Creating Stickiness – An Internet Addicts View

Stickiness:  It’s a word that website owners dream of either pleasantly or in nightmares.  The aim of any good site is to get traffic in and then convert those surfing by in to a community of regular users.  For someone with an internet addiction (I think I may well fall in this category) then the presence of stickiness can also be a problem.

I work as a copywriter for online retailer The Watch Hut, so trying to attract repeated viewings of sections of the site is my stock in trade.  However, in spite of my line of work, I’m a borderline internet addict. It’s not hyperbole; it genuinely has become a dependency.  I check the BBC News site from my phone before I even get out of bed in a morning and I check Facebook before I sleep. So what do these sites have in common, and how can their underlying stickiness be replicated?


The common thread running through these is that they have content that creates a connection with the reader by providing them with information of interest.  In the case of the BBC, this is a mix of customisable news and human interest stories.  Facebook reverses this formula.

Whilst many of the news organizations will post content and many people will follow this, the core of the content is the information from family and friends and people who you wish were your friends such as the celebrities, causes and brands that you follow.  Facebook in particular has become successful through this and has kept its costs low.  After all, it isn’t paying journalists to write this great content.  It is relying on your friends to be interesting enough to attract advertisers.  Your work is making Mark Zuckerberg a very rich man

It’s not just the content that we crave in stickiness, what we are really addicted to is the update.  Newspapers and social media have an inbuilt advantage here in that they able to use information that is happening in the world around them to update their readers.

Let’s use a non web analogy to illustrate this.  Say you are watching Sky News or its American sister station, Fox News. The stickiness is generated in large part by the “Breaking News” banners that scroll across the screen for even quite unimportant stories.  You are drawn in by the immediacy of the content, not by the content itself.

Now let’s go back to Facebook.  Internet addicts like me can pass time commenting on the mix of pictures and status updates.  We have a similar reaction to the flashing of the notification banner that we do to the breaking news strap.  We click it and look at the “breaking news” from our friends

The behavior is hard wired in to our psyche.  Back when we were smart chimps, knowing where predators where, was the exact information we needed.  We may have evolved a little, but the ability to profit, either financially or socially from being the first person to know is still with us.

So how can you use these techniques in building your site? After all, you are unlikely to have huge resources.

1.)    Harness what you do know:

In the case of the company I work for, retailer The Watch Hut, we have a significant following of people who are interested in elements of the watches we sell.  Our customers tend to be interested in fashion, or see a designer watch as a status symbol.  We use our connections with our suppliers to update customers on celebrities who have been seen wearing the items, or in the case of the more male oriented ranges, the sports with which the watchmaker is associated.

We also report the latest trends from trade and fashion shows to our clients, particularly if something unusual is coming on sale shortly.

Unusual items also encourage sharing, which is a particularly important technique in creating identity online. Again, this is wired to our culture.  If we are making friends, then an introduction from a existing friend is more likely to be successful in joining a group than simply walking up to them and saying hi.

2.)    Encourage feedback:

Seeking to improve social signals we built our Facebook page as a means of encouraging and welcoming comments from customers past, present and future.  By creating this space we are effectively carving out a little path of neurons that can be used to retarget those who we regularly interact and subsequently their friends in to regarding us as a company they would like to do business with.  Whilst it would be uneconomic to take the bricks and mortar real estate we can buy the “mental real estate” of our customer base.  These frequent visitors are often amongst the stickiest and our greatest promoters.

The future will probably bring with it more video.  Video is great for creating sticky content as it engages the viewer on a more passive level.  People are usually in a “lean back” relaxed position when watching video. This relaxation makes it easier for content to be accepted.  If nothing else, the dwell time on each page will typically increase – great for marketing, but likely to bring even more pain to myself and fellow internet addicts.