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Recaps: Two days of talks with Hooked author Nir Eyal

18 Nov

Nir Eyal, an entrepreneur, designer and author, has been on the event circuit since the release of his new book Hooked: How To Build Habit-Forming Products. I recently heard him speak two days in a row at Alley Boost and StartupGrind events. Below is a post that combining what he said at both events. I guess the next step should be reading his book…it’s on my list!

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Nir speaks at Alley Boost event at Mercy College.

Did you know that 1 out of 3 Americans would rather give up sex than their smart phone? Technology has quickly become a pervasive – and intimate – part of our lives. If you’re a designer or an entrepreneur, then you probably are dying to know how technology becomes habit-forming. And if you’re just a consumer, knowing why we get hooked is the first step in breaking unhealthy attachments to tech.

Cue Nir Eyal, entrepreneur, designer and author of Hooked, which was recently released as a physical book that explores what entrepreneurs should build and why. Eyal has a background in gaming and advertising, which both involve some form of mind control. He had his own startup and he has consulted plenty of others.

“A lot of companies were using these [habit-forming] tactics and yet they didn’t really understand why these tactics work,” said Eyal. “They do it without understanding the deeper psychology on how and why these things change users’ behavior.”

Companies want to create products that customers won’t just love, but won’t be able to put down. These types of addictive technologies like our phones, email and apps have a hook so compelling, that we keep using them without anyone prompting us to come back. They become habit, which is a behavior done with little or no conscious thought. This accounts for what we do for about half our day.

There are four parts to the hook, Eyal said.

1. The trigger is something that tells the user what to do and cues the next action. It can be external or internal. Most of these internal triggers are negative – our pain points that we look to solve. We form habits with technologies that lift us out of these negative states, like loneliness or boredom.

When we are lonely we use Facebook. When we’re unsure we go to Google. When we’re bored there’s YouTube, Pinterest, ESPN, etc. Studies show that people suffering from depression check email more often.

2. The action is the simple behavior done in anticipation of a reward. Examples are scrolling, searching or hitting the play button. The formula, created by B.J. Fogg, for predicting the likelihood of these singular actions is behavior = motivation + ability + trigger.

6 factors that can increase motivation are seeking pleasure, avoiding pain, seeking hope, avoiding fear, seeking acceptance and avoiding rejection.  Every ad uses one or more of those levels of motivation.

6 factors that affect ability are  time, money, physical effort, brain cycles (how hard it is to understand correlates with likeliness of doing it), social deviance (see other people doing it), non-routine (you’re more likely to do it if you’ve done it before).

3. The reward: We like variability; the uncertainty makes returning to the technology exciting. An example is the newsfeed, it’s always different.

4. The investment: The product should have a return on the investment because users put something into it in anticipation of a future benefit. Investments increase the likelihood of passing through the hook. Example – if you send a message on WhatsApp, you’ll get one back. Habit-forming technology should improve or appreciate rather than depreciate over time. Another type of investment is building a reputation or a following, like on Task Rabbit, Ebay or AirBnB. It’s hard to leave that platform once you have value on it.

While all this information has value for designers, changing someone’s behavior to meet our own ends, is a form of manipulation, said Eyal. He believes companies should practice social responsibility and use the psychology of the hook to make products that are good for us.

At Startupgrind, Eyal answered my Twitter question and I had 5 seconds of fame…within the event:

He handled the cynicism well, and said the emotions we want to manage don’t change, the technology and interface do. He predicts n a few years wearable technology, like Google Glass and smart watches will be the next big thing.

At the same time he’s teaching the hook, Eyal calls himself an advocate for breaking hooks. You can use the information to break habits and build good ones, he said. In the future, being able to control our habits will be a competitive advantage, said Eyal.

Maybe he’s saying we swap the juice cleanses and do the digital detox to prep for 2015? Maybe I’ll wait til 2016…Eyal’s “future” has no deadline. 🙂

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GOTHAMEDIA panel discussion: Is print dead?

7 Nov

I’ve been blogging a lot lately, but I was a journalist first! I’ve written for several newspapers in NY and my college state, Delaware. So I really enjoyed hearing some big personalities from the industry battle this one out. Of course, I think both print and digital are valuable to readers – I read hard copies of magazines and books and I also find news on the Internet. But the bigger question is whether they are valuable from an economic standpoint.

Is print dead? A group of experienced media professionals tried to answer this question at a Gotham Media event at the Frankfurt Kurnit Klein + Selz PC law office last week. They agree print advertising revenue is declining, but the industry is still alive. The more contentious point was how to sustain the traditional magazine and newspaper industries.

It’s difficult to get a good sense of the pulse of these businesses. The magazine industry is at a 1.5 billion gross audience as of September 2014, up from 1.3 billion last year, according to the Association of Magazine Media. Martin Nisenholtz, founder of New York Times Digital, said their audience has expanded internationally.

The rise in numbers results from a larger digital audience. Mobile web use has risen 90% and more users are watching video and reading magazine digital editions.

With the movement toward digital, companies are trying to figure out the economics of their industry. According to Jonathan Knee, Senior Advisor at Evercore Partners and Co-Director at Columbia University School of Business’ Media Program, newspapers have 20% margins, which is good, but not as good as the glory days of 40% margins. It’s no longer enough to completely satisfy Wall Street.

Many longtime companies think the solution is to split up print and digital. Publicly traded companies Tribune Co., EW Scripps, Gannett and Journal Communications all had some type of division in the past few months.

Read the rest at Office Lease Center’s blog: http://bit.ly/1EbBwqK

How to improve sales – tips from a former salesforce exec

6 Nov

Elay Cohen, the former Senior Vice President of Sales Productivity at salesforce.com, shared his proven communication-based sales techniques at an AlleyBoost class on Tuesday, October 28 at Mercy College. 

The entrepreneur and author urges companies to bring humanity back into sales – internally and externally. Cohen injected this personal, relationship-focused attitude toward sales into the culture of salesforce.com, which grew from $500 million to $3 billion in revenues while he was there.

“People would ask how we hit our numbers so fast,” Cohen said. “It has to come from the heart and soul of the company.”

Cohen’s sales philosophy comes from his experience learning sales from his father, a furniture storeowner, selling products door-to-door, and working in sales at various companies, including salesforce.com. He wrote a book called Saleshood and started a SaaS sales-solution startup with the same name. Founded less than two years ago, the company is already breaking even without any VC funding. Cohen said they are starting with a limited amount of customers so they can get the product right before they scale.

Salesforce

At salesforce Cohen created an environment where the entire team shared a single sales vision, which encouraged both results and relationship building with customers. When salesforce started in 1999, Microsoft and Oracle were competitors in the space. Sales reps met with customers, told them how salesforce could solve their pain faster and for less money than the bigger companies. Salesforce surprised the big names by expanding rapidly.

The company is known for its boot-camp training for new employees. The sales team continues to communicate with weekly and monthly meetings where they share success stories and allow for peer-to-peer learning.

Cohen’s formula for SUCCESS…

Read about his formula and more at Office Lease Center’s blog: http://bit.ly/1vqANez.