Kickstats: Do Private Profiles Matter?

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

UPDATED 2021-03-29:

This article now includes all Kickstarter campaigns that launched in 2020. The significant increase in sample sizes has resulted in moderate changes to the outcome of our original analysis. Portions of this article have been rewritten to reflect those changes.

A few months ago, a Twitter friend of mine made an interesting statement:

It got me thinking. Is that a common pet peeve? Are there other ways a private profile might hurt your chance of success? Does it affect anything enough to even be noticed?

Well, that’s what I’d like to find out in this post!

Arguments

On one hand, David makes a great point. A private profile blocks other Kickstarter users from seeing what projects you’ve backed. If another creator wants to return the favor and back your project, having a private profile makes it much more difficult to verify that you actually did back their campaign.

Private profiles also give the impression that you either (a) haven’t really done your Kickstarter homework to realize that your profile is private by default, or (b) don’t really care about being a transparent creator. And if there are two things that Kickstarter backers value above all else, it’s transparency and homework. Now, is it always true that private profiles mean a lack of planning and transparency? Of course not, but you have to admit those assumptions are understandable.

On the other hand, private profiles still let others see how many projects you’ve backed, even if they can’t see what they are. So as long as you’ve backed at least a few campaigns, you should remove any negative effects of looking too self-centered. Maybe that’s enough to counteract the negative effects of a private profile as a whole.

Analysis

Thankfully, it’s pretty straightforward to separate campaigns by the creator’s profile being public or private when they launched. There’s not really a lot of extra explaining to do with this one, so lets get right into graphing the raw numbers.

So it does appear that creators with private profiles do worse on average than their public counterparts. Before we end there, however, we still need to look at a couple of possible lurking variables that could be confounding these results.

First-time Creators

We’ve already shown that the number of projects you’ve launched affects your current campaign’s chance of success. What I’m willing to bet here, though, is that first-time creators are also more likely to have private profiles. If that’s true, then that means being a first-time creator is linked to both success rates and profile privacy, which makes it a potential lurking variable.

The difference here seems big enough to justify balancing on creator experience levels. So let’s do that.

Number of Projects Backed

My last blog post showed that the number of projects a creator has backed could greatly affect success rates. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to predict that there’s also a strong link between that and whether or not the creator’s profile is public or private.

I’d say it’s quite likely that private profiles back far fewer projects on average than public profiles. Why? Well, if I had to guess, I’d say it boils down to a lack of community. Kickstarter profiles are private by default. If a creator doesn’t see the value of a public profile, then they might not be too concerned with making connections with other people in general, and thus would back fewer projects. Are there plenty of other factors going on? Certainly, but I’d say that’s a big one.

The best way to see if there’s any correlation between private profiles and number of projects backed is just to graph it. So let’s see if my prediction is correct.

That looks like a pretty obvious connection to me. Just knowing if a Kickstarter profile is public or private is a good indicator of how many projects they’ve backed.

Since the number of projects backed is linked to profile privacy and also linked to success rates, that means that the number of projects backed could be confounding the effects that profile privacy has on success. So, we’ll have to remove that confounding as well.

Results

After adjusting for the above two factors, we can now say with reasonable confidence just how much having a private profile affects your campaign’s success.

Conclusion

I figured private profiles would hurt your chance of success, but after accounting for first-time creators and the number of projects you’ve backed, the performance gap drops pretty substantially. However, even though a 1.5 point gap is certainly less than the original 7.7, I still wouldn’t consider it negligible.

Kickstarter backers value transparency. You may have done your homework, designed a great product, and created a killer campaign page, but if switching your profile to public gives potential backers just a little more confidence in you, why not do it?

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