Why Social Proof Matters To Your Startup

A few days ago I put together a small app in Rails called DomainPolish. When I was finished with it I posted it to Hacker News. It made the bottom part of the front page for a little while – at one point there were as many as 30 people concurrently on the site. I waited for the sales to roll in.

None came that Friday night. On Saturday too, there was a fair amount of traffic coming onto the site but, still, no sales. Then Sunday came. It was about 4 in the afternoon and I was thinking about what kind of project I wanted to work on next. The first sale came in. I went nuts. Then another sale came in and I was happy as can be. I had set a goal for myself to make $5 that weekend and I had fulfilled it. And then the person who made the second sale emailed me. He wanted to write a blog post about the service. I said “Sure!” and waited to hear what he had to say.

Well the blog post came out in about an hour, and he loved the service! I was so happy. And then he submitted it to Hacker News. Suddenly I was getting emails left and right saying that I had made sales as it climbed the front page. By the end of the night the blog post had referred 1500 people. I had sold 32 plans. That’s cool. But what was even more cool was to look at how that conversion rate changed (and ultimately number of products sold went down) when I had far more traffic but without social proof.

Two days after the blog post I decided to write an account of my experience creating the site. After I wrote it I posted it to Hacker News. Soon the visitors were pouring in, and it stayed as the number one story for at least a few hours. By the end of the night my blog post had referred almost 3000 people – 49% more visitors coming to the site from my blog post, than from the blog post written by someone else. But the number of products sold from a blog post written by me was actually 50% lower than the number of products sold from a blog post written by someone else. When someone wrote about me I sold 32 plans. When I wrote about myself I sold 15 plans.

What does this say? Social proof matters. Your traffic will convert better if there’s someone credible on the other end saying they love your product. Ad campaigns and blogging about yourself are very valuable tools, but in the end they can’t compete with the power of social proof.

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6 Aug 2011, 5:32am | 8 comments


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