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Understanding Product Hooks

Product hooks are features, benefits, or elements of a product or service that engage users and keep them coming back, thus promoting growth. Hooks create habits which can then form new routines. Nir Eyal’s “Hook Model” is a popular framework for understanding how to create such hooks.

The Hook Model

The Hook Model consists of four stages:

  1. Trigger: This is the prompt that leads the user to the product. Triggers can be external (ads, emails, notifications) or internal (emotions, routines, situations). The goal is to eventually establish internal triggers, where users instinctively reach for the product based on internal cues.
  2. Action: This is the user performing the behavior that the trigger is prompting. This could be opening the app, clicking a notification, or browsing a website. According to the Fogg Behavior Model, for an action to occur, the user must have sufficient motivation, ability, and a trigger.
  3. Variable Reward: After the action, the user receives a reward, but crucially, this reward must be variable. For example, scrolling through a social media feed presents different content each time (the variable reward), creating a sense of novelty and discovery which keeps users engaged.
  4. Investment: Finally, the user puts something into the product or service, such as time, data, effort, social capital, or money. These investments increase the chances of the user returning because they create a sense of ownership and make leaving the product feel like a loss.

Understanding this model enables designers and founders to create more engaging products that increase retention and ultimately growth. However, it’s important to use this approach responsibly, considering the potential ethical implications of creating highly habit-forming products.

Types of Internal Hooks

  • Internal notifications
  • Likes
  • Zaps
  • Shares
  • Mentions
  • Follower activity
  • Analytics summaries
  • New content from follows
  • Requests
  • Suggested follows
  • Suggested content
  • Suggested topics / hashtag
  • Client announcements (such as new features)
  • Notification dots

Types of External Hooks

  • A shared link
  • An email notification
  • When someone watched something
  • A comment reply
  • A like, share, @ mention
  • Stat change summaries
  • A welcome email with a link
  • Transactional emails with links
  • Push notifications
  • Reaction notifications
  • Follower notifications
  • Your app showing in the share sheet (for example, when you wish to share a photo)