How we get FanHub’s users hooked

While most of us don’t realise it, there is a huge amount of design behind why we compulsively check Facebook & Instagram. These apps use our innate psychological needs to insert their experience into our daily lives and keep it there.

The beauty of these habit-forming products is that initially they seem nice to have but once they become habitual they are needed to scratch an itch and become must-haves.

When building FanHub we recognised the need to study the design of these habit-forming products to emulate them, so we’ve incorporated a range of psychological tactics within each artist’s app to encourage fans to keep coming back and engaging with the product over a sustained period of time.

To learn more about how to build a product that people love to use every day we turned to the experts in the field and analysed how we could include the elements they discuss into FanHub.

We started with BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford, who has developed a model for how any behaviour occurs. He writes that three elements must converge at the same time for a behaviour to occur: Motivation, Ability and Trigger.

Core motivators can include pleasure or pain, hope or fear and social acceptance or rejection. The motivator we believe drives FanHub’s use most is fomo (fear of missing out). Fans want to be the first to know what’s new with their favourite artist — when a new album is going to drop or a glimpse of what their life looks like backstage.

Ability incorporates how easy it is for the user to carry out the behaviour — including factors such as time, money or deviation from our usual routine. When building FanHub we realised how important it was to ensure fans didn’t have to change their routine when using our product, which is why we built it into Facebook Messenger rather than a separate app.

When you force people to download a separate app, you see a huge drop off in sign ups, and then your app is on Page 4 of their phone screen and is quickly forgotten. Instead, Facebook Messenger is already downloaded on over 1 billion phones and is usually already on the fan’s home screen, making it significantly easier to use.

The last element of the behaviour model, the ‘trigger’, is echoed in the research of the next expert in habit formation we studied — Nir Eyal.

After working for several years at the intersection of advertising and gaming, two sectors that specialise in changing user behaviour, Nir made it his mission to understand what exactly it is that makes some products addictive and others failures. The result was his book Hooked which talks through a 4-step model for how to build habit-forming products.

The four steps are Trigger — Action — Variable Reward — Investment.

So we come to both BJ Fogg & Nir Eyal’s ‘trigger’. A trigger can either be either external (a prompt the fan sees) or internal (an emotion that invokes action). Usually a product will use external triggers to encourage adoption with the goal of eventually developing internal triggers, where the fan will compulsively check their artist’s Facebook Messenger chat when they experience a certain feeling, such as fomo.

With FanHub we use a range of external triggers to encourage adoption.

Firstly, the artist will share a link with their fans on social, website & email encouraging them to sign up. This is the trigger to get fans into the app for the first time.

Once a fan has signed up, they can share information from inside the app with their friends on Facebook Messenger — setting off external triggers for those friends who then join the chat themselves for the first time.

Push notifications are another external trigger at the core of why FanHub is more powerful than other marketing channels for artists. Once a fan subscribes to alerts, the artist can notify them directly of any new tracks, album teasers or tour dates and get them back into the app and hopefully through to conversion.

After ‘trigger’ comes ‘action’. An action is the simplest behaviour you can complete in expectation of a reward. This element of the Hooked Model correlates with BJ Fogg’s work on behaviour models and ‘Ability’. How easy is it for the fan to fulfil the action they are trying to do?

As discussed before, by building the artist into Facebook Messenger, we’re already making it very simple for a fan to adopt the initial behaviour given they don’t need to download any new apps.

We’ve also built into the product everything a fan could want to know about the artist — latest tracks, remixes, tour dates, videos — so they no longer need to visit a range of apps just to know what’s going on.

Which is where we move onto ‘variable rewards’. The reward needs to be variable because events are no longer exciting when you know the outcome. If you were to put $1 into a machine and get $2 back every time, even that would get boring after a while. But if you put $1 in and could either get nothing or $1000, you are compelled to keep playing — this is how slot machines work.

Taking this into account, there are two types of variable rewards we incorporate into FanHub.

The first is information — we enable fans to discover everything they need to know about an artist, while also giving them access to new information that no one else has — the first listen of a new track, access to VIP tickets or a behind the scenes video. This information is constantly changing we makes it variable.

The second is a sense of personal connection. By enabling fans to vote on an artist’s next album cover we are inserting them into the creative process and making them feel more connected to the artist. Sending in photos, videos or audio clips that are watched by the artist and shared on social media solidifies that sense of connection. In both cases, the anticipation when waiting to find out the result of the vote, or whether your clip will be shared, keeps the fan engaged.

Lastly we come to ‘Investment’. Once a fan has experienced the trigger, completed the action and received the reward, it’s time to ask them to invest in the product to further improve their experience. With FanHub we wait until the fan has interacted with the artist and enjoyed the product before asking them to subscribe. That way they have already had a positive experience and are more inclined to sign up for more of those experiences. We do the same when prompting a fan to send in their location and receive updates when the artist announces a tour date in their town, or when we ask fans to share FanHub with their friends.

Once the fan has ‘invested’ by subscribing to alerts, FanHub becomes both more valuable to both the fan and the artist, so we need to ensure we get the timing right when asking for that investment.

To make FanHub as habitual as possible we need to make sure the fan goes through this ‘Hooked’ cycle regularly while also receiving sufficient reward each time. To balance these two factors we encourage artists to update the app several times a week and use push notifications to update their fans 1–2 times per week. This way we can ensure that there is enough new information within the app each time for the fan to get a reward, and eventually they won’t need a push notification to trigger them — it’ll be the sense of fomo that something could have changed without them knowing that drives them back.

Studying the experts in habit-formation has been hugely valuable for us at FanHub and by incorporating the ideas of Nir Eyal and BJ Fogg we’ve built a product fans love to use and keep coming back to, which is all any entrepreneur can hope for.

If you can think of any more ways we could incorporate these tactics, or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment below, we’d love to hear them.

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