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The Secret Psychology of Snapchat
7 min read
Do you get Snapchat?
If you don’t get it,
you’re probably over 30.
This app ...
is huge!
It is used by 100 million monthly active users
who send more than 400 million snaps per day.
Source: Mashable
The company is worth $10 billion.
Source: Mashable
Keep reading to learn the psychology of Snapchat …
… and why people use it so much.
1. What it is
2. How it works
3. The secret sauce
Deconstructing Snapchat
1. What it is
Snapchat is a way to make
bite-sized content.
Snaps!
Easy to consume pics
perfect for snacking
on mobile phones.
Snapchat is useful for capturing
life’s little moments.
Kind of like capturing the
“Kodak moment”
(if you remember what that is.)
Snapchat is also a messaging service
with special rules.
Every app has rules.
Swipe right to like or left to pass.
If someone likes you back, it’s a match!
Write up to 140 characters.
Create 6 second looping videos.
Send photos/videos that disappear
in seconds.
Why does this particular rule work so well
for Snapchat?
The fact that snaps disappear means people can be more
honest, more fun, and more...themselves.
PHEW
Carefree Communication
“Snaps disappear in 10 seconds so who cares!?!”
… says the Snapchat user
Reducing the "cognitive load" of worrying
what others might think of the photos.
See: Nir Eyal’s “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”
Snapchat users snap without worry.
snapchatting is like
wearing pyjamas at a
friend’s house.
If Instagram’s feed is like a
wedding to dress up for,
2. How It Works
The default screen is the camera page.
It’s clear what the app wants people to
do…
Take a snap already!
Other apps (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter)
always show the feed first.
Snapchat broke that rule,
putting the camera first.
… and reduced the number of steps
to one tap instead of several.
There’s another way Snapchat saves steps.
If you are an Instagram user,
you know the pain of choosing just the right filter.
Choosing a filter in Instagram creates a loop of
two decisions:
In Snapchat,
filters apply automatically when swiping.
One less decision to make.
Cognitively speaking,
that’s huge.
Users can get creative here too!
After taking a snap,
altering the picture with paint and text is fun.
Snapchat offers endless
customization opportunities.
Not only that,
Snapchat has geo-filters, which,
with one swipe,
customize the image based on
your location.
There is something
novel, uncertain, creative, and surprising
about taking and altering snaps.
See: Nir Eyal’s book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”
The best user-submitted snaps are
curated into a Story by Snapchat
for all to see.
All of these Snaps add
“variable rewards.”
See: Nir Eyal’s book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”
There’s still one more
behavioral secret at work.
3. The Secret Sauce
Snapchat’s secret sauce lies in its roots
as a messaging service.
Sending snaps activates
the rule of reciprocation.
See: Robert B. Cialdini’s book “Influence”
Reciprocity in social psychology refers to our need to respond to a
positive action with another positive action.
Following this rule, when a user gets a snap,
she is somewhat obligated to send something back.
Because Snaps disappear,
you need to reply right away
before you forget what Snap you received!
“Double tap to reply!” says Snapchat.
And a few taps later a response is on its way...
Loading the next trigger
for even more snapping...
Eventually making
Snapchat a daily habit.
Snapchat has a great Hook
See: Nir Eyal’s book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products”
1. Internal Trigger
The fear of losing the moment.
Quick! Snap it! So cute!
2. Action
Open the app and
snap with just one tap.
3. Variable Reward
How does it look? Did I capture the moment?
How should I modify this?
4. Investment
Sending it to another user
“loads the next trigger”
and “stores value” when
new contacts are added.
5. External Trigger
Replying to a snap sends a new notification,
activates the rule of reciprocity, …
… and the Hook cycle continues.
… And now you understand why
people are hooked to Snapchat!
Dori Adar
DoriAdar.com
Nir Eyal
NirAndFar.com
Victoria Young
CreateInteractions.com

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The Secret Psychology of Snapchat