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I write about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business at NirAndFar.com and recently published "Hooked" (NirAndFar.com/GetHooked). I have Lectured at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Design School and have sold two technology companies since 2003. For most of my career I’ve worked in the video gaming and advertising industries where I learned, applied, and at times rejected the techniques used to motivate and manipulate users. I write to help companies create behaviors that benefit their users, while educating people on how to build healthful habits in their own lives. Follow me on Twitter @nireyal and connect on my blog at NirAndFar.com

  • DL

    Dylan La Com

    over 4 years ago #

    Great to have you here @nireyal

    How do you approach finding the right triggers to test for new products? Is it research based, intuition on what might work, a combination of both, or some other process?

    • NE

      Nir Eyal

      over 4 years ago #

      @dylan Are you asking about finding the right internal or external triggers?

      • DL

        Dylan La Com

        over 4 years ago #

        Either, I suppose. Sorry if that's super vague.

        • NE

          Nir Eyal

          over 4 years ago #

          @dylan
          External - The difference between sending a trigger that feels like spam and one that feels like magic is context. The key to sending effective external triggers is coupling them as closely as possible to the moment the user experiences the internal trigger. For example - I wake up and I'm feeling anxious about not knowing what's going on in the world and that's when my news app pings me (as opposed to when news breaks, which is super annoying)

        • NE

          Nir Eyal

          over 4 years ago #

          @dylan
          Internal - There are many methods for figuring out your user's internal triggers and I describe several in HOOKED. User narratives that describe what the user is doing right before the habit can be useful for example. Other techniques like the much referenced "5 Whys" method is another good one. There are too many to describe here but you can download a free workbook on my blog (NirAndFar.com) with questions to help guide you through this process. Good luck!

      • NE

        Nir Eyal

        over 3 years ago #

        Here are some articles that might answer your question:
        The Psychology of Notifications: How to Send Triggers that Work - http://www.nirandfar.com/2015/03/notifications-that-work.html
        The Billion Dollar Mind Trick: An Intro to Triggers -
        http://www.nirandfar.com/2012/04/billion-dollar-mind-trick.html

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey @nireyal, I'm a huge fan of your book and blog, so thanks for joining us today! I have two questions for you:

    1. What are your favorite examples of the Hooked model that's not in tech?

    2. What's one thing you wish you've been asked in an interview? Doesn't have to be about Hooked, anything goes!

    • NE

      Nir Eyal

      over 4 years ago #

      @loganstoneman
      1. My favorite non-tech Hook is spectator sports. People get incredibly engaged watching these games and it's not really obvious why until you look at it in the context of the Hook Model. They don't call it March Madness for nothing.
      2. The one thing I always wish people would ask me about concerns the morality of manipulation. People who haven't read HOOKED sometimes assume I don't care about ethics and that's just not true. My blog is filled with ways to break unwanted habits and I'm deeply concerned with how to use habit-forming technology for good.

      • NE

        Nir Eyal

        over 3 years ago #

        @jdquey I think with the exception of addicts (which are defined as people harmed by the product and unable to stop despite wanting to) most people can moderate or discontinue use of persuasive technology. The vast majority of people simply stop using product that don't benefit them.
        It's sort of like with food - we shouldn't blame the baker for making tasty treats, it's up to us to moderate how much we consume.
        However, as I mentioned, addiction is a special exception of a protected class of people who the company does have an ethical obligation to help.

      • JQ

        Jason Quey

        over 4 years ago #

        Follow up to #2 - It seems the objective of marketers is to get the user to use the product more. Using Facebook as an example, would you consider it "unethical" to hook their users to continuously using their site if the user should be doing something more productive?

        Trying to focus this a bit more: How responsible is each party when a hook is created?

        I feel there's also a difference in what the hook is for: Getting someone to always taking their medication vs. being on Facebook vs. spending endless time on Candy Crush.

        Thanks for your time and input Nir!

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Nir,

    Thanks so much for doing this AMA. In your experience, how many external triggers does it take before the thing you're triggering becomes an internal trigger? Is there a number, or is a combination of things?

