Crowdfunding is as old as the hills. Collection plates at places of worship, street buskers with hats, iconic public edifices life London’s Albert Hall and New York’s Statue of Liberty were crowdfunded. Crowdfunding today is hitched to social media. Understanding this new relationship will help you prevent crowdfunding disasters. Do it right, and social media could propel you straight to the sky. Misunderstand and do it wrong and social media will completely ignore you.
I started Raindance in the pre-social media era of the early 1990’s. Back then, people met each other at pubs, social gatherings, conferences and at film festivals. We used to trade business cards and get to know the people behind the faces and name badges. After a while you’d ascertain who might be most interested in collaborating with you on a project, or not. And from there one might summon the courage to make an outright pitch for their help (or money). You would have never dreamed of walking up to a total stranger and ask them for money would you?
Social media makes it a lot easier to connect to people. It’s easy to forget that there are real people with real emotions behind the LinkedIn or Twitter profile picture. As with the person you befriended in person at a filmmakers social so too these people have wants and needs. And no one likes to be spammed.
Here’s the vice: You are under pressure. Your crowdfunding clock is ticking away like mad. And you’re tired and exhausted from a day of Tweeting. It’s hard under these circumstances to remember that the onine rules of engagement are exactly the same as those at your local pub.
Since the rise of social media tools like Twitter Marketing have made it so much easier to connect
Here’s the most common crowdfunding disasters
I’ve run about 15 crowdfunding campaigns and hated the experience every single time. I have also witnessed every kind of crowdfunding disaster known to mankind. See if these observations and tips can help you avoid the pain I’ve suffered.
1. No social media means a crowdfunding disaster
Here’s a fact. There isn’t a single soul on social media who is waiting for you to launch your campaign. No one. Not even you mum. Even if you had some sort of secret ist of crowdfunding supporters it’s still up to you to connect with them.
Connecting with an audiencce on social media is hard work. You like and retweet potential supporters in the weeks and months before you launch. Favourite and comment on blog posts. Social media is all about sharing. You reach out to individuals who might be interested in your work by commenting and sharing their posts.
Starting a Twitter account today would take 4-6 months to build an audience of sufficient size to help you when you launch. and you ewould need to spend an hour a day on Twitter. Then there is Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and whichever other social media platforms you think might be appropriate for your audience as well.
I was in New York at Columbia University giving a talk last autumn. At the end a woman asked me if I would help her with her crowdfunding campaign. I said sure and asked how many Twitter followers she had. She said “Twelve”. I told her to call me back when she had a thousand. “A thousand?” she cried. “How does anyone get a thousand?” “Do historical research” I said. “Jesus started with twelve”.
TIP: There are different tools you can use to identify and help you add in the types of followers you should be targetting. Setting up a Google alert on appropriate topis is one we use a lot at Raindance. Another is to use a paid for tool like Twitter Marketing.
Remember, no matter which tool you use, you still need to reach out and connect with your contacts.
2. Asking for money ruins a crowdfunding campaign
Unlike the days when the Statue of Liberty was crowdfunded, crowdfunding today harnasses the power of social media. Nothing will turn your audience off more than a blatant up-front money grab.
The trick is to use the power of the internet, and the huge reach of crowdfundign giants like indiegogo and Kickstater to promote what you are doing, and more importatntly, the why you are doing it.
Once your audience knows he what and the why your project exists, then they might reach into their pocket, or tap their PayPal button and send you a tenner.
TIP: One useful tool is the preview function of most crowdfunding websites. This allows you to share your programme with an inner circle of possible donors, friends and allies before you launch. Don’t ask for money at this point. Ask for their valuable feedback and incorpaorate their suggestions into the final version of your campaign. My guess is they will donate anyway.
3. The perks and rewards can make or break your campaign
The rewards you give to contributors need to fall into two categories. first are actual objects toy need to acquire (costly) and deliver (expensive) Things like Tees, books, movies and other paraphernalia appeal to certain types of donors. But don’t get caught out! Typical crowdfunding disasters include not accounting for the production and delivery costs of perks resulting in a net loss.
The second type of reward are experiential. Dinner with you, or someone noteworthy. A special invite to a special event, as Raindance is trying with our Evening With Terry Gilliam. Be creative. Try to think of the sort of experience you would like. Then see if you can create it for your campaign.
4. The wrong people on your social media will sink your camaign
How do you know who the right people are for your campaign? For example, if your go on Twitter and search for crowdfunding you’ll get everyone who has that word in the bio, handle name and so on. This is really unhelpful. You could end up with a large list of people interested in any crowdfunding project except yours.
So now you need to create keywords and hashtags for your campaign that will enable you to get to the sorts of people interested in the subject of your project.
Tip: Google has a free Keyword Planner that will allow you to find keywords around 3D printing that you can use to search. You can use these keywords to search Twitter, Facebook and Twitter Marketing to get lists of users in your space, people interested in 3D printing.
5. Avert crowdfunding disaster by maxing out your social media
There are millions of posts on social media every day. This means you need to keep churning out your posts. Your posts need to be entertaining and frequent. Try experimenting with different times of the day to see when you get the most interaction.
For example, Raindance Twitter has four key times we tweet, based on reasearch. We post first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, between 4-5pm and finally between 7:30 – 10pm at night. The Raindance accoutns are complicated by the fact there are ten hubs in time zones twelve hours apart too.
Tip: In order to pre-write Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts we use a scheduling software programme Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts 5 minutes apart over the coming year. It is most useful. Using a scheduling programme will help you avoid a crowdfunding disaster.
I’m personally consulting on an exciting new crowdfunding venture Collab Writers and today we have started our Collab Writers Twitter profile. Why not follow us and see how well we practise what I preach!
If you are interested in a crowdfunding campaign so successful it launched T S Elliot’s writing career, read how Ezra Pound organised that crowdfunding campaign.
Raindance article: How filmmakers crowdfund successfully
These are some great tips from Krowdster:
Give your campaign the time it takes to build a network of supporters, then own it, go 100% in, make updates fun and entertaining. Don’t ask for money, invite them to be part of the next big thing and make it worth their while to not only connect with you on social media but also to support and share you idea.
The bottom is that in this day and age, crowdfunding is no longer a novelty, it is a truly crowded space out there and in order to stand out and get support you have to get your social media game on.