Using social norms to encourage uptake of income boosters

Social norms messaging
Experiment Type
Field Experiment
Increase program enrollment
Increase earnings
Focus Areas
Behavioral Concepts
Descriptive social norms Social proof
Partner Type
Irrational Labs

What Happened

It didn't work. Neither of the experimental conditions lifted the number of people taking advantage of Income Boosters. CCL believes there could be two possible explanations for why this social norms messaging was unsuccessful. The first explanation involves limited attention (people ignoring/ quick scrolling). An alternative explanation is that the people acknowledge the information but it did not affect their decision-making.

Lessons Learned

The addition of social proof messaging (displaying either "Dollar amount paid to Steady members" or "Number of Steady members paid") has not been shown to be successful in increasing new job enrollment among the Steady app userbase. Either a different way to display social proof messaging or a different strategy entirely may be needed to move the needle with regard to new job enrollment.


Close to half of gig workers (44%) depend on gig work as their primary source of income. The Steady app helps these workers maximize their income by matching them with opportunities to make extra money and provides an income tracker to monitor earnings.

One way people can earn extra money through the app is with bonuses (“Income Boosters”), which Steady gives out when users sign up for new jobs or services. For example, a Steady user could earn $20 when they sign up to be a Postmates delivery driver. However, not all Steady users take advantage of the Income Boosters program.

Steady partnered with Common Cents Lab to explore ways we might encourage greater adoption of these bonus programs.

Key Insights

To better understand what might be keeping Steady users from pursuing Income Boosters, we conducted a detailed diagnosis of the Steady Income Boosters flow. An insight from qualitative research suggested that Steady users were not confident that they would be paid if they signed up for Income Boosters. We hypothesized that by using social norms variants to illustrate that others had been paid, we would increase the likelihood of someone pursuing an Income Booster.


CCL and Steady designed two experiments to test whether two different types of social proof would be effective in increasing Income Booster usage. The experiments ran over four weeks to over 62,000 Steady users. Both experiments tested:

  1. Control: No social norms

  2. Social Norms: Dollar amount paid to Steady members

  3. Social Norms: Number of Steady members paid

In the first experiment, featuring all of the Income Boosters that were not Steady’s top 5 most popular, on the Steady Income Boosters main screen:

The second experiment, featuring Steady’s top 5 most popular Boosters, featured the same three social proof versions. In addition to the main Income Boosters screen variants, the second experiment also featured modifications to the individual Booster screens with social proof in the experimental conditions.


There was no difference across conditions in terms of getting more people to use Income Boosters in either of the experiments.

There are a few possible explanations as to why none of the experimental conditions lifted the number of people taking advantage of Income Boosters.

The first explanation involves limited attention: either people ignored the social proof messaging, or it is possible that people’s actual behavior on the Income Boosters screen is a quick scroll, and without the social proof pinned to the top of the screen, people missed it.

Alternatively, it is possible that people took in the information, but it did not change their decision-making. It may have either not changed their opinion on the likelihood of getting paid, or they may have been equally likely to have applied regardless of the perceived odds of not being paid for an Income Booster.