    • NE

      Nir Eyal

      over 4 years ago #

      @morgan There's an urban legend that there's a magic number -- unfortunately, there isn't. Some research has shown it takes an average of 60 days to form a new habit but that's just an average. In reality, how long it takes to establish an association with an internal trigger depends on the frequency and emotional salience of the experience so it really depends on the product you're building.

      • MB

        Morgan Brown

        over 4 years ago #

        Thanks Nir, makes total sense. I have another question for you: do you think that the traditional business mindset of thinking in terms of funnels (really one way metaphors) hurts teams when a loop or hook model could be more effective from a business thinking and approach stand point?

        • NE

          Nir Eyal

          over 4 years ago #

          To be clear, not every business needs to be habit-forming. Plenty of business models require one-time or infrequent user behavior. However, every business model that requires a user habit, requires a Hook.
          Funnels are still effective for one-time behaviors such as user on-boarding, but they're not as helpful for constructing habits.
          It's funny, I often see funnels ending in "re-activation" or "re-engagement" but people aren't really sure how to do that. Hopefully, my work can help with that.

          • AA

            Anuj Adhiya

            over 4 years ago #

            @nireyal Clearly im a fan of your work :)
            Just going off of what you said about businesses that have infrequent uses:

            Should such businesses still attempt to have some form of product hooks no matter how ancillary (and if yes can you provide an example of this)? Or are they just going to have to resort to email/content/social/other forms of marketing in an attempt to stay top of mind?

      • NE

        Nir Eyal

        over 3 years ago #

        @morgan I believe teams have become far too reliant on growth over engagement even though for the vast majority of companies, retaining a marginal user is much better for the bottom line than acquiring a new user. I think companies have become reliant on funnels because of, well, habits. We optimize what can be measure easily and funnels are easy to optimize when compared to rebuilding the product to increase engagement.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 4 years ago #

    So excited to have you doing this AMA @nireyal ! Seems I become a bigger fan of your writing and approach every day. My question is: Which product do you find the most impressive in its orchestration of a habit building experience and why?

    • NE

      Nir Eyal

      over 4 years ago #

      @sean Thanks very much! I'm so glad you find my work helpful. To answer your question - I think Facebook is still probably the master of habit-forming technology. Mark has demonstrated he not only knows how to design for habitual use but also that he understands the competitive advantages of habit-forming products (see Instagram and Whatsapp acquisitions).
      More recently, two companies I know have used the Hook Model successfully are Product Hunt and Meerkat. Both products have great Hooks.

  • TS

    TeriAtTheRhino Sun

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Nir,

    How do you design for the diversity within a given audience? Each individual user can have a unique set of past experiences and emotions that will influence what triggers them. Have you seen examples where triggers have been personalized?

    • NE

      Nir Eyal

      over 4 years ago #

      @teriattherhino You are absolutely correct that all triggers don't work all the time on all people. The good new is that they don't have to. Growth hacking and habit-formation is about constant small improvement to the product, which compounds over time.
      To your second question, I believe @adammStanford at @kahuna is building tools for sending personalized triggers but I'm not 100% sure. Anyone know of other tools?

  • EW

    Eric Willis

    over 4 years ago #

    Hello Nir,

    Thanks for doing this AMA.

    You've recently talked about the psychology of notifications and how to send them correctly. If you've tested Periscope today, what do you think about the way they've sent up follower notifications? Would you have done notifications differently in the app?

    • NE

      Nir Eyal

      over 4 years ago #

      @erictwillis Haven't played with it yet. What do you think of the notifications? What's unusual about them?

      • EW

        Eric Willis

        over 4 years ago #

        You get a notification for every single person that follows you. Some people are saying it's great for early engagement because you immediately know that you have an audience. Some people are complaining and just disabling notifications immediately as they say it's a bit too much.

        • NE

          Nir Eyal

          over 4 years ago #

          @erictwillis See my response to the question in the AMA about effective external triggers (bad external triggers = annoying spam).
          Regarding Periscope, @benrbn from Meerkat told me that they immediately stopped doing what it appears Periscope is doing due to user complaints. (see interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tpQtqX2f54)
          Interesting to see Periscope trying the same initial approach (or perhaps making the same mistake?)

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 4 years ago #

    Sorry Nir, another question for you:

    How do you balance building the trigger response through the loop and not burning out the user on those external triggers.

