and join the instant gratification crowd.  Non-pressers can take the high road showing the world their moral superiority and holding the last line of defence from the ever growing list of purples. 

Want to know the best part? 

This is all happening while users populating and frequenting reddit, creating content on the site, and sharing it virally all over social media.  It’s great content, it’s engaging, entertaining and pretty damn funny.  You can guarantee this aligns with the original outcome and intent for The Button. 

Just in case you’ve not caught on yet…. THEY’RE ARGUING OVER A COLOUR.  A COLOUR!!!!  They’re creating content about a colour.  They’re sharing like crazy over a colour.  It’s like the whole/black/blue/gold white dress thing.  Except WAY better.

This is exactly what happens when you get high levels of buy in into a game—they’ll fight to defend their position in a made up situation that isn’t even real. Imagine if your clients or customers were sharing and discussing your content, products or services in this way.

The Button: Next Level

So, how could we go about taking the button to the next level?  It’s not a huge stretch to see how this concept could be taken further or even monetised with additional gamification elements.

What would happen if The Button included….

 – Charts over time of the number of clicks per minute

 – Lowest time on timer in the last 5 mins / hour / day.

 – SMS alerts when the timer gets to X seconds remaining

 – Upgrade to premium reddit account with extra button pushes.

Gamification has been around for a long time, but one thing’s for sure—it’s starting to get some serious mainstream exposure for increasing client engagement and helping business achieve success.  

So when are you going to start gamifying elements of your business?  

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