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Nir Eyal on managing habits

Watch Alex Cowan discuss managing habits with Nir Eyal, author of Hook and creator of the hook framework.
Joining us is Nir Eyal, expert on habits and author of Hooked. Nir, thanks for joining us. >> Great to be here, thanks so much, Alex. >> I just have to ask because it’s so new and novel in a lot of ways How did you come up with the framework? >> Well, I spent a lot of time in the gaming and advertising industries, and in my times in those industries, I learned a lot of these techniques and tactics on how to change user behavior. I mean, advertisers don’t spend all that money for their health. They’re spending that money to get people to change their behavior to buy their products and services.
And if there’s one industry that really does understand how to get people to do things it’s the video gaming industry. And so, at the intersection of those two industries was my company. Through years of watching these companies come and go and campaigns come and go, some them worked, some of them didn’t. I learned a lot of these techniques and so when my company was acquired, I wanted to figure out how to quantify everything I have learned. So, that it wouldn’t be just gaming companies and social networks and advertisers that would use these techniques. I wanted to teach other companies how to build habit-forming products.
So that lots of different things could become habits, hopefully creating healthy habits in users and customers. >> Now, I know you’re out working with practitioners all the time so do you use some of the ideas from Hooked? What are some of the biggest barriers to action, and what are some of the earliest rewards that practitioners product managers in particular, might expect from applying the Hook Framework? >> Well, the biggest barrier is thinking that these companies got lucky, or that somehow they just kind of stumbled into these products. That is not at all the case, I mean, if you look at the biographies of the people who started Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Instagram and Whatsapp.
I mean this people not always they have technical backgrounds, their backgrounds are in psychology. Mark Zuckerberg major before when he dropped out of Harvard was computer science and psychology. The founders of Instagram were symbolic systems majors at Stanford. The same goes for the founders of LinkedIn, these folks understand what makes you click and what makes you tick better than you understand in yourself. And so, that’s really what I wanted to dive into with Hooked is what’s the psychology behind why these products are so hard to put down, not so that we can addictive on I more opposed to addicting people. But, I think what we can do with these things is help people form healthy habits.
I mean, the biggest problem when I work with companies, the biggest problem they always tell me to have is customer engagement, right? How do you keep people coming back to your product or service that you know would be wonderful for them, we know could benefit them if they would only use the product. And so, that’s really the challenge that I try and help companies with is how do you get people to come back to your product on their own? Without needing expensive advertising or spammy messaging, how do we get people to come back? >> And can you tell us about what are your favorite examples of practice?
>> Sure, so I put my money where my mouth is, so I constantly look for companies to invest in that are using the Hook Model. We can talk more about the four steps of the Hook Model. I’m not sure it’s part of the assigned reading, I hope it is. But basically, so what I do is I look for companies that use the Hook Model. And one of my favorite examples, a company called Seven Cups. Seven Cups was started by a guy by the name of Glen Moriarty, who was a psychotherapist in Virginia Beach actually. And he wrote me one day actually, he call me for my office hours.
I do weekly office hours with whoever has read the book in this and wants to chat. So, he calls me a few years ago and he says, look I don’t really have a technical background but I have an idea for an app. I’m a psychotherapists, I know that people would love to use my product, right? They’d love to get therapy, but there’s a lot of difficulty to getting therapy. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, there’s social stigma. There’s all these problems with getting therapy. So, he read my book and he used the four steps of the Hook, to build a habit out of getting therapy.
So that instead turns all kinds of healthy things people do when they’re feeling down, when they’re feeling lonely, when they’re feeling depressed, when they’re seeking connection. A lot of unhealthy things that people can do when they feel those negative emotions. Instead they open up his app and are connected with someone else, who can provide support. Now, the interesting thing is, the really cool thing behind this app Seven Cups. Is that the more people have established this habit of getting support, of getting relief for themselves. Once they’ve established that habit they create this habit of helping other people and that’s really amazing. So, he actually trains people to help others, to be listeners themselves.
And there’s been a third party study now that has verified that Seven Cups is as effective as traditional psychotherapy. Therapy and they conduct about 800,000 sessions a week in 140 countries. Talk about the power of a healthy habit. >> That is incredible, one thing we like to close with is is three tips for the product manager who wants to apply Hook. What would you recommend? >> So, I’m just going to walk through the framework actually [LAUGH], if that’s okay with you. I think that there’s these five basic questions. The first is to realize that these things aren’t by mistake, that engagement is something that happens by design.
And so, if you are in the kind of business that requires unprompted engagement, if you need people to come back To your business on their own just like the companies like Facebook and Twitter, and Instagram, and Whatsapp, and Slack, and Snapchat. All of these companies think about it. They would go out of business if people didn’t form a habit with these products. Right, so if you are that kind of business, if you need people to come back on their own, you have to ask yourself these five fundamental questions. One, what’s your internal trigger? What’s the itch that occurs frequently enough in your user’s life, to prompt them to action?
Then, what’s the external trigger that gives them some piece of information that tells them what to do? Then the third question is, what’s the simplest behavior that they can do in anticipation of reward? Four is, is the reward fulfilling and yet leaves them wanting more? That’s the variable reward phase. And then finally, the investment phase, what’s the thing the user puts into the product in anticipation of a future benefit that brings them back to the Hook another time. >> Terrific. Well, this is a fantastic perspective on what I think is one of the most useful frameworks out there for product managers. Thanks for joining us, Nir. >> Thank you, my pleasure Alex.

In this video, Alex interviews Nir Eyal and discusses how he created the hook framework. Eyal describes the internal trigger as an “itch that occurs frequently enough in your user’s life to prompt them into action.” As a product manager, how does your product fit into this framework and what “itch” are you try to scratch?

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