I’ve been a member of Kickstarter for a little over a year now, and in that time I’ve backed over thirty projects – almost all of which were video games – and have seen many of them succeed, but also many of them have sadly failed. As an SEO professional, I began to notice patterns in both successful and unsuccessful campaigns that have led me to some theories on why certain campaigns succeed while others don’t, and many of these were similar to practices we use in SEO and SEM every day.
What is Kickstarter, you ask? At its core, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding engine that allows fans of a particular project to donate to that project, usually based on reward tiers. For example, a reward tier of $5 for an artist’s new album might get a thank you in the liner notes, while $25 might get you the full album, $50 might get you an autographed copy of the album and so on. If the campaign meets its funding goal, its backers get charged their desired amount. If it fails to meet its goals, fans don’t get charged.
Ultimately, however, Kickstarter is a marketing/hype machine, where those running the campaigns reach out to fans and ask those fans to trust them, and then show fans the reasons for which they should be trusted. Building trust amongst your fans is the best way to help steer a successful Kickstarter campaign, and based on what I’ve seen from successful Kickstarters, there are several methods to do this, methods similar to SEO and paid SEM. These include:
Clear Campaign Goals
Fans like it when your goals are clear and easily understood. Similar to writing valuable copy, here you’re creating clear, readable copy for potential backers to help them understand why you need the money and where their money will be going. This adds to the trust factor that is so important in running a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Clearly Defined Tiers
Similar to the above, it’s amazing how many projects I’ve seen fail because their reward tiers were confusing or lacking in value. I’ve seen campaigns quit in the middle and then restart due to potential backers being confused by their tiers. I’ve refused to back projects I’d otherwise love because I didn’t think the reward tiers were valuable enough. Having clearly defined reward tiers – and let’s be honest, people always want something for their money – help make incentivizing your campaign much easier.
Regular, Consistent, Valuable Updates
Just like we tell our SEO clients to blog regularly, in order to make their site more valuable for users, regular updates to fans of your project are insanely valuable and important in building trust. The best campaigns I’ve seen produce daily updates, even if each update is just a screenshot or a small list of bullet points on how things are going. People who invest through Kickstarter want to feel like they’re in the loop on how the projects they support are going, and regular updates are a big help in that department. Constant updates are also a great way to continually share news about your project offsite, such as on social networks and news sites. Regular updates show a level of involvement that help put people at ease and make it easier for fans to trust and invest in campaigns. Constant updates also leads into my next point…
Both regular updates and clear goals help bring a sense of transparency fans haven’t experienced before ventures like Kickstarter existed. Kickstarter puts fans directly into contact with the people creating and working on the campaigns they’re backing. When I mention transparency, this includes being transparent about who you (and your team, if you have one) are in terms of background and experience, where the inspiration/ideas for your campaign came from, how much you’ve invested in the project and why you created the campaign to fund your project. Being as up-front and transparent as possible simply generates more trust and goodwill, which are vital in a successful campaign.
Realistic Funding Goals
Like any marketing venture, goals must be clear and realistic. This is especially true on Kickstarter. If you’re starting a campaign wherein no one has heard of you and you’re asking for $1,000,000, that’s going to be a pretty hard sell, and you’ll have to work even harder to build enough trust and goodwill to bring in that level of funding. Also, asking for that much leads potential backers, such as myself, to ask why one needs all that money in the first place. If the same campaign only sought $50,000 instead, that’d be an easier sell because it would take fewer backers, and people would see that you’re being realistic and humble about asking for their money.
Monitor & Nurture Your Campaign Constantly
Nurturing is an important word here (and it’s not mine, others have used that word to describe Kickstarter campaigns before). A Kickstarter campaign needs to be continually nurtured not only through updates, but through constant monitoring and tweaking, just like a paid SEM campaign. This means you reply to comments in a timely and professional manner, take polls to gauge user interest and responses to an idea you have for the project, reach out to news sites and try to get them to cover you, thank them when they do and respond to comments on their sites.
I’ve heard it said that running a Kickstarter campaign is nothing less than a full-time job on its own, and I feel this is as it should be. By constantly monitoring what your fans are saying, taking them seriously and being professional with them, you’ll be making a huge difference in how they and others perceive your campaign. Even responding professionally to negative comments is beneficial, just as it is in SEO.
Build An Amazing Pitch
Just like we tell clients that the homepage of their site is the most important – since it’s the first page many people see – creating a successful initial pitch is insanely important. A successful pitch incorporates many of the elements already mentioned into an engaging, exciting and readable whole that brings the user in and gets them excited and engaged enough to back your campaign. By having an engaging pitch video – don’t try to be funny or clever, just be honest – as well as transparent copy about the who and why of your campaign, as mentioned above, it will be much easier to pull in and engage new backers. These backers will then hopefully share it with their friends.
In conclusion, running a Kickstarter campaign should be treated like any full-blown marketing campaign, but on a more personal and intimate level. Since potential and existing backers can contact you directly to ask questions, this leads to a level of involvement rarely seen before in traditional Internet marketing. However, if you’re transparent, engaging, consistent and professional and run your campaign in an exciting and engaging way that shares your passion with fans, your Kickstarter campaign has a much higher chance of success. Thanks for reading, and good luck!