February 10, 2014

Secret's Super Smart Push Notifications

Secret is my new favorite obsession. As expected, the anonymous secret-sharing service notifies users when new secrets are posted by friends and when someone comments or loves posts. This common re-engagement trigger to bring people back to the app. But there’s a another type of push notification used by Secret that I find particularly interesting. On its surface, it seems like all the rest and potentially annoying, but in reality it’s well-thought and purposeful.

I just received this push notification:

This number continues to increment as more of my friends - those in my contacts - join the service. This subtle notification elicits a few emotions, making receivers feel:

1. Special

Every new person that joins, is someone who found Secret after the recipient. For the early adopter, product hipsters, this is rewarding, knowing you discovered the app first. It’s the equivalent of having a low user ID number on Twitter or other popular services (like Product Hunt. ;)

2. Popular

The number of friends that join Secret is similar to the number of friends on Facebook. Each addition, reinforces a feeling of popularity. A few times people have asked me how many friends I have on Secret, inspiring offline conversation and subtle competition among friends.

3. More Engaged

I received this text message from a friend a week ago:

Are you sure you’ve got 118 friends on Secret? Bc I’ve got 4. So basically every secret in my circle is you. Don’t worry… I won’t tell anyone. ;)

This is a problem and may prevent early adopters from sharing as much or as frequently. But as one’s circle - the number of friends using the service - becomes larger, their secrets become increasingly obfuscated.

4. Puzzled

The moment a new friend joins, one might wonder the identity of the new user. Secret’s growth is predominantly through word of mouth (afaik), surfacing memories of past conversations. “I wonder if my friend, Jane, just joined.” This mystery can inspire more thought and attention toward the brief notification.

5. Liveliness

Many social apps inform users who joined the service but I have yet to see an app display the number of friends within the notification. This subtle difference communicates progression, liveliness, and potential FOMO.

These push notifications are just one example of many clever, subtle design decisions driving Secret’s early success.

Can you think of other creative uses of push notifications? Let me know on Twitter (@rrhoover).

More Writing by Ryan