A book publisher I highly respect recently asked me why we don’t use social proof at Stonemaier Games, and off the cuff I didn’t have an answer. I’ve thought about it quite a bit over the last few weeks and have discussed it with other publishers, and my conclusion is that maybe it’s something we should explore.

When I think about social proof in the game industry, images like this typically come to mind:

Quantities sold is a very real–and impressive–example of social proof, but because I was thinking about it as the only example of social proof, it seemed to have some issues:

If a game is selling this well, you need to frequently update the sticker.
If someone is shopping for a game and is influenced by social proof, comparison becomes a factor. Do they choose the game with 100k units sold or the one with 10 million units sold?

For the right game (like Ticket to Ride), units sold can be a powerful statement. Once I dug deeper, I realized that there are a number of other options for game publishers to consider:

BoardGameGeek rating
BGG rank (or categorical rank: “#3 family game” or “BGG Top 10”)
publisher, designer, or artist of _____
awards
quote from reviewer or designer
#1 bestseller of a particular publisher
units sold (just so it’s on this list)

I think all of these are viable examples of social proof, though they depend on the product and where you’re presenting this data. For example, if you’re crowdfunding a game, it’s far too early to convey the BGG rating or rank for the game, though you could share that information for other related games by the same publisher.

Similarly, after the game is published, I think it’s worth considering who will see the social proof (and how they’ll see it). If you buy a game online–as it appears nearly 80% of people do now based on last year’s demographic survey–you’re not going to see a sticker on the box until the game is delivered to your home. So do you pay to sticker all 20,000 units you print this year, or do you somehow try to separate the games going to big-box and hobby retailers? Also, at what point does it look a bit garish to cover the beautiful box art with a giant sticker?

As a publisher who primarily sells to distributors/retailers and secondarily via the Stonemaier Games webstore (preorders and ongoing), I remain a little uncertain as to where social proof would be effectively conveyed on our website or webstore.

For example, the Rolling Realms preorder launches this Wednesday. A significant number of the potential customers who will visit our webstore are coming from our enewsletter, so do I need to sell them even more on Stonemaier Games?

Later, hopefully a growing number of people will search for information about this game they’ve heard about, and that may bring them to this page on our website. There’s more information lower on the page, and the top of the page (shown here) already seems to have enough text/info:

I’d love to hear your thoughts about social proof. Which type of social proof do you think is the most effective, and how/where do you think it’s best presented?

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Also read: Display Your Laurels

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