How To Manufacture Desire
Editor?s Note: This guest post is written by Nir Eyal, a founder of two startups and an advisor to several Bay Area companies and incubators. Nir blogs about technology and behavior engineering at nirandfar.com.
Type the name of almost any successful consumer web company into your search bar and add the word ?addict? after it. Go ahead, I?ll wait. Try ?Facebook addict? or ?Zynga addict? or even ?Pinterest addict? and you?ll soon get a slew of results from hooked users and observers deriding the narcotic-like properties of these web sites. How is it that these companies, producing little more than bits of code displayed on a screen, can seemingly control users? minds? Why are these sites so addictive and what does their power mean for the future of the web?
We?re on the precipice of a new era of the web. As infinite distractions compete for our attention, companies are learning to master new tactics to stay relevant in users? minds and lives. Today, just amassing millions of users is no longer good enough. Companies increasingly find that their economic value is a function of the strength of the habits they create. But as some companies are just waking up to this new reality, others are already cashing in.
A company that forms strong user habits enjoys several benefits to its bottom line. For one, this type of company creates ?internal triggers? in users. That is to say, users come to the site without any external prompting. Instead of relying on expensive marketing or worrying about differentiation, habit-forming companies get users to ?self trigger? by attaching their services to the users? daily routines and emotions. A cemented habit is when users subconsciously think, ?I?m bored,? and instantly Facebook comes to mind. They think, ?I wonder what?s going on in the world?? and before rationale thought occurs, Twitter is the answer. The first-to-mind solution wins.
But how do companies create the internal triggers needed to