The Secret to Building Habit-Forming Products

An overview of Nir Eyal's "Hooked Model"

👋 Hey, I’m Ben! I write deep dives on tactical strategies for building and growing early-stage tech companies. I go deep on growth strategies, how to build products users love, and what actionable lessons can be learned from what best-in-class founders are doing.

This week, we're diving into Nir Eyal’s “Hooked Model” and the world of habit-forming products. Nir is an author, entrepreneur, and investor, and he wrote a great book on this model.

The “Hooked Model” is a four-step process that walks through how certain products create a powerful connection with their users. I’ll be summarizing the four stages and using TikTok, one of the most habit-forming products on the market, as an example to illustrate each stage. Let’s get hooked!


The trigger is an event that initiates the user's interaction with the product. Triggers can be external (ex. an advertisement, a friend's recommendation, a push notification) or internal (ex. a feeling or urge that drives the user to the product).

External triggers for TikTok include receiving notifications about new content from creators you follow, or seeing a TikTok video shared on another platform. Internal triggers might involve being bored and having the desire for entertainment.


This stage involves the user taking a specific action in response to the trigger. The action should be simple and easy to perform, increasing the likelihood of the user engaging with the product.

For TikTok, the action might be opening the app and swiping through the endless stream of videos on the "For You" page. The bite-sized content makes it easy for users to watch multiple videos in one sitting before they know it.

Variable Reward

This is the stage where the user is rewarded for taking the action. Note that the reward is variable and not consistent; making the reward variable drives higher levels of dopamine and desire for the user to get the reward.

TikTok's variable rewards come in the form of entertaining, informative, or surprising content. Each swipe presents a new video, making the experience unpredictable and engaging. Beyond that, for creators, likes, comments, views and shares are their own variable rewards.


The final stage is the investment, where users invest time, effort, or resources into the product, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment. This investment increases the likelihood of users returning to the product and progressing through the “Hooked Model” cycle again.

On TikTok, users invest by creating and posting their own videos, following creators, and engaging with content through likes, comments, and shares. This investment personalizes the "For You" page algorithm, making the platform more valuable to the user and giving the sense that it’s curated for their likes and interests and will always have something they want to watch.

Overall, one of the best ways to increase your product’s stickiness is to figure out how to make using your product into a habit for your users. Nir Eyal’s “Hooked Model” is a great framework designed to do just that. How can you get your users hooked?

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