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Some people in the technology field are rethinking techniques that encourage users of an app or a service to stay with it or return to it habitually. Yet, Sean Ellis of GrowthHackers.com suggests not focusing on using growth hacking techniques to drive habitual usage of an app will likely lead the app to go it of business.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    almost 4 years ago #

    I figured I'd be villainized more by the journalist who wrote this article, but I think she was fairly balanced. It's an interesting discussion and I think it really comes down to the app. For example I love that Fitbit makes me obsessed about fitness.

    • JB

      Joseph Bentzel

      almost 4 years ago #

      Operant conditioning disguised as growthhacking is what I call 'skinner box marketing'. Facebook got caught doing it with their non-permissioned a/b testing back in 2014. Generated a lot of push back from users and advertisers.

      Skinner box marketing gets advocated on this board everytime somebody pimps 'neuromarketing' or some other offshoot of 'hooked' thinking that pushes emotional manipulation of users as a 'growth strategy'.

      I think it's important that ethical growthhackers & martech vendors that support ethical growthhacking differentiate themselves from the operant conditioning model of digital manipulation. My piece on Medium re: Skinner Box Marketing.

      https://medium.com/@Platformula1/digital-skinner-box-marketing-196641c08678#.4eheyqp23

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        almost 4 years ago #

        I have to admit Joseph that you lost me with this comment. I think you're saying that trying to drive habitual usage of a product is a bad thing and shouldn't be included as part of growth hacking. If that's the case, I'm not sure I entirely agree. I think the biggest risk that most products face is that someone uses them once and never uses them again. The most likely cause of this is that the product doesn't offer any value. There isn't much you can do in that case expect the long hard slog of changing the product. But if the product does offer value, then it is important to try to improve engagement and repeat usage through tactical experimentation. In my opinion the ethical question around this really boils down to the product itself. Some are clear cut. Cigarettes and gambling are bad things to develop a habit doing. Fitbit's ability to drive me to habitually exercise is part of the reason I signed up for the product. And there is lots of products in between.

        Another question is "what's the right amount of engagement?" If not enough engagement then a person will stop using your product. But at a certain point I think there is a diminishing return on engagement and eventually it turns to negative engagement. For example when people say they are wasting too much time with an app, many will remove the app altogether. I personally have done this with both Twitter and FB from my phone in the past (and got the idea from someone else who had done the same thing). I eventually put them back on my phone but I used them a lot less afterwards.

        I realize the article you linked to might have explained your full position better, but it would be great if you could try to clarify here in easy to understand language. Good chance I'll agree with you, but if not it would be great to narrow down the exact areas of disagreement. Thanks!

  • JB

    Joseph Bentzel

    almost 4 years ago #

    Sean: Here would be my response. That it's not about 'bad-for-you products' as you advocate in your response. Not about just 'cigarettes and gambling' as habit model.

    I'm saying that within the growthhacking movement there is a LARGE PERCENTAGE of NON PERMISSIONED MARKETING ADVOCATES (anti-Godin people) that think keeping a user from exiting an app or SaaS user experience is the valid way to 'engage' no matter what emotionally manipulative methods are used..

    This orientation toward 'hooked' mechanics in marketing is doubly troubling to me given that a ton of products are built following the 'MVP' model which to my way of thinking often puts pre-baked stuff in front of users. So I'm saying that in many cases a shitty product experience is driving 'experiments' in capturing user attention IN SPITE of the bad product which as you indicate "(customer) uses them once and never uses them again".

    I'm also saying something else. That what the NYT is describing as unethical behavior is marketing policy in some of the bigger players. That noise is about to get louder.

    You and I will just agree to disagree on this one. I personally find this drift toward toxic, emotionally manipulative engagement mechanisms as one of the core vulnerabilities of the growthhacking movement itself. Be well and thanks for taking the time to respond. JB

    • TM

      Taylor Miles

      almost 4 years ago #

      I agree with you on the fact that in general there is a bit of a drift toward growth at all costs for some companies, but I'm not sure this has anything to do with "growth hacking". I personally see this passion of growth, is not about manipulation, but more about providing a better user experience, and thus a better product. These methods of analyzing qualitative, and quantitative data to try and better understand the features, and experience the customer desires.

      I tend to agree with Sean on this one. The act of making a product more user friendly and accelerating the sharing (growth) of it to other like minded users is not inherently bad. It entirely depends on the type of product/service that your optimizing. Getting more people to donate to Charity Water, or get healthier by using Strava for tracking your bike rides is not bad.

      I have issues with this authors basic premis that we are not to responsible for or addictions to technology. Its up to the individual to find the proper balance between time on devices and other alternatives like spending time outdoors exercising.

      One example of products could possibly be overly manipulative is the F2P Mobile Game space. These games are very addictive, and cause many to spend money they can't afford to spend. Are people getting genuine happiness and enjoyment from these games?

      "Growth Hacking" "New Marketing" whatever you want to call it is more of a science. The ethical basis for the product your marketing is a totally different subject.

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