Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dan Zarrella Questions the Power of Social Proof

Amplify’d from

New Experiments Question the Power of Social Proof on the Web

In a lot of my presentations and research, I’ve talked about social proof, and I’ve hypothesized that it has an effect on social and viral behavior online, but I had never actually proven it. So a few weeks ago, I began a series of experiments designed to test the assumption that the effects of social proof and social conformity can be exploited on the web.

In the first two experiments, I split tested ReTweet buttons with different ReTweet counts shown on blog posts. First I compared “0 Tweets” with “776 Tweets.” The results were exactly the opposite of what I expected. After 36 hours, the button showing no Tweets had been clicked more than double the times the other button had. The sample size and variation performance are statistically significant, and the results show a 96% confidence level.

While discussing these results with Alison, she suggested that they may have been due to a “first post” effect, where people want to be the first to share a piece of content. So I tested a button showing “15 Tweets” against one showing “776 Tweets.”

While the post I used for this test was more popular, the results of the experiment showed a far less significant difference between the two buttons. The “15 Tweets” button performed marginally better, but the low confidence value means there is probably no meaningful difference between the two buttons.


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