The “behavior chain” is a technique developed by psychologists for understanding the “structure of persuasion over time.” With regard to websites and online services, the behavior chain is a three-phase strategy designed to achieve particular goals or “target behaviors.” This could be getting someone to visit your website for the first time, then signing up for a trial subscription and, ultimately, gaining him or her as an active member of your online community. Once a particular goal has been achieved, the user can then be taken through the next strategic step and so on until he or she eventually completes the chain by taking the full action desired by you, the website’s owner.
When people use successful web services today, they are almost always guided through a predetermined behavior chain. Although first-time visitors usually learn about a service before visiting a website, the reverse is also prevalent—some websites are so well-designed, they attract new visitors before they even know what the website does (as we’ll see in a moment with LinkedIn). To understand how this process works, we’ll take a look at what the behavior chain involves and how it’s been used (whether consciously or not) by various social networking sites to attract and sustain massive member communities.