The Secret to the Best Kickstarter Campaigns is Social Media

By Dara Fontein

Social

Are you thinking about crowdfunding your next business idea? You might want to brush up on those social media skills.

Kickstarter, the largest crowdfunding platform, has hosted over 91,000 creative projects since its launch in 2009 and raised over $9.1 billion. The rapid surge in crowdfunding initiatives has meant more and more invitations to donate to this or that project coming through your social media feeds. As the number of competitive projects introduced everyday grows, the need to stand out from the crowd requires a bit of creativity on social media.

Community is the backbone of any Kickstarter project, so how you use social media can make or break a campaign. To help inspire you, we’ve broken down how social media has played an integral part in the best Kickstarter campaigns to-date.

Pebble Time

Raised: $20,338,986 (4,067 percent of goal)

Backers: 78,471

Funded: March 27, 2015

As the highest funded company in Kickstarter’s history, Pebble knows the importance of an online community in crowdfunding initiatives. In 2012 they introduced the original Pebble watch, arguably the world’s first smartwatch, to record-breaking success.

Hoping to raise $100,000, after 37 days on Kickstarter Pebble raised a mind-boggling $10,000,000. Their mammoth success is owed in part to their dedication to social media initiatives. When interviewed by TechCrunch,  founder Eric Migicovsky explained “In order to jumpstart a project like this, we weren’t just looking to sell it. We were looking to build a community.”

And build a community they did. Over 68,000 people backed the original Pebble campaign, loudly sharing their feedback and enthusiasm over social media. With this fan engagement, Pebble saw their funds grow, and media interest build. This snowball effect took hold and as media outlets such as VentureBeat and Entrepreneur covered the initiative, more people wanted to back it. As the catalyst for this crowd mentality through their dedicated online fan forums, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, Pebble leveraged these online fans and helped move their product forward as they prepared for a second successful Kickstarter campaign.

In February 2015, three years after their initial product success, the company launched a new smartwatch, Pebble Time, to the delight of their social media community. Within 49 minutes Pebble Time had raised over $1,00,000 and continued to break records as it became the most funded Kickstarter campaign of all time with $20,338,986 in total raised and 78,471 backers.

However, it was when Pebble hit a snag with their iOS app availability on the Apple store that the impact of social media for the company was seen. Pebble asked their backers and fans to Tweet and post to Facebook with the hashtag #FreeOurPebble, and over 1,200 posts answered that call. Less than 48 hours after making that call to action, Pebble and their fans seemingly succeeded and the app extension was released by Apple.

Throughout their campaigns, Pebble practiced one of the most important social media habits–consistent and genuine gratitude and engagement with their followers and fans. After each milestone and success, Pebble posted messages of thanks that came off as human and sincere. With over 83,000 Twitter followers and 302,499 Facebook fans, the company taps into their substantial online community and engages with their followers at every opportunity. They know that without this social media community constantly sharing updates on the product and acting as ambassadors, their success would be nonexistent. In letting their backers do most of the talking, Pebble allows for an authentic voice to be heard on social media–something all Kickstarter campaigns can learn from.

Key tips:

  • Concentrate on building a community rather than just selling a product
  • Show genuine gratitude to your fans and followers

Coolest Cooler

Raised: $13,285,226  (26,570 percent of goal)

Backers: 62,642

Funded: August 29, 2014

Although the original Kickstarter campaign did not reach its goal, Coolest Cooler creator Ryan Grepper used the lessons he learned to propel his second attempt to staggering success. Recognizing that the start date of the campaign is not the date where marketing and social media efforts should begin, Grepper tapped into the existing online community who had backed the original effort to make the Coolest Cooler a reality. Grenner understood that The Coolest Cooler, which features a built in 18v blender, a removable waterproof Bluetooth speaker, a USB charger, and much more, is a product for a specific type of consumer, and targeted his social media audience with this in mind.

To successfully tap into these customers, he knew he had to connect with potential backers before the campaign actually went live. When speaking to CNBC, Grenner explained, “Using the folks from last time around and other fans, we made a bigger splash that had a ripple effect.”

To that end, Grenner placed importