Using Computers To Change What We Think And Do: SES San Francisco 2010, Day 2 Keynote by BJ Fogg

Aug 19, 2010 | 1,433 views | by Navneet Kaushal
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Welcome to Day 2 of SES San Francisco 2010. The opening keynote by BJ Fogg, that our team covered, mainly focused on how Facebook and Twitter are triggering user behaviour, to their benefit.



  • Mike Grehan


  • BJ Fogg (@bjfogg), Director, Persuasive Technology Lab, Stanford University.
BJ Fogg talked about how Facebook is putting so called “hot triggers” in the path of motivated people. Facebook has been triggering user behaviour in a way that is changing things, leading to their massive growth, he said. Triggering is not a new concept though, it is something that has always happened. 
So What are Triggers?
Triggers are things like a request, a call to action message, some type of offer and may also be a queue.
What is a “hot trigger”?
hot trigger: user can take action right now — clear, immediate, easy
cold trigger: user can’t take action right now — most ads are cold triggers
Facebook has dozens of hot triggers from games; news feeds, friend requests, advertisements and group messages, etc., and is certainly the numero uno persuasive technology of all time, according to BJ.

BJ said, Twitter is also not far behind, when it came to triggering. It also does hot triggers quite well. Triggers like links, hashtags, speciality feeds and messages (predominantly) are put in the way of motivated people and they work quite well. However, he felt emails are the perfect place to put triggers. Sometimes, they may work and sometimes not. According to him, mobile will be the path to deliver the hot triggers more and more. 
It may be a bit different from social but search does the same thing, said BJ. As an example, he talked about how the search for “lady gaga tickets” on Google, triggers the user's with SERPs enabling them to actually buy the tickets, probably with a click on one of the AdWords placement. Google's financial system causes this trigger invariably. Search is task oriented, unlike social and users hate being taken off their task. It is not the apt place for hot triggers. However, that is essentially what AdWords is about.
Continuing with the topic, BJ said, the key is to have complete control over hot triggers. Sighting an example, he said, super-spreaders like TechCrunch or big twitter accounts have more power to place triggers. It is basically about who control the hot triggers. Cycle of tech drama: Control the platform > control the triggers > control the behavior > control/create the (new) platform. 
Being able to control the placement of trigger will be the key thing, reiterated BJ. 
Texting > New triggers = what’s the new platform?
He emphasised that without texting, there would be no Twitter. It is the same way, how emails led to Facebook. New rituals (if successful) lead to new platforms, which further lead to new triggers and it leads to something new and more exciting. 

Google and Groupon are opening their lab projects at They are working on really big projects because they find it more interesting and also they believe there is no point in solving smaller problems. Both have launched an experiment called BehaviorModel. Also, there is behavior guide, which is in its alpha phase.
According to BJ, Behavior = Motivation+Ability+Trigger
What motivates people?
  • Pleasure and Pain
  • Hope and Fear = Anticipation
  • Social Rejection and Social Acceptance
BJ Fogg said, in order to change user behavior, the first thing to target is not the core motivations. Mega-motivation do not work as they seem heavy-handed and manipulative. Using the lightest touch works better, as eBay did using their feedback systems while LinkedIn does it using the number of connections.
Key Point: There will be no behavior, if MATs are not present at the same time.
  • Simplify: Ability can be increased by simplifying and not by training. Training never works. 
  • Make task easy: The point is to make it so easy that user is forced to do, what is asked. 

If any one of the links break, it would no longer be simple and the behavior will not take place. The user has to be more than motivated and able. The trigger has to be put in the path of the user. 
Takeaway: User behavior can change, if the triggers are placed properly. Moreover, total control on triggers is required to get better results.

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Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
4.thumbnail Using Computers To Change What We Think And Do: SES San Francisco 2010, Day 2 Keynote by BJ Fogg
4.thumbnail Using Computers To Change What We Think And Do: SES San Francisco 2010, Day 2 Keynote by BJ Fogg