Feb 8, 2012

The Dopamine Effect

Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time building great products. But in today’s competitive startup environment, it’s not enough just to build a great product. You have to build a product that keep users coming back to your site.

I met with an entrepreneur I advise and the question came up–how do we get users to keep coming back to a site?

The answer is dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that is associated with rewards. You get a little dopamine rush when you click on the coins in a Zynga game. You get it when you see a news item on Facebook. And, as recent studies have shown, when you tweet.

So the key to getting users to come back to your site is figuring out what is going to give your users the reward–the dopamine rush that will get them to come back to your site.

It could be seeing new faces, a numerical score that tells users how they’re doing relative to others, receiving more storage space for inviting new friends, or simply sending out a short message. The ideal action not only rewards the user’s behavior, it also encourages inviting more people to the site. That creates a network effect.

When it comes to raising money, investors care less about what causes the dopamine rush. They just want to know that you’ve cracked the code on what causes it. Because if you’ve done that, you’ll have millions of users engaging with your site–and millions of dollars wanting to get into your deal.

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