Crowdfunding has enabled many people and organizations to raise the money necessary to pursue their dreams. Whether those dreams are making a film or releasing an album, developing a product, writing a book or even helping others through a non-profit, Crowdfunding can make it happen. Platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo are the go-to sites on which to base campaigns.
Do all Crowdfunding campaigns succeed? Unfortunately no, they don’t. Of course there are many reasons why a campaign would not reach its goal (unrealistic amount, poorly worded, etc) but the main reason I see is a failure to plan in advance. Crowdfunding platforms offer a lot of great tools and are pretty indispensable but when it comes down to it, the success or failure of a campaign is in the hands of the owners of that campaign.
My own interest in this subject started when a potential client called me and asked if I could help him promote his existing Kickstarter campaign. He was part of a band and they were looking for funds to produce an album. I decided to do some research before giving him an answer and that research turned into the basis for this story.
The first thing to look at is your existing assets on the web. Crowdfunding platforms are built with the expectation that you are going to promote your campaign page yourself and to do that you will have to utilize your existing website and social networks. After you start a campaign it is too late to do much in terms of improving what you have because there is a time limit on the campaigns and one or two months is not enough to create and develop social network assets.
The easiest way for me to illustrate what your web assets should look like is if we pretend you have the chance to design a web presence for yourself from the ground up. I’m sure you want to project a professional appearance, especially if you are going to be asking people to contribute money to you. In addition you probably want to be able to avoid spending too much money on advertising. How you design things from the beginning is very important to achieving both of those goals.
In the case of the band I mentioned above their website looked outdated and their social networks were lacking in followers. I believe they had 28 likes on Facebook and fewer than that on twitter. They only posted very infrequently. Their Crowdfunding campaign goal was like $10,000 and with 2 weeks to go in the campaign they only had one contribution of $1. They failed to plan and I knew there wasn’t much I could do at that point except to offer to run a last ditch ad campaign but even that was not really a promising option and not cheap either. I made this Meme to illustrate what I mean.
Search Engine Optomization (SEO) is something that you should become conversationally acquainted with. If you build your web presence with SEO in mind it will make things much easier. SEO is simply doing things that will make your websites more likely to rate higher in search engine results. This makes it likely you will recieve higher rates of traffic. It can be a very involved subject but Google has a nice beginners guide as a .pdf available at this link to help.
Basic SEO rules can be applied to any site you set up, not just your own website. It is true that you can do more with your own site than you can with your profile page on a social network but there are still things you can do which make a difference. I will list a few points based on SEO principles below but I encourage you to get the guide from Google as well.
The first thing to do, before you even build any site for your business or sign up to any social networks is to decide on the right URL. This is important to SEO because it is one of the things search engines consider when ranking your site. It also helps to convey to people what your site is about. It isn’t possible to be 100% the same with URL’s across social networks due to different ways each of them allow you to create one but you can get pretty close. This creates consistency for the audience as well as helping the search engine. Here is a list of my own URL’s for Street Punk Productions to show you what I mean:
- Main Website: https://www.specializeddigitalmarketing.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StreetPunkProductions
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/streetpunkprod
- YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/streetpunkproduction
- Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/company/street-punk-productions
- Google+: https://plus.google.com/105027174067077326704
When it comes time to design your Crowdfunding campaign this same rule applies. I am not running a campaign so I chose a URL from a Crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to illustrate. Assuming that your company is called “Finding Nico” and that is how your website and social networks are labeled in their URL’s then your campaign URL should also be created the same way: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/finding-nico.
Note that the “Finding Nico” URL is also short and to the point. That is another positive aspect from an SEO perspective and one I somewhat neglected in naming my own business. The result was that I had to cut off a letter or two from my URL on some social networks because of their character limits. I decided I liked the name enough to ignore that though. Also note that the lone renegade URL in my list above is from Google+ who does not yet support vanity URL’s.
After you create your URLs the next thing to do is design the appearance of your sites. Aesthetically they should be clean and professional looking without excess clutter. You should decide on a theme and then maintain it across your entire web presence. Again I will illustrate with my own sites. You can see it this image they all use a common header image and logo. Only my website lacks the header image of the city but it didn’t really fit the overall design. However the logo font remains consistent.
