A review of Hooked - How to build habit-forming training systems

E Learning
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Hooking Your Audience

Do you get paid to check your Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram accounts? Like me, you probably don't. Yet, also like me, you may find yourself mindlessly and habitually opening these apps out of sheer compulsion. Have you ever wondered why it is so easy to check into social media when you don't gain a tangible reward? In light of this, have you also wondered why it seems difficult to get your people to connect to your content? This question is important for those who have a following of any kind, yet for my purpose, I'm going to focus on the Trainer/Trainee relationship. I'll start by asking another question.

How can you keep your audience engaged and involved?

I think this is a fair question, and I'm thrilled to point out that there's a resource that answers it for us. Hooked: How To Build Habit Forming Products by Nir Eyal, shows how major companies like Coca-Cola, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have affected behavior by "hooking" followers. What I hope to show you as you read, is that you don't need a big name and tons of money to begin growing interest from your learners. It's really a simple process that requires intentional steps. Before we look at those steps, however, let's cover the Hooked Model.

The Model

In Hooked, Nir Eyal makes a claim (after we look at this, I'll give you four actionable steps). Here's the idea as stated in the introduction of the book:

"Through consecutive Hook cycles, successful products reach their ultimate goal of unprompted user engagement, bringing users back repeatedly, without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging." (pg. 5, Emphasis mine)

Let's rephrase that for YOU in YOUR context as a trainer.

Through consecutive Hook cycles, you can make successful training systems that reach their ultimate goal of unprompted learner engagement, bringing learners back repeatedly, without depending on costly management or unnecessary compliance requirements.

Did you hear that? "Unprompted learner engagement...without depending on costly management or unnecessary compliance requirements." What if you were able to train your people to come back naturally and without continually pestering them? How would you do this? The quote answers it for us. It says: "Consecutive Hook Cycles." What are those? The answer unfolds throughout the remaining pages of the book. Simply put, Eyal defines what he means on page 6 with The Hook Model—Trigger, Action, Variable Reward, and Investment. He also lays it out on his Twitter feed here:

Did you get that? A hook is the combination of a trigger, an action, a reward, and an investment, in that order. Go back and look at the above Tweet, and commit these words to memory. As you do, a question should arise: what do I do with this information? Before we apply it, let's make sure that we understand these terms by comparing it to something we all know—social media.

Why Are We Hooked to Social Media?

To answer this question, let's consider the following example:

You wake in the morning and before you put your slippers on or even get out of bed, you've grabbed your phone to check up on the latest events and status updates on Facebook (or Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Reddit, etc....you probably have at least one of these). But have you ever stopped to ask "Why am I so interested in what Sally did with her dogs yesterday?" or "Why do I have to keep reading all these memes?"

If you pause briefly, you'll see that the big "WHY?" is that you're motivated to be "in the know." More succinctly, you don't want to be left out...because left out people are lonely. And lonely people are boring. And I'm not boring.

Do you see it? You've been triggered. These systems capitalize on an internal motivation that you (and everyone!) have. Once you're triggered, you take action. Cue the endless scrolling. When you find something that attracts you, you create a post or comment (Action). The rest of the day, you're concerned about whether people found it funny, interesting, or lame. So you keep going back to check for the little red dot. And when your friend Desmond "likes" what you've said, you feel great about yourself (which means you can't be lonely, right?). So you comment back to Desmond, get thirteen more "likes" and six shares. Next thing you know, you're checking this post for the next two days, hoping it goes viral. Now you're glued to your device (Investment).

Incidentally, this is how nearly everything works. TV shows, hunger, relationships, work. So why are Facebook and other social media apps so good at it? And how do you acquire the same investment from your learners? Let's answer that by intentionally plan out the steps from the Hooked Model.

Actionable Steps

Step 1 - Create a Trigger

Do you remember Eyal's definition for Trigger? It might help to review the Tweet from earlier. However, if you've been a trainer for any amount of time, this is a self evident step. I'll explain.

If you're a trainer or teacher, you've probably already asked, "How do I grab people's attention on the front end of my course?" What you're looking for is a trigger, and if you've asked this question, then you already "get it"! Isn't that great news!

From here you will want to know what motivates those you train. The good news is that Nir Eyal lists natural motivators in chapters 2 and 3, highlighting the research of B.J. Fogg, a psychologist at Stanford, who developed this behavior model.

For your ease, here are some of the motivators:

  • Boredom/Excitement
  • Fear/Hope
  • Pain/Pleasure
  • Rejection/Acceptance

These are the reasons people do what they do. Now to integrate a Trigger, you simply have to know how to harness your learners' needs. Let's look at an example of this.

Eyal points out that Instagram focuses on one fear people have: being left out or rejected. Thus, with the ability to keep up with others, people begin to check in, follow friends and celebrities, take selfies, and share photos. Their motivator leads to their participation, which is an Action (Step 2).

In your course, what is the trigger that leads to an action?

Take a look at the motivators that we just listed above. There are 4 negative pain avoiding motivators and 4 pleasure gaining motivators. Ask yourself questions like this..

"How could I position this training content to decrease (INSERT PAIN) and increase (INSERT PLEASURE) to align my training goals with the the intrinsic motivators of my learners?"