    For example, push notifications if done poorly, lose their effectiveness of time. it just becomes more noise. How do you keep those triggers exciting and relevant rather than annoying?

  • JM

    Jason Meresman

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Nir - Great to have you on GrowthHackers. It feels like a lot of the examples of products that have a great Hook are consumer products. Are there any examples of B2B products that have used the Hook Model successfully?

  • MY

    Mark Yoshitake

    over 4 years ago #

    Nir, I'm a big fan of your book, and as VP product, I've asked many on my team to read it, as we build out kifi.com , a social network for knowledge, especially as we develop our mobile retention and engagement strategy.

    I'm most curious about how best to think about habit formation in the early phase of users' lifecycle. I want to do this in a very elegant way, making sure people people develop the habit of saving content they love, seeing updates to 'libraries' they follow, and continuously adding more people to their knowledge network.

    I'm wondering if there are any best best practices here, e.g. notify on day 1 after install w/ a valuable notification about an update, and how often we should think about pushing this... we were thinking every 2 days, but moving to exponential durations between notifs so we don't annoy the user, which we all know leads to uninstalls...

    -- Mark

    • NE

      Nir Eyal

      over 4 years ago #

      @markyoshitake Your challenge sounds very similar to Pinterest's. John Egan (@jwegan_com) recently talked about this very thing at the HabitSummit.com this year. The simple answer is test by cohort. It's not worth arguing about, just test.

      • MY

        Mark Yoshitake

        over 4 years ago #

        awesome, thx, we'll check out john's talk. look forward to seeing more things from you. great podcast the other day as well.

  • SB

    Sonpreet Bhatia

    over 4 years ago #

    @nireyal : Do you have some examples of non-profit's building effective growth hacks?

  • PB

    pavan b

    over 4 years ago #

    How do you apply (think about) the hooked model where triggers are less frequent (like turbotax) but also random (like a recruiting app - everyone changes a job at random times and less frequently)?

    • NE

      Nir Eyal

      over 3 years ago #

      You don't! Infrequent behaviors are (almost) impossible to turn into habits. The user will nearly always require external prompting to use the product.

  • SN

    Skipr.tv Nelson

    over 4 years ago #

    Are you available for hire? :)

  • YS

    yassin shaar

    over 4 years ago #

    Its awesome of you to share your knowledge & experience with us!

    you talk alot about associating the user's emotional pain with our solution...

    How do you find/uncover the user's pain?

    Do you interview users, survey them etc...? If so, any specific script you use or guidelines you recommend we follow?

    THANK YOU for your time.

    • NE

      Nir Eyal

      over 3 years ago #

      There are several technique I describe in my book including the "5 why's" technique and writing user narratives. Another method is to look for existing behaviors to understand why people use current solutions.

  • YS

    yassin shaar

    over 4 years ago #

    Another question (if possible)...

    When we first rely on external triggers to get users back to our product...

    How do we find out the RIGHT/OPTIMAL time to send that trigger? So that we can condition them and get them to internalize it?

    Example:

    I run a paid membership website that's all about internet marketing. My assumption is that users visit my site when they feel frustrated or uncertain about a business decision...

    Which could happen at ANY time during their working day.

    How do I find the optimal time to trigger them to come to my site, and associate their emotional pain (frustration & uncertainty) with visiting my membership site?

    I hope I make sense :)

  • PW

    Phil Wolff

    over 4 years ago #

    On ethics, who is discussing a growth hacker code of conduct to address the abuse of our mighty magic powers of persuasion?

  • PW

    Phil Wolff

    over 4 years ago #

    Is it feasible to hijack the habitforming models being established by a rival organization? Have you seen it done? Are there forms of user surveillance that might detect this form of interference?

  • AM

    adam marchick

    over 4 years ago #

    Adam from Kahuna here - here to help!
    adam@kahuna.com

  • ES

    Ersan Saribal

    over 4 years ago #

    @nireyal Humans are habitual beings. But it seems to me that mindfulness (which empowers people to break old, undesired habits and create new ones) is increasing in prevalence, especially in the western world. Have you noticed any trends that people are less habitual or more habitual, or are they as strongly habitual as they were when you first started studying habits?

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