A few months ago, a Twitter friend of mine made an interesting statement:
Kickstarter pet peeve #39: creator's not making their profile public . I'll back anyone that's backed us but I can't tell if you haven't changed your default profile setting. =) — David Miller (@subquark) September 24, 2019
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!
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 either (a) you haven't really done your Kickstarter homework to realize that your profile is private by default, or (b) you 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.
Thankfully, separating campaigns by the creator's profile being public or private when they launched is pretty straightforward. There's not really a lot of extra explaining to do with this one, so lets get right into graphing the raw numbers. As usual, these success rates are for all finished Kickstarter projects that have launched year-to-date 2020.
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 any possible lurking variables that could be confounding these results.
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.
There's not a huge difference, but it's big enough where I lean toward accounting for it just to be on the safe side.
Number of Projects Backed
My last blog post already showed that a creator's profile privacy and the number of projects they've backed are linked both to each other and to success rates, so I won't rehash that part of the analysis here. All we need to know is that these two metrics are very likely confounding each other, so we'll definitely need to account for that as well.
After adjusting for the above two factors using a statistical method called "Coarsened Exact Matching" (which sounds scarier than it is), and then normalizing the results against the raw data, we can now say with reasonable confidence just how much having a private profile affects your campaign's success.
I knew private profiles would hurt your chance of success, but I honestly wasn't expecting the effect to be quite this large! 7% is pretty substantial, and remember, that's after accounting for first-time creators and the number of projects you've backed!
Now, although it wouldn't surprise me that just the simple act of switching from a private profile to a public one does help your campaign, I highly doubt that the switch alone - without any other changes - is the real driving force here. What I believe this analysis shows us is just how much Kickstarter backers value transparency and even the smallest amount of homework before you launch your campaign. Backers want to know that you've planned, that you understand how Kickstarter works, and that you won't just disappear if the project goes south.
Anything you can do to help reassure them of those things could be what makes or breaks it with your project's success.