Step 2 - Create an Action

Once you have answered the question of what motivates those you train, the next step is to create an action on their end. In this step, the important thing for you to state or imply is that by doing what you have asked, your learners will have their motivating drive relieved or enhanced. In other words, if you find that they are fearful of something, the action you give them should materially remove their fear. Or the flip side of that...if they are hopeful for something to occur, be sure to enhance their hopes through the action you ask them to accomplish. It is important to allow them to act in a way that is freeing and that doesn't cause them to be ridiculed (at least ridiculed without cause...after all, people learn best when they are given permission to answer freely or give honest feedback).

For another example, consider Twitter. After being "triggered" by a celebrity's or politician's Tweet, Twitter gives you the ability to "re-Tweet." You can show that you're behind someone's thought without having to be creative or innovative. Twitter enables you to display to your peers that you too are a person to whom others should listen. As well, you don't have fear of mockery because if someone disagrees with your re-Tweet, you can always say you were posting it as a talking point. If that is too intimidating, you can simply share the Tweet with only those people who you want to see the Tweet. Either way, you are acting. With a click of a button, you are giving your feedback, or identifying your view on something. Isn't that simple? It takes care of the motivating factors, and it leads to the next step...Give a Reward.

In your course, do your people have the ability to act or respond with freedom? Or are they able to act so that their fear is being alleviated?

{How compelling would Twitter be if there was no retweeting/loving/sharing/commenting...training needs involvement}

To cultivate Step 2, ask yourself: What am I requesting of my followers to do? Have you made it absolutely clear on what you want your trainees to have? (If people don't act here, and you've given them a clear directive, you might have missed what triggers them. Return to Step 1.)

Step 3 - Give a Reward

Do you remember Pavlov's dog? If you don't, then do you remember that time in The Office when Jim got Dwight to beg for a mint? The idea here is that when you reward someone, you are priming them to form a habit. Within the Hooked model, your learners are looking for something that improves their life. If you reward them, you are actually giving them that improvement.

So if you promise that their action will benefit them, then give them a benefit! This is one of the reasons social media apps are so effective. Think about it. "Social"...as in society. If you do something, then a society, or a group of people, will reward you. This is seen in the comments, likes, up-votes, shares, re-Tweets, re-pins, smiley emojis, etc. that are offered when you participate in your favorite social medium. People are looking for recognition. Rewards meet this longing in people.

The beauty of the reward is that it creates an investment. Like Dwight, your followers "come back for more" without even realizing they're doing it! Rewatch that gif above and look at Dwight's investment! :)

How are you doing in your course? Are you making sure to highlight accomplishments? Are you reinforcing the actions that you have asked your people to do by rewarding?

To assess Step 3, ask: Am I giving my people a reward that they want? If they aren't returning, maybe you're giving a reward...but maybe it isn't a reward they want/need. (Don't leave them hanging, Halpert!)

Step 4 - Ask for an Investment

Investment is the place where you ask for your people to step to the next level. We will end with considering Facebook. Nir Eyal points out that so many people love their Facebook pages because of the time they spent building their accounts, uploading pictures, finding friends, and creating posts. A sense of ownership is involved with the formation of one's Facebook account. Thus, people keep coming back to see what is going on in their world. Isn't it rewarding to see memories from years ago pop up, or to have people "like" your post? This makes me a loyal fan!

In your course, are you giving your trainees ownership of their learning process? Are you making them a "part owner" of the material you're inviting them to learn? Perhaps you could do this by asking for feedback, or by highlighting their actions? As people invest, they grow in their interest. Thus, what you offer them has the possibility of becoming more valuable to them!

Here's where it gets even more amazing. Did you catch what I said earlier about Facebook and investment? "It makes me a loyal fan." I want to return to Facebook. This means my investment is a trigger. When you reach people on their level, addressing their motivators, creating actionable items, giving rewards, and asking for their investment, they want to stick around to see what's next!

Doesn't this answer our big question: How can you keep your audience engaged and involved? We'll talk more on that in the conclusion.

To act on Step 4, ask: Am I giving my trainees an opportunity for investment? Am I allowing them to become an owner of their learning experience?

Conclusion

Earlier I asked: "How do you keep your audience engaged or involved?" I hope that it is more clear now. When you take the time to learn about those whom you are trying to impact, it should be evident as to how to keep them. After all, this is what keeps you active in the things that are important to you. Namely, someone made you feel valuable by meeting your needs, rewarded you, and asked for your investment. Isn't that what each of us are living for? We are looking for meaningful involvement and engagement. So offer to others the thing that you are looking for...you just might hook 'em.

"Sometimes the right content isn't what gives the right answers but what poses the right questions"

—Stephen Rhyne, Founder & President, ConveYour.com

I relish the thought of receiving your input, questions, or comments regarding this article or concerning ConveYour.com. Also, I'd like to encourage you to read Hooked: How To Build Habit Forming Products. As it is impossible for a brief article to cover the full book, I think there is content that is beneficial for you to consider. One item that Hooked investigates is the ethical question of manipulation when "hooking people." This is important for the day and age that we live. Also, the book includes a case study on a prominent social media app, which is valuable in and of itself.


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