Ok, so you have installed a community for your company. It’s packed with great features, you’ve set it all up and it’s ready to use. You’ve encouraged your users to register an account and almost everyone registers, but that’s just the beginning of the process.

What happens all too often online communities is that users register, but rarely come back after that. Some of the reasons behind this are related to community building. Community building is the human factor behind running an online social community. We’re not going to focus too much on that aspect in this blog, but if you are interested you can read our blog about things to consider when you are building an online community and another one about why and how you should run a beta community.


Another reason that users don’t come back after their initial registration is that they’re not engaged with the community. In order to increase user engagement for communities at Open Social we make use of the so-called ‘Hooked’ model by Nir Eyal
In his book, Eyal describes how to build a habit-forming product based on a continuous four step model name ‘the hook’. This model explains how to reach a higher level of engagement for your online community. 

Nir Eyal's Hooked model for habit forming products
Nir Eyal's Hooked model for habit forming products

I will try to explain each step of the The Hook with an example from Open Social. Note that there are some valid critiques of this model and we believe you should use this method only to improve the user experience, not just for our own benefit. Nir Eyal talks about the ethics of habit forming products on the Innovation Show


The ‘trigger’ is divided into external and internal triggers. External triggers are usually the starting point for the hook. In order to really create a habit-forming product, users should be triggered by internal triggers. An example of an external trigger is a user receiving an email from the platform that lets the user know they have a new notification. This e-mail triggers the user to click and visit the platform.
An example of an internal trigger is that fear of the user that they’re missing out on new interesting content on the platform. This triggers the user to go to the platform and scan the stream for new content that could be of interest to them. 
External triggers tend to be the most effective when they correspond with an internal trigger. For instance a user is internally triggered by the fear of missing out on new interesting content. Sending this user a weekly update with content he hasn’t seen yet could be a very effective trigger.


After the trigger comes the ‘action’. This is about behaviour done in anticipation of an award. The user acts on the trigger and starts using the platform. It’s important that the action is easy to perform, so users stay motivated to keep doing it.
An example could be placing a comment on that interesting blog article you found in your e-mail updates.

Variable Reward

Variable rewards are what makes the user come back to the platform. Unpredictability is key here, since the user doesn’t know if or when they are rewarded. A reward can come from an action performed by another user. For example when one of the other users likes the comment you just placed. For the commenter this is a reward and for the liker this is an action.

The Open Social notification center
The notifications centre is an example of how we’ve used the hooked model for Open Social


The ‘investment’ part of the model is all about user contributions. Think of data, time spent or monetary rewards for example. This improves the product for its next use. It also creates a functional or emotional attachment to the product. This makes is more likely that the user will use the product again. Investments should lead to new triggers that encourage the user to go through the entire hook again.
An example of a user investing could be as simple as sharing pictures a small intervention a user has made or wants to make in their environment to generate awareness for a specific issue. 

Yarn bombing
Yarn bombing is a great example of a small local intervention users might share to generate awareness for their cause

The hook in Open Social

At Open Social we are trying to build in all four steps of the hook. As you’ve seen above we already have a lot of these features built into the app. We are planning to add additional features to make your community even more fun and engaging to use, for example:

  • Push notifications
  • Badge system (gamification)
  • Posting of videos

You can find out more about the features we have planned on our roadmap

How are you planning to use our features for engagement to get your community hooked? Let us know in the comments! 

Header image by Cameron Kirby on Unsplash
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