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Our First Kickstarter Campaign: What we learned

Posted by Gus at 2:53 am, September 7, 2011 | About the Show, Kickstarter

We made it! Thanks to all of you who pledged to or spread the word about our Kickstarter fundraising campaign.

We’ve had a few requests to share what we’ve learned by running the campaign, including one from Mitch Altman, a friend of The Media Show and all-around cool guy who will soon be running a very interesting campaign of his own (so follow that Twitter feed!) I wrote up a good chunk for Mitch, then figured that it would be another good addition to the extensive documentation we’ve done of the show. So I’m posting my rough postmortem of the campaign here.

First of all, I read this before I got started, and it was useful. Good statistics about who pledged and how much on one particular project.

That article says you should have good $50 and $100 rewards, as people seem to like pledging at those levels. I somehow didn’t quite remember that as I started the campaign, and made up a finite number of $50 rewards, garnering some early criticism, and had to add more fast. (More on those prop-related rewards in a moment.) But yes, be sure you’ve got good premiums at those numbers, and make sure you have enough for a lot of people.

What else I learned from our campaign:

Having a super-complicated rewards structure (in our case a lot of unique one-off props from the show) was confusing and cluttered our Kickstarter page. I imagine that’s easier for others to avoid, so if you can, do. Although I do think our fans and friends enjoyed the props. It’d be nice if Kickstarter could hide one-off rewards which were pledged for. I may mention that to them. Aside from that the site was pretty much a joy to use.

What worked really well for this campaign in the end was having multiple descriptions of the project for different kinds of funders. I was trying to reach fans who knew the show, friends who didn’t necessarily, and benefactors who needed to be sold the high-level picture (perhaps without the puppets cussing). Having different sites for them to land on which made the pitch in the terms they needed to hear and linked to the Kickstarter page was a really good idea that I implemented late in the game. If you have multiple potential audiences, I would recommend leaving your KS page relatively generic, and when you send out messages direct the recipients to static pages (not on Kickstarter) where they will hear the pitch they need to hear. Then have a nice big button or link in that pitch that sends them to the KS page.

People suggested giving my Twitter followers pre-written things to copy, paste, and tweet, and tell them when to tweet them. I’m not entirely sure this found us anyone who hadn’t already heard the message, but I do think it helps keep the message on target. People tweeting “Support (my friend’s/colleague’s) Kickstarter campaign!” seemed to be ineffective, even when it came from respected thought leaders.

Do not bother with Facebook except as a means to find people’s email addresses. I wasted so much time on FB with so little result. You don’t know if people check Facebook, for one thing, or if messages from there end up in an inbox they actually check. Fan pages do not offer a means to email all your fans at once, just post on a wall where they’re not likely to ever see it. Mail enough of them at once (or rapidly enough) from FB, and the site will throw spam-fighting CAPTCHAs at you. And there is zero guarantee that your stuff will show up in your friends’ feeds, meaning your pitch there may well be a waste of time. Well, ok, there’s been some black-boxing of their Edgerank algorithm, and working that to your advantage may help, but I think it’s more of a crapshoot than it’s worth. Encourage other people to share the link on FB and “like” the Kickstarter page, sure, but in our case I am not certain this resulted in anyone new seeing our pitch.

We had about twice as many people thumbs-up the campaign on FB as actually pledged… This frustrated me for a little bit, and I did post a couple of things saying “If all the people who had thumbed us up had pledged, we’d be X hundred dollars ahead!” which may have pulled a few small pledges. But in retrospect, half of the people who apparently noticed the campaign on FB wasn’t a bad response number when it came to pledges, really.

As you may have noticed, there was very definitely a last-minute surge, or rather, there were a couple. We did expect this. The exact shape of it was interesting, though. We had a handful of pledges at higher-than-average levels, some of which surprised us. And then we had one very generous donor who offered to cover the gap of whatever was left. (This is the second fundraising effort I’ve been involved with where someone has offered to do that, so I’m beginning to mull actively seeking donors like that in the future.)

Various sources say it’s likely people will pledge a lot at the beginning and the very end of a Kickstarter campaign, and that was definitely true. So don’t freak out about your last few days — just spend that time to do as much campaigning as you possibly can.

If you’ve got more questions about our campaign, please feel free to ask them below!

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