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How would a behavioral designer write a Facebook post?

The Insight Company has recently found itself designing a political campaign. This is a far cry from designing products, interfaces, and spaces, but is so much fun to deconstruct from a behavioral design standpoint, that we couldn't resist. One important part of any contemporary campaign is social media. So lots of our time has been spent figuring out the best way to construct a simple post. Using politics as an example, let's talk about how to construct a social media post.

Photo by Tim Bennett

The hook In his book, Hooked, Nir Eyal describes the mental model by which companies turn their products and services into a habit for their customers. Put simply, there is a trigger, an action, a variable reward, and an investment. A Facebook user, for example, will go through this process every day. A notification will provide a trigger to enter the app. Then he or she will be tempted to take action by writing a post or commenting. The likes and shares they get provide a variable reward (sometimes more sometimes less), and so the process continues. This is true in the process of reading posts as well. We have so many posts to go over in our news feed, that a single one can rarely produce any amount of brand identity, other than the occasional sensational viral burst. In order to get noticed, our post needs to trigger readers before they have time to read it. An eye catching or sensationalist image should do the trick. A single separate title line can also get a post noticed, but it must be very good. In our political campaign, we made sure every image and every title line had a strong emotional core. One such title was, for example: "why can't we feel comfortable leaving our kids at daycare?". It would be hard for young parents to ignore such a title. The trigger makes us stop scrolling and read on. That little "read more" button that expands the text is enough of an action. Reading the whole post (which should be short anyway) is simply more gravy. Posting a reply means the reader is fully engaged, even if they don't support the candidate. But then the big question hits us. How could we work a reward into a Facebook post? Variable or not, what in a few lines of text will reward the reader? The answer came in the form of surprise. Once in a while, the post needed to surprise the reader. When trying to understand why the sensationalist Howard Stern radio show was so popular, stations polled listeners. Whether they liked him or not, listeners always said the same thing: they wanted to hear what he would say next. Drop a hard truth, reveal a previously unknown fact, or simply pick a fight. Any one could surprise readers enough to complete the cycle and create a habit. In this case, the habit of reading our Facebook posts. Done right, the Facebook user will find themselves compelled to expand and read whatever you post. Like you or not, support you or not, your brand will be secure and you message out there.

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