Creators Corner: Running a Successful Kickstarter Part 4: Promoting Your Campaign
Now that you’ve done your research, brainstormed rewards, and created the campaign page (video and all), you’re ready to start doing the most fun part of the Kickstarter: begging people for money. That’s right, I’m talking about promoting your campaign to anyone willing to support you, which is always barrels of fun. It’s not quite the hoot that soliciting for reviews is, but it’s pretty close.
In all seriousness, though, most creators view this as the worst part about running a Kickstarter, and I can’t really blame them: it’s practically impossible to stand out in the midst of so many other campaigns being advertised online. And if you’re even able to stand out, you have to make the pitch and possible rewards memorable enough for people to click on that link to your Kickstarter page. And even if all this aligns perfectly, you’ll probably still feel a little shady to be hitting up friends, family and strangers for money. But, despite the drawbacks to this stage, you can still have fun with it and–most importantly–use it to to reach that end goal: campaign completion.
Building that Base
The first step of promoting a campaign starts before you’ve even created it. Essentially, you need to build a base for you and your work first, and you also need to preview the Kickstarter for at least the month leading up to the actual campaign. Building a base–and connections–helps make it more likely that others will promote your campaign; after all, if they already like what you’ve been doing, chances are they’re going to want to help you even more. I did this in many ways: writing guest posts on others’ sites, getting reviewed, giving the first issue away for free, getting on podcasts (shout-out to This Freakin’ Show, my first and most faithful podcast so far!), and more.
And as far as previewing the Kickstarter before it even launches, it helps to give people a heads up to plan for a possible budget item. You don’t want to have a friend who would’ve donated a few hundred dollars donate five bucks simply because they didn’t have enough notice to make that cash available. Even better, announcing the Kickstarter in advance and giving away a free excerpt/issue is one way to make sure that possible backers have the needed knowledge and excitement to support you when the Kickstarter launches.
Should I Pay (for tweet splashes/PR from an agency) or No?
The next step on this seemingly endless journey is to decide if you want to shell out money to an agency for their expertise and PR machine. Before I dove in, I dipped my toe in the water and just ordered a 24-hour tweet splash to coincide with the first week of launching the campaign for Rebirth of the Gangster. I got some retweets, but to be quite honest, it was a waste of my money. That doesn’t mean a big agency would be a waste of money, but it does heavily suggest that tweet splashes are a waste of money. Yeah, they might have more followers than you, but (being a follower of those accounts myself), those followers won’t actually pay close attention to their tweets. So the question remains: should you enlist the aid of an expert agency in the hopes of either completing your goal or even exceeding it?
Initially I decided not to, but a few things happened that made me start to reconsider that position. First, after a week of the campaign being live, I wasn’t receiving the level of response I’d hoped for (or in other words, I wasn’t getting enough of that cash money!). Secondly, I started to get a lot of emails from agencies like the one above, telling me that my Kickstarter had strong appeal and only needed the boost of an agency to propel it in the atmosphere.
I was really close to giving in and signing with one of these agencies about halfway through the campaign when the miraculous happened: I started getting more and more donations, and it looked pretty feasible that I was going to reach my goal. Seeing that, I started re-evaluating how much I was leaning towards these companies.
Given that I didn’t have a big goal ($1000, which isn’t that high of a goal compared to other Kickstarter campaigns), I didn’t think that paying hundreds of dollars to maybe hit that goal and maybe exceed it was worth it. If I had a bigger goal (like the $3000+ I was thinking of to print the graphic novel of the first story arc), it would make sense to me to enlist their help, but with such a small goal, it didn’t seem worth it to me. And to make that decision even easier, I saw that a lot of my friends and family were donating and donating big (I’m lucky in that I have friends and family who are pretty affluent), so it didn’t seem like I needed even more support. There is no right answer, just a careful consideration of all these variables and costs. And besides, I found another, cheaper way to garner support from others versed in Kickstarter: other campaign creators like myself.
Kickstarter Creator Solidarity
Once I launched my Kickstarter campaign, my inbox started piling up with messages from other Kickstarter creators, asking if I was interested in backing their project in return for them backing mine. Now, we’re only talking about a $1-$5 pledge, so it’s not that much money for either of us, which might make it seem like it wouldn’t be worth it.
However, Kickstarter–like so much of the internet and life in general–favors the popular, which in the Kickstarter world means that projects with more money donated will appear higher on searches and be more likely to get pledges (it’s kind of like that old cliche when applying for a job: “You don’t have enough experience” to get the job so those who already have the experience will be more likely to be hired instead). So, that’s one benefit of donating to other campaigns and getting others to donate to you, all for the temporary cost of a few bucks that will be “rebated” to you when they donate to your pledge too. Even better, those creators I backed were more likely to publicize my Kickstarter on Twitter, Facebook, etc…!
So, after being contacted myself, I started contacting others for this support: after all indie authors love sticking together. And even though, I only had about 5% of creators I contacted agree to this support, that’s still better than nothing and still free publicity.
(above, a pic shared with me by someone I backed)
Even with all of these supports and keys to success, you might see your Kickstarter lagging after a few weeks, and that’s when you need to think of greater incentives to meet the goal and keep your campaign in the public eye (after all, according to recent studies, humans now have an attention span of 8 seconds, shorter than a goldfish’s). Some of these stretch goals can be expanding a reward you already have, but since it had a limited number of pledges it’s already full. I did this by adding one more cameo to my project–at first I’d had 2 cameos in the campaign, but since those were snatched pretty quickly, I added another one.
It also makes sense to add goals similar to ones that have been successful: since the cameo was so successful, but since I wanted it to still be special and since I wanted to save Juan time looking at photos to add new characters, I added something kind of like a cameo: naming a character after the backer or anyone they wanted. This isn’t quite the same as a cameo, so I made it less expensive, but like the cameo, it was very popular. That’s how I got the Lil’ Jimbo name, and that’s why I sent out the following tweet of appreciation:
And that brings me to something I’ve almost overlooked, something that is actually incredibly important for every step of the process: publicizing your thanks, both for your backers and for those spreading the word. People pledge support for a Kickstarter for two reasons:
- They want to support art
- They want others to know they’re the type of person to support art.
So, you should be tweeting, Facebook-ing, and spreading your thanks anywhere you can, even in the work itself. I could post a bunch of pics of me doing that, but you don’t need to see 100+ messages of me thanking my supporters (I know that’s more than I had backers, but I would thank backers multiple times and thank people who spread the word about my campaign).
If you do all these things, you should be able to get a variety of backers who found your campaign in a variety of ways, like mine did:
But there’s still one last thing to consider, and that’s the final push.
Last Call and the Big Finish
In the last week–whether you’ve hit your goal or not–it’s still important to keep getting the word out, especially to family and friends. I know it seems weird that you have to remind those closest to you to support you quickly in this campaign, but this campaign isn’t nearly as big of a deal to them as it is to you.
Perhaps surprisingly, many of them might have forgotten about it (yes, even those who are true friends), so continuing to put it on their radar makes it much more likely they’ll offer a pledge. In fact, the pledge that made it so I met my goal was from a friend in the last week and a half, something he only did because I texted him a reminder. As this post has no doubt shown, your job as a promoter for the Kickstarter is never done, and your audience for this promotion only continues to widen. If you keep these ideas in mind, you should be on your way to Kickstarter success!
After that, the only step left is finishing the dang project and fulfilling the pledges, which I’ll cover in my next–and last–installment on running a successful Kickstarter.