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The Psychology of UnTappd

If you haven’t heard of or used the app known as Untappd, you may not be a beer drinker. But the rise in Craft Beer brewing and drinking in America (see a good infographic here) has pushed many Americans out of their lager drinking malaise and into enjoying the multitude of tastes that are presented by the craft beer industry.

If they treated introductions like a MLM scheme, I’d own part of UnTappd by now :). And that is the beauty of the mixture of social media, location, goals/badges and history/statistics that UnTappd succeeds at: it is an app that you want to share, and after sharing, you encourage your friends to use. That psychology is what all social media type apps should strive for.

The app is simple: you have a beer, you log that beer in UnTappd. If you desire, you can include a ranking (one to five bottle caps), a location (from Foursquare’s massive location database), a picture (which, like all social media photo sharing can come back to haunt you) and a comment.

This app is free, and that, plus making it available on as many platforms as possible, is a genius move by the developers.  By simply giving users the means to track their beers, they are building a huge data warehouse of likes, dislikes and drinking characteristics (when, where, what type, with whom) that any brewery or pub/bar would be mad not to take advantage of. Breweries can register to manage their brand on the site here.

This is the opposite approach of the app which is leading in profits in May 2013 on the iOS App Store, Candy Crush Saga. Candy Crush is also free but makes revenue based on in-app purchases that help get through levels users are stuck on (note that one does not have to purchase anything to get through the levels, a user just needs patience…the fact that Candy Crush Saga is leading in revenues is a clear indicator that US app users want instant gratification and are willing to pay for it).

The appeal and staying power of the app is revealed in this chart from App Annie: since its release in October 2011, the app has stayed in the top 250 for Free iOS App Downloads and usually in the top 100. (chart after the break)

Untappd on AppAnnie

Again, it is the balance and combination of several characteristics that make this app addictive and successful:

  • Badges – Eagle Scouts are not the only ones that like working toward badges, goal setting and goal achievement are basics of human psychology. Untappd taps into this by offering badges for quantity, locale, types and special occasions. Trying to out-badge my friends has gotten me into more trouble than I care to relate…but it also has me using the app again and again.
  • Social – invariably at bars, me or my friends (usually Bob!) are showing someone this app, getting them to download it, and then friending them on the app. The app has integrations to Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook, but these can certainly invade your social media if you are out enjoying several new brews (I have had more than one person ask if I had retired again since all they saw on my Facebook and Twitter feeds were beer check-ins…I have since turned this feature off). The twitter feed continues the brewery and location marketing, as it will include the twitter handle of the brewery (if registered) and the location. When my wife and I attended the Rush concert in Barclay center in Brooklyn, I checked in a beer, and was surprise to find a response a question over twitter from the Barclay’s folks, asking if I enjoyed their beer select (I of course responded that more local beers would be a good thing).
  • Location – when I want to know what beers are on tap at local spots, I utilize UnTappd’s geo location, where people check-in their beers to different locations. UnTappd utilizes the existing Foursquare location database and API, which not only ensures that a place has a high percentage of being on the list, but also provides for ease of use and ease of integration into Foursquare’s badges (see, we need badges!). There are other applications (such as TapListr) that will show you what beers a particular establishment have on tap, but this app relies on the bars to update their tap list, and some do, some do not. Untappd is a much more reliable source of what is being sold where. The Location piece can also lead to some interesting encounters: I’ve found people at bars or breweries simply by noticing that they checked in a beer on Untappd (which we should term “beer stalking”)
  • History/Statistics – there is practical side to UnTappd, in that it can acutally be used to determine what of the multitude of types of craft beer that a drinker enjoys, and introduce them to new and similar beers. Untappd makes your statistics available to you, and also allows you to register an app if you are a programmer and want to take advantage of their API. The web version of the app has more stats available than the iOS or Android versions, and you can see which breweries you had the most beers from (mine: 19 from Saint Arnold, 16 from Karbach (both local breweries) and 12 from my fave brewery, Firestone Walker ) and which beers your drink the most (mine: Negra Modelo because of our constant need for Mexican food and Karbach Rodeo Clown as they have it on draft at Top Golf). It also shows that I rank darker beers like Porters and Stouts higher.
  • Rankings – of course, you can rank you own beers to keep track of what types and breweries you liked and enjoyed.
  • Photos – this is probably the least interesting piece of the app, but certainly has some potential. Most people take pictures of their beer labels, as this certainly helps to remember that beer for ordering next time (similar to how people collect wine labels). An connection to Pinterest would certainly help the Untappd developers recruit more breweries, if they were able to use this in marketing.

An interesting upside to this app is that it encourages variety. One of my Untappd buddies used to drink only Miller Lite; using this app and seeing what everyone else is drinking has encouraged him to branch out and try different types of beers.

The only downside (and many would not consider this a downside) is that the Psychology of Untappd encouraged the user to drink more beer.

The obvious question I am asked is: when will Untappd make an Uncorkd, a version for wine drinkers? They could certainly employ the same app with a different database of wine and a different badge selection, and keep the location, social and photo version of it. I would certainly use it.

 

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