Kickstarter Lesson #64: The Psychological Benefits of Showing Your Face

14 October 2013 | 13 Comments

Last year when I was running my Kickstarter campaign for Viticulture, I posted from time to time on the Stonemaier Games Facebook page. I read every comment posted there and try to respond as often as possible.

There is one particular moment I recall from a conversation I was having on the Facebook page with some backers. I think we were talking about what games we were playing that weekend. Every time I posted a comment, the following icon appeared next to it:

Stonemaier-logo - Copy

The more I saw that thumbnail pop up next to comments I was making, the more uncomfortable I became. I felt separate from the comments I was making. Not to mention that the other people involved in the conversation had thumbnails of their faces. It was like I was some faceless corporation replying to people (even though I’m the only person at Stonemaier who uses social media). It didn’t feel personal at all.

So I changed the thumbnail to this:

Facebook Jamey

I instantly felt better. The logo is still there, but now it’s me responding to comments on Facebook, not a corporation. I felt like me again.

But really, this isn’t about how I feel–it’s about how Kickstarter backers feel. How personal should you–the project creator–be with your backers?

I believe that Kickstarter works best when a project is both professional and human. You can make sure your project is professional in the way it looks and reads. A professional-looking project inspires confidence in backers.

The problem with a project that is strictly professional is that backers can’t sense the passion behind the project. They need someone to root for if they’re going to get really excited about it–without that shared excitement and passion, they’re not likely to share the project with others even if they back it.

And perhaps most importantly, the human element of a project creates empathy between the backers and the creator. That’s where the photo comes in. I will prove to you in a few paragraphs that showing your face on your project page in multiple areas will significantly increase the amount of empathy backers feel for you.

I’m a big fan of the writer Daniel Pink. I recently finished his book To Sell Is Human, and I have a few upcoming posts that are inspired by passages in his book. Today’s passage comes from a section in the book regarding radiologists (pgs. 210-212).

Radiologists have the highly impersonal job of looking at anonymous X-rays all day. Usually they’re looking for something in particular–a broken bone, for example. But they also save many lives by identifying “incidental findings”. For example, while looking at a broken arm, they notice an odd growth on your rib cage and report it to your doctor.

A few years ago a study was done regarding the effect of including a patient’s photograph with their X-rays on the rate of incidental findings the radiologists identified (I won’t go into the details here–it would take too long). The results were astonishing–when the patient’s photograph was included, radiologists discovered 80% more incidental findings. 80%!

Why the huge jump? The study attributed it to the empathy generated by putting a face to the X-ray: “Our study emphasizes approaching the patient as a human being and not as an anonymous case study,” ScienceDaily reported.

Sound familiar? As a Kickstarter project creator, let backers see your project as an extension of you by showing your face. Let them empathize with you. Let them relate to you and share your passion. Let them see your beating heart in the X-ray that is your project page.

There are three places on Kickstarter where you should show your face:

  1. The project video
  2. The project creator thumbnail/profile
  3. Occasional project updates (video or photo)

80%, people. That’s significant. I look forward to seeing a lot more faces on Kickstarter.

Somewhat related: This great post by Tyler James on ComixTribe about the main project image. I also wrote about loyalty to individuals on the Berrett-Koehler blog here.

Leave a Comment

13 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #64: The Psychological Benefits of Showing Your Face

  1. I definitely don’t think you should hide it. Rather, you should feature it. People like to root for the underdog as long as the underdog shows they’ve done their research.

    If you don’t speak English, I think you can still appear on the video for 10-15 seconds to say, “Hi, thanks for checking out my project!” Though a lot of projects don’t feature their creators on the video, so I suspect that’s becoming less of a necessity.

    I think Trickerion is a good example of all of these things. It was their first project, but everything was very polished and professional. They’re not native English speakers, so I don’t think they appeared in the video at all.

  2. Hi Jamey,
    Imagine that you are creating your first project on KS for a game. You are sure your game is going to be great and see no special risks. BUT you have no previous experience in nothing game-related. How could you explain that to your backers? is it something you should hide?
    And what about if you don’t speak English? Souldn’t you appear on the video?

    If you don’t have experience and don’t speak English… would it be better to present the game in a professional company way rather than a more personal way?

    Thank you.

  3. Jamey, what profound information and advice! My Genius Games pages are all currently logos. I want to put my face in them, like you suggested, but I feel like I would be ripping of your ideas! Would it be okay for me to follow your advice (copy you), or I could think of another way myself if not?

  4. Lol, well said Adam! :)

    Still I completely agree with adding a face and if possible a personality to the name. This is a big one for videos, but also for any other interaction. People will absolutely associate with you better if there is a face, and better still if there is a personality.

  5. I had SO many people at GenCon recognize me and (I believe) approach me more easily because I use a portrait on BGG and on Twitter – I would imagine the same to hold true for Kickstarter campaigns. Great post!

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