Tag / Habits

You’ve undoubtably heard of Snapchat, the habit-forming messaging service used by over 100 million people monthly. This week, I teamed up with Victoria Young and Dori Adar to help explain what makes the app so sticky.

We decided that instead of writing a long blog post, we’d share our insights in a slide presentation. Let us know what you think of the format and the content in the comments section below!

Diabetes CupcakesI had just finished giving a speech on building habits when a woman in the audience exclaimed, “You teach how to create habits, but that’s not my problem. I’m fat!” The frustration in her voice echoed throughout the room. “My problem is stopping bad habits. That’s why I’m fat. Where does that leave me?”

I deeply sympathized with the woman. “I was once clinically obese,” I told her. She stared at my lanky frame and waited for me to explain. How did I hack my habits?

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The first step is to realize that starting a new routine is very different from breaking an existing habit. As I describe in this video, there are different techniques to use depending on the behavior you intend to modify.

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Fitness apps are all the rage. An explosion of new companies and products want to track your steps and count your calories with the aim of melting that excess blubber. There’s just one problem — most of these apps don’t work. In fact, there is good reason to believe they make us fatter.

One study called out “the dirty secret of wearables,” citing that “these devices fail to drive long-term sustained engagement for a majority of users.” Endeavour Partners’ research found “more than half of U.S. consumers who have owned a modern activity tracker no longer use it. A third of U.S. consumers who have owned one stopped using the device within six months of receiving it.”

While the report mentioned several reasons why people don’t stick with these tracking devices, my own theory is simple, they backfire. Here are three surprising reasons why fitness apps may be making us less happy and more flabby.

Nir’s Note: This post is co-authored with Stuart Luman, a science, technology, and business writer who has worked at Wired Magazine, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and IBM.

Fomo

“I wish that I could be like the cool kids,” goes the catchy hook for the hit song by Echosmith. The official video has been viewed over 15 million times on YouTube, perhaps tapping into something deeper than mere adolescent angst.

We all want to be like the cool kids.

In 2013, the word “FoMO” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The “fear of missing out” refers to the feeling of “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere.” Although the terminology has only recently been added to our lexicon, experiencing FoMO is nothing new.

Hooked user“I’m endlessly loyal,” my wife said, staring straight into my eyes. But she wasn’t talking about our marriage — she was pledging her allegiance to a piece of software.

“I’ll never quit Microsoft Office,” she told me. “It does too much for me to leave it.” For a moment I wondered if her husband had engendered the same reverence, but then I remembered things at Microsoft aren’t all wine and roses. In fact, the conversation with my wife was sparked by a debate over switching from Office to Google Docs for our home business.

Apparently, we aren’t the only ones considering other options. Industry analysts say Google Apps has already beaten Office as the top choice for smaller businesses and is in a “dead heat among companies with more than 1,000 employees.”

Let’s say you’ve built the next big thing. You’re ready to take on the world and make billions. Your product is amazing and you’re convinced you’ve bested the competition. As a point of fact, you know you offer the very best solution in your market. But here’s the rub. If your competition has established stronger customer habits than you have, you’re in trouble.

The cold truth is that the better product does not necessarily win. However, there’s hope. The right strategy can crowbar the competition’s users’ habits, giving you a chance to win them over.

To understand how to change customer habits, we first need to understand what habits are and how they take hold. Simply put, habits are behaviors done with little or no conscious thought. Research shows almost half of what we do, day in and day out, is driven by these impulsive behaviors.

“You teach best what you most need to learn.” – Richard Bach

editorial portrait of Nir Eyal | Engage MagazineI don’t usually write about personal and revealing matters, but recently I’ve noticed something I don’t like about myself–I check email too often.

This confession doesn’t come easily, because, ironically, I am the author of a book titled Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming ProductsIt is a guidebook for designing technology people can’t put down. There’s just one problem–I can’t put my technology down.

I ritually check email when I wake up in the morning. If I’m out to lunch, I’ll sneak a peek on my way to the restroom. I even look at my email when stopped at a red light. Most troubling, I catch myself emailing instead of being fully present with the people I love most. My daughter recently caught me scrolling on my iPhone and asked, “Daddy, why are you on your phone so much?” I didn’t have a good answer.

habits

Have you noticed all the startups raising massive sums of money recently? Perhaps you’ve scratched your head wondering how a company like Buzzfeed, known for its website full of animated gifs, listicles and quizzes, just raised $50 million dollars, valuing the company at a reported $850 million. Snapchat, the messaging app known for helping teenagers sext one another, reportedly received a $10 billion valuation from its investors. Has the world gone mad?

Some industry watchers see the recent boom in seemingly trivial apps and websites as foretelling tech bubble 2.0. However, there’s much more to the story.

Our knee-jerk reaction to classify innovation as either important or frivolous is exactly why many are left aghast when previously dismissed companies reveal shocking valuations in ridiculous investment rounds.

Vitamins and Painkillers

Most people, including many professional investors, tend to put new products into one of two categories: vitamins or painkillers.

Nir’s Note: This guest post is written by Max Ogles. Max writes at MaxOgles.com about behavior change, psychology, and technology. Sign up for a free copy of his upcoming e-book, “9 Ways to Motivate Yourself Using Psychology and Technology.”

6273266577_c37d3fec72_zA commonly quoted and incredibly scary stat reveals that 9 out of 10 people who undergo heart bypass surgeries as a result of poor health are unable to change their habits, even with their lives on the line.

We’ve all failed at something, though luckily most of us don’t face death as a consequence. Here’s a short list of some of the habits I started, only to eventually fail:

  • For two months, I went running 3 to 4 times each week. (I even ran a half marathon!) Then I quit running and didn’t run again for over a year.

Nir’s Note: In this essay, Ryan Stuczynski and I discuss the relationship between habits and user satisfaction. Ryan was the Director of Analytics at Fab and today leads growth for theSkimm. Follow Ryan on Twitter or Medium.

Here’s the Gist:

  • People have limited bandwidth when it comes to mobile app usage and habits matter for long-term engagement.
  • Usage frequency helps explain whether a company is successfully creating user habits.
  • Companies able to create more frequent usage habits enjoy higher user satisfaction as measured by Net Promoter Scores.

In the company’s first quarter earnings call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg told Wall Street investors, “almost 63% of people who use Facebook in a month, will use it in a given day.” He continued, “another stat that I think is actually quite interesting is we track how many people use Facebook not just every day … but what percent of people used it 6 days out of 7 days of the week. And that number, for the first time in the last quarter, passed 50%. So, that’s pretty crazy, if you think about it … more than 50% of people have used it 6 days out of 7 days of the week, almost every single day of a week.”