Book Review: Hooked by Nir Eyal

Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, said, “Read Hooked or the company that replaces you will.”


That was enough to sell me. Hooked was written by Nir Eyal and is a guide to building habit-forming technology. After reading the book, I have a better understanding of why people can’t seem to walk away from Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other forms of social media. 

If you’re trying to create a habitual behavior with anything (app, website, software) then the information in Hooked is great for mapping out all the levels of habit and making sure you're hitting everything you need to.

In the Hooked mode, l there are four stages to create habitual behavior:

1. Trigger (external and internal)

2. Action

3. Variable Reward

4. Investment

These four are a self-feeding loop, not a timeline. 

So in order to build messaging at the reward and investment phase, you need to have understanding on the trigger and action stages. You know this, but I'm going to illustrate it a bit more. 


A trigger is the cue that inspires people to dive down your rabbit hole of content. There are two types of triggers: external and internal. 


Paid triggers. These are our top-level paid marketing strategies. What can you do to advertise the site? Facebook promoted posts? Paying for some SEO optimization, perhaps? Advertisements? Sky-writing? A man on a street corner holding a sign? 

Earned triggers. What press coverage can you get? Any trade publications? Endemic or non-endemic press?

Relationship triggers. As someone goes through your content, is there an opportunity to invite others? A share button? Post results on social media? Tag people? 

Owned triggers. These are the Facebook updates, email reminders, videos, and newsletters you send out.


An internal trigger is much harder to achieve. 

If you can find the most painful and frequently recurring problem for people, then build the site as the absolute best and simplest solution to that problem, you have a chance of creating a great internal trigger. Here are some internal triggers you could experience today that will lead you to a popular site or app:

Boredom > Facebook or Instagram

Comparison shopping > Amazon

Lack of understanding > Google

Companionship > Tinder

News > Twitter


To make sure the action is done, you need to have a solid understanding of how the user will invest into the site. 

How much time will engaging with your technology take?

How much physical effort, mental energy, and focus are involved? 

Does action on your technology website entail any good or bad social deviation? 

Does this technology deviate from the users’ normal routine?

The greater the demand in the action phase, the smoother, simpler, and more rewarding the other three stages need to be. 


If you want to create habitual behavior, the upcoming reward cannot be complete or entirely known —it needs to be variable. There are three types of rewards: 

Hunted rewards. These are things the user will seek out: greater access, limited products, free stuff, a diploma.

Tribal rewards. These are rewards that show one person having an advantage over another —tools they can download or order, access to webinars, first invite to launches, preferred treatment, social recognition (an I-just-earned-a-whatchamacallit button that posts to Facebook), badges, ad images to promote their education level.

Selfish rewards. These are rewards that the user wants for no other reason than their own progression and growth, such as certification for taking a 15-hour course, opportunity to earn more money.


The final stage is when users submit to the platform and create triggers for themselves to return as well as for others to get started. When they invest, they return. We already see this with our Facebook groups. Some ideas are: 

1. Have the user submit photos, thoughts, questions, etc. 

2. Access to a forum.

3. Write a review. 

4. Submit to the blog which also becomes your email/newsletter.
5. Allow the user to annotate content.

Hooked is perfect for anyone looking to leverage or create habitual behavior. 

Source: http://