As a member of a newly born start-up, there is one dilemma that strikes me the most. Heading toward an era in which screens are anywhere. Our attention gets drawn in several directions. Although I used to believe I was the owner of my consciousness which I could deliberately drive. I realized how flawed my thinking was.
Indeed, as I dive into the startup world, I find out about a staggering truth. It isn’t a fight about power, prestige or money. Instead, another currency that, as we progress, becomes more and more scarce is at the center of this battle. It is all about people’s attention.
That attention gets triggered and channeled by a set of hooks, that make the users wanting more. In this fight over people’s attention.
The boundary between product development and people’s manipulation is thin. Thus, my dilemma is how to make sure we’re building a product that is ethical? Before finding the answer let me give you a quick introduction to the Hook Model.
How to Build a Habit-Forming Product Ethically: The Drug Dealer Test! https://t.co/yZATSIn12P
— Nir Eyal (@nireyal) August 21, 2017
- The Hook Model
- Ethics: A Problem as Old as Humankind
- Ethical Manipulation: The Drug Dealer Test
- Hook Model Case Study: beBee
- The Hook Model in Action
- Key takeaway on beBee hook model
- DuckDuckGo hook model example and case study
- Key takeaway on DuckDuckGo hooked model example and case study
The Hook Model
Instead of relying on expensive marketing, habit-forming companies link their services to the users’ daily routines and emotions. ― Nir Eyal, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
For anyone running a startup, the Hook Model is one of those frameworks you must keep on top of your mind. A four-step framework, from the trigger to investment and back to trigger. The user builds a habit that makes her wanting more and more of that product.
A trigger is “the spark plug in the Hook Model.” Usually, an external trigger (e.g., a push notification from your phone) connects with an internal trigger (boredom) to bridge the gap between the user and the product. Once triggered into the model the user is incentivized to act (open your phone when seeing the push notification from Facebook).
The core to make a product habit-forming is its variable reward. In short, our brain expects a reward, and it prepares for it. Yet after meeting the expected reward if the user finds an additional unexpected reward it gets almost hooked. Before the user leaves though it is time to ask for an investment regarding time, data, effort, social capital or money.
Big companies all over the world; from Facebook to LinkedIn, hooked us and we can’t live without their services. Therefore the model is so powerful that it brings up a few questions on what is the proper way of using it. Indeed, with such a robust framework how do we make sure to use it for good?
Ethics: A Problem as Old as Humankind
Bad people…are in conflict with themselves; they desire one thing and will another, like the incontinent who choose harmful pleasures instead of what they themselves believe to be good. ― Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Ethics is not an easy issue. Deriving from the Greek ἦθος, meaning habit, custom. Ethics is an attempt to discern between good and evil, right or wrong. In other words, to define what are the absolute human values that should be part of anyone’s life.
Per se, this approach is utopian and doomed to failure. In fact, things are often shaded. They’re neither right or wrong on their own. Rather, based on context, perspective, and cultural norms most of the human behaviors are goal-driven.
Also, ethics is the byproduct of human cultural evolution. What was right in the past it is considered as unjust nowadays. We have reasons to believe that what we deem right today will be regarded as wrong tomorrow. How do we solve this impasse? Rather than focusing on theoretical differences and definitions, we could use a much simpler approach.
For instance, in the startup world, we could define ethics as a process. That process leverages on unconscious clues and hooks. But it also should bring towards conscious behaviors. The final aim is to improve the user mental well-being. In short, those manipulations should be ethical. In this respect, Nir Eyal proposes an interesting framework.
Ethical Manipulation: The Drug Dealer Test
As Nir Eyal explains the first rule of drug dealing is “never get high on your own supply.” If you want to build an ethical product you have to break this rule!
Indeed, the Manipulation Matrix is a two questions quadrant to assess whether the product you’re building is ethnically manipulative. The first question “Do you believe that the product or service you’re working on is materially improving people’s lives?”
The answer is either Yes or No. Yes classifies you as a peddler. No, classifies you as a dealer. The second question “am I the user?” Yes puts you in the facilitator quadrant. No makes you as the entertainer.
According to Nir Eyal, the companies that are successful at building ethical habit-forming product are those which founders turned out to be also facilitators. From Google to Facebook, Slack or Whatsapp. Are you a dealer or a facilitator?
Hook Model Case Study: beBee
It all started early this year when I first got an email that invited me to join a platform called beBee. I didn’t know what it was about, one concept captured my attention, “personal branding.”
At that time I had a pain-point. I was looking for ways to amplify the content I published on my personal and company’s blog and to connect with other professionals. FOMO kicked in, and that is why I gave it a try.
As soon as I got into beBee, I discovered a few interesting details. People there connect through hives, which are small communities within beBee. Each hive is a topical area, from marketing to start-up, sales and so forth. Based on the interest you have you connect with other like-minded people. beBee’s members are called bees and each time you write a piece of content you’re “producing honey.” Saving some details for later, I found this new social media compelling.
But most of all I discovered that knowingly or not they are using the Hook Framework to grow their users. As of 2016, beBee had 11 million members. They’re planning to reach about 40 million users in 2018. Let’s dive into it and see how they’re using the Hooked Model to grow their social network! It all started early this year when I first got an email that invited me to join a platform called beBee.
Source: Hooked, by Nir Eyal, author’s note: I customized each quadrant to fit into the beBee’s story.
The Hook Model in Action
That external trigger, made me join the platform. For me, the external hook was an email invitation I got from a trusted connection I had on LinkedIn. Among its channels, beBee is using LinkedIn as a source to grow its user base. In short, beBee is using a strategy that in the growth hacking world is called OPN (other people’s network). That external trigger, made me join the platform.
Once I joined I started to browse around, I immediately noticed two new concepts, which jumped to my eyes: hives and buzzes. Hives are small communities around topics. Buzzes, instead, are pieces of content shared by the member of each hive. Therefore, as soon as I joined I picked a few hives I was interested in (start-ups, content marketing, and marketing). As soon as I got into those hives, I noticed a high level of engagement.
People were commenting, suggesting and reading other people’s buzzes. That is why I thought it was time to take action. Once I joined I started to browse around, I immediately noticed two new concepts, which jumped to my eyes: hives and buzzes. Hives are small communities around topics. Buzzes, instead, are pieces of content shared by the member of each hive.
Therefore, as soon as I joined I picked a few hives I was interested in (start-ups, content marketing, and marketing). As soon as I got into those hives, I noticed a high level of engagement. People were commenting, suggesting and reading other people’s buzzes. That is why I thought it was time to take action.
The first thing I did was to start curating some hives I found interesting. When you start writing on beBee, you’re “producing honey.” So when I began to produce honey I decided to focus on 5-6 hives I found most compelling to me. That is how my content curation effort started.
Things didn’t stop there. A variable reward soon arrived when I received a badge on my profile with the VIP Status. When I published my first buzz I almost instantaneously got a thousand views, dozens of people finding it relevant and sharing it. That gave me a sense of social proof quite unexpected.
I found out that beBee assigns the symbol to people producing honey regularly. In short, if you stop producing content you lose that badge. The community engagement, the curation effort, and the VIP badge made me go back and write some more.
That is how I started to invest a few hours throughout my the week to become part of the community. It made me think about the IKEA effect, a cognitive bias that makes consumer of a product or service place a disproportionate value on products or services they partially created. Eventually, we attribute more values to things that we contributed to building. That is why I felt like the hives I curated were as important as my blog, in some respect. Therefore, as a community manager, I had to make sure to produce great content regularly.
Key takeaway on beBee hook model
beBee is a new professional network that is leveraging on the Hook Model to grow its user base. With a mixture of growth hacking and Hook Model, beBee is allowing its users to become free referral sources through external triggers like Tweets, Likes or email invitations. When you join the professional network, you get drawn into the hives. Feeling the fear of missing out, you start curating your hives. When you get your first engagements and shares you start to take more action. What makes the action escalate is a mixture of engagement and the formal recognition of a VIP badge you get on your profile. The trick is If you stop creating content you’ll lose your VIP badge. That is how you start investing more time into the platform to become a community member and get some more social proof. That is how you got hooked!
DuckDuckGo hook model example and case study
The resources you need to get started with your business model:
- What Is a Business Model? 30 Successful Types of Business Models You Need to Know
- What Is a Business Model Canvas? Business Model Canvas Explained
- Blitzscaling Business Model Innovation Canvas In A Nutshell
- What Is a Value Proposition? Value Proposition Canvas Explained
- What Is a Lean Startup Canvas? Lean Startup Canvas Explained
- How to Write a One-Page Business Plan
- The Rise of the Subscription Economy
- How to Build a Great Business Plan According to Peter Thiel
- What Is The Most Profitable Business Model?
- The Era Of Paywalls: How To Build A Subscription Business For Your Media Outlet
- How To Create A Business Model
- What Is Business Model Innovation And Why It Matters
- What Is Blitzscaling And Why It Matters
- Snapshot: One Year Of “Business Model” Searches On Google In Review
- Business Model Vs Business Plan: When And How To Use Them
- The Five Key Factors That Lead To Successful Tech Startups
- Top 12 Business Ideas with Low Investment and High Profit
- Business Model Tools for Small Businesses and Startups
Popular case studies from the blog:
- The Power of Google Business Model in a Nutshell
- How Does Google Make Money? It’s Not Just Advertising!
- How Does DuckDuckGo Make Money? DuckDuckGo Business Model Explained
- How Amazon Makes Money: Amazon Business Model in a Nutshell
- How Does Netflix Make Money? Netflix Business Model Explained
- How Does Spotify Make Money? Spotify Business Model In A Nutshell
- The Trillion Dollar Company: Apple Business Model In A Nutshell
- DuckDuckGo: The [Former] Solopreneur That Is Beating Google at Its Game