I got kickstarted and here’s what I learned
I got my very first Kickstarter campaign — UNTOLD/Chuyện Chưa Kể, a documentary about student social work in Vietnam–successfully funded in fourteen days. It was a HUGE learning curve.
A lot of valuable and helpful tips on running a successful Kickstarter campaign can be easily Google or listened to on podcasts, so I hope to only share here my personal lessons with this specific project.
Brace yourself for the emotional roller coaster
- The more personal the project is, the heavier toll it takes. It was so emotional that I have a separate blog about the whole journey.
Be strategic about what, where & when to post
- I had to admit that I didn’t have a plan for how to run my Kickstarter. Every day, I observed how everyone reacted to the content I put out. Yes, I became the typical social media addict — constantly checking the “likes” and “seen”. After a while, I got a sense of what kind of content that would draw people into my campaign and who was following the journey along.
Consistently and creatively produce content
- Keep your community engaged and aware of what you are doing. People are naturally drawn to those with passion and confidence in making their goals a reality. They have to believe in you before they believe in your campaign.
What kind of content you should produce?
- Anything that helps the audience understand what your campaign is about, why you want to pursue it, why you need their help and how they can help. Never assume they already know everything. After the first day, I realized that the Kickstarter crowdfunding model was not familiar to my target communities, so I made a post explaining it in details. It was a total game-changer.
- Also, don’t be afraid of repeating content as your audience needs A LOT of reminders to get excited and motivated. Be fun, it’s not always about pledging for a good cause. It can be something like, “Please help me round up the current fund number!”
Be adventurous in exploring where to find your potential audience
- I started out with the biggest challenge. Building a supportive community prior to the launch is the key to success for a crowdfunding campaign. However, the one I have built up to that point was whom I wanted to help, not the potential backers–those that wanted to support that community. I didn’t have enough time to reach out and gather them together, so I was basically shooting in the dark the whole time.
- I reached out to ANY contact that I could think of, from those that were in my focused communities to whoever popped up on my News Feed, as well as tried out multiple channels (Facebook pages, platforms, organizations, posters around campus, etc.). It helped to figure out which was my main avenue of communication.
- All the content I have produced was in two languages (Vietnamese & English). It’s not only about getting more exposure to the potential backers but also raising awareness for a wider range of audience.
- Directly communicate with potential backers, both online and in-person. Asking them for feedback before the launch is a very effective way to convert them into advocates of your campaign. Even a phone call goes a long way.
Overall, the strategy is to do daily iterations based on your collected data.
Never lose sight of the very reason why you started the project
- It would get you through the hardest days. The focus will shift from getting a Kickstarter campaign fully funded to figuring out the best way to achieve your goal. Your Kickstarter may fail, but all the lessons will get you closer to your goal than ever.
- Put your ego away (or crush it if you can). I used to let my ego stop me from reaching out to people, especially when asking for help (asking for money was entirely out of the picture). It was no longer the case when I had a bigger picture to focus on.
Treat everything as an experiment, not your final product
- It will take the pressure and fear of failure off your chest. Phewww! The primary purpose here is to learn how to build an engaged community, analyze your data, make iterations and stay innovative. It will also give you an escape route from these kinds of questions, “What do you plan to do after this? Is it part of your career development?”
- When I was asked if this was something I wanted to pursue when I come back to Vietnam after graduation, my reply was, “I don’t know yet. My ultimate goal is to do social innovation in Vietnam and I’m still experimenting different approaches.”
Be kind to others
- Your campaign’s advocates and “obligated” backers are your family, closed friends and those that believe in you. Their support comes from a place of trust, respect, and love. Meaningful relationships don’t happen overnight. It’s the most laborious work of all, it takes years of cultivation and efforts. It took me 15 years of persistently showing affection to get one of my closest friends to start to express back. But it’s worth it, totally worth it.
- Also, express gratitude promptly. “Unexpressed gratitude feels like ingratitude to the ones for whom you are grateful.”–Andy Stanley.
When you send something good into the world, it will come back in the most lovely form of surprise. So be kind to others and always choose to pay it forward.
Remember, you are never alone.
- It’s not fun to do anything alone. Make yourself and your passion known and seen, speak loudly and genuinely about it. Always do your best and everything will work wonders, one way or another.
Best of luck to your Kickstarter! 😉