Artwork by Goran Kulas

Getting Social with Headspace

It’s dangerous to go alone!

Have you ever caught yourself in a moment? Whether it’s happy, sad, frustrated, or any range of emotions, you’re absolutely present. In this state of mind, you’re not worried about the future or wondering about the past. One doesn’t become so caught up in an emotion or a thought that they become reactive; they simply take a moment to notice their state of mind before carrying on to the next thing.

Some call this Zen, focus, spirituality, or a meditative state. I like to think of it as mindfulness.

Enter Headspace

Headspace is a company based in Santa Monica, California, whose mission is:

…Teach the world to meditate, so that everyone can live a happier, healthier, more enjoyable life.

Through the primary use of a mobile app, you’re guided for the first ten free days; starting with a simple with a ten-minute exercise. As you progress beyond those ten days and pay for the experience, you have a variety of paths from which to choose such as health, relationships, and performance.

I’ve been using this app for about three months, and I have to say well done to the team for creating such a simple way to understand abstract concepts of the mind. With the exception of one poorly timed weekend, I haven’t missed a day. Every morning before getting into my day, I take twenty minutes (the full time allowed) to do the exercise. It’s no different than going to the gym; only in this case the muscle is my mind. The result? A noticeably greater sense of self-awareness. *

Bringing more Mindfulness to the World

This is one hell of an audacious mission. In a time where it’s easier than ever to be distracted, disconnected, and depressed (FOMO anyone?), mindfulness is our greatest anti-body. This poses the following question:

How do we encourage more people to join us on our journey to mindfulness?

It’s ironic, yet appropriately clever that a mobile app, usually the greatest source of distraction, is our pathway. I’ve encouraged several friends and family members to try it out. While everyone seems to like the idea and have downloaded the app, none of them have actually tried it. Headspace has recognized this problem as well, and you need only look at their job listings to see they need people focused on solving the problem of growing their user base.

A Potential Solution

Having spent a significant amount of time forming and coaching positive habits, I can confidently say that one of the single greatest factors in whether or not the habit starts and sticks comes down to social cohesion and acceptance.

There’s a glaring opportunity for Headspace to integrate this with their user experience.

A Tale of Two Hypotheses

I say Hypotheses here because these are ideas for experiments. Too often I see Product people falling in love with their solutions instead of the problem. I invite anyone reading this to challenge these ideas. When doing Product well, you’re working with a team of people, all of whom have their own ideas and should challenge yours. Regardless of who wins every debate, validating that you’ve actually solved the problem with users is the ultimate judge of success.

The Social Hypothesis

In Headspace, when you create an account for the first time, you’re given the ability to sign up with your Facebook account. This clearly reduces the friction for getting into the app, but we can take it a step further. By giving new users the opportunity to connect in-app with their friends who are already engaged with Headspace via Facebook, you’re introducing acceptance. Couple this with the ability to invite my friends who haven’t tried it, and you introduce a potentially viral channel.

If I apply this to Nir Eyal’s Hook model, I view it as the investment stage. Here, users would provide “social capital” to the app in the form of their friends, which would create an two types of triggers leading them back to the app every day. Headspace gets more users and revenue; you get more social support.

Once I invite my friends through a simple platform, I’m quickly notified when they make progress and have the ability to cheer them on for taking the first steps. This extrinsically triggers me to go into the app, increasing the likelihood I will complete my daily meditation if I haven’t already. For my friend, cheering them will intrinsically trigger them to come back tomorrow and do it again. A positive reinforcement loop like this helps move the new user through the funnel of the first ten days, after which they determine if they want to pay to continue.

In order to measure the success of this idea, we’d measure Adoption Rate in the form of users that have created an account and logged in to the app. More specifically, we’d measure adoption rate as the result of someone inviting a friend via Facebook. For Headspace, it may also mean that the user has completed the first session of “Take Ten.”

The Timeline Hypothesis

MyFitnessPal, another positive habit-forming app, uses a social timeline to give users a sense of how their friends are progressing on their day-to-day activities:

Headspace has a similar feature called “View.”

It’s a timeline of helpful articles and notes from the daily session to give the user a greater context for the benefits of mindfulness. By integrating social progress into the view, users will easily be able to cheer on their friends as they’ve progressed on a continuous streak of activity in the app. They’ll be able to congratulate them for finishing “Take Ten”, one of the many packs, or starting a new one.

Headspace encourages users to meditate once per day, with additional sessions if necessary in an emergency. The reason for this is because each day there is a lesson from the session that requires time to digest. Based on this, we can easily measure Daily Active Users (DAU) in the form of any user that has done their primary meditation exercise per day.

In Conclusion

If Headspace makes it simpler bring people along on the journey, they’re more likely to grow an engaged user base. Mindfulness is a naturally introspective process, but that doesn’t mean one has to be alone in doing it. There are myriad reasons why people won’t stop to take ten minutes out of their day to clear their mind; social inclusion shouldn’t be one of them. Personally, I’d love to see a world surrounded by people who are more focused, collected, and kind.

That’s a problem worth solving.

*I’ll leave it to my family, friends, and coworkers to chime in here. :D

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Headspace. Just a fan of their product.