After you have your URLs and your sites the next thing to do is finish the SEO that you can do at the beginning. This involves writing your meta description and a page title and deciding on a keyword for each page that will be the meta keyword focus for that page. These too are important to your SEO so you should do this carefully.
Your web platform probably has SEO options that allow you to just type into a field and then it will create your Meta Tags for you. My site is built on WordPress and it has it’s own SEO or you can add plugins to assist you.
The title on your home page should reflect what your site is about. It is what the search engines will show as your title in their results. It should be no more than 70 characters (including spaces) and ideally should begin with your main keyword. It does not have to be the same title that shows to visitors when they arrive at your site.
Your meta description is what the search engines use as the site description in their results. It should be limited to 155 characters (including spaces) otherwise the search engines will cut it off. Keywords are less important than they used to be but there is still debate on how many you should use. Pick at least one that best represents the content of the page but no more than 5 if you feel you need them. Google provides a tool to suggest keywords based on a topic you provide and it can show you how many searches amonth contain that word or phrase. The more times it is searched the more frequently you could show up in search results. SEO is an ongoing thing and you are never really done with it but after you get done with all I suggested your page will be Search Engine Optimized to at least a starter level and will look something like this in the search engine results.
If you would come to me and ask me to help you run your promotional campaign for a Crowdfunding campaign or a business or an entertainment project all of the above is what I would look at first. If everything isn’t where it should be I would let you know and try to get it fixed up along with promoting your project. If you are going the DIY route this is what you need to do.
Build An Audience
Back in the day audience building was easier. Remember when everyone had a million friends on Myspace? It was so easy to download a friend adding bot and then sit back and watch the numbers grow. For a while there were even bots that worked to add friends on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. This was great for bands or filmmakers. At least it seemed to be great because you could show off a huge number of followers (even if only a few of them actually knew who you were).
Then the social networks realized that they were missing the boat so they all made some changes to prevent Bots from adding friends for you. Instead they rolled out their own advertising platforms which essentially serve the same purpose except now it is the social networks who get paid for the service and not third party software designers.
That being said the advertising platforms offered by social networks are effective tools to use in building brand awareness. Of course there is a cost involved but I think that the ad platforms offered by Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are great tools and are able to target your desired audience very effectively if you know how to use them. Conversely, you can always just sit at the computer for hours and send friend requests manually to those people who you think might like your brand. There is an investment there too though, time. Your time. Thirdly you can just build the pages and wait. That is the worst of the three though because you may be waiting for a very long time to build any substantial numbers and for a Crowdfunding campaign numbers are what you need.
Pitching The Crowdfunding Campaign
I’m not going to tell you how to build your campaign page on a Crowdfunding site. Just follow the same rules outlined above when you create the page and give it a title, “about” description and some keywords. Adding images and video is excellent but don’t let the visual aids outweigh your text. Search engines like a good balance between text and pictures. Oh yeah, and some nice subheadings in your text are good too (just like the ones in this story).
The first part of pitching your campaign is to go for the low hanging fruit. Friends, family, co-workers who owe you a favor. If none of that works don’t be afraid to throw in some seed money yourself. For the most part you will probably be asking people you have never met to contribute their money to your project and going to a page and seeing zero contributions is a disincentive. After all, who wants to be the first (only) person to commit?
Next, don’t be pushy. Post information about your Crowdfunding campaign to your social networks but don’t do it 5 times a day. It gets old. In addition don’t post the same message every time. Give people some variety, extol the value of your project in 140 characters or less. Use hash tags to try to reach a larger audience.
If your project will have local interest or impact don’t be afraid to go beyond your computer desk and reach out to local media like newspapers and TV and radio stations. They are always looking for interesting stories from your area. If your project has national potential don’t be afraid to talk to the bigger news outlets. The worst they can do is say no.
Finally you can again utilize the advertising platforms on the social networks to reach beyond your own followers with a promoted tweet or post. Here is where precise targeting is really crucial because you are trying to make money by spending money and there has to be an ROI or it is kind of pointless.
If you use this as a guideline I think your DIY Crowdfunding campaign will have the best chance of success that it can. If you need help with any or all of it I will be happy to assist you either as a consultant with you doing the work or to do it myself for you. The first consultation is free so send me an email or give me a call. Please don’t wait until the last minute though. The earlier you start to plan the more likely you will not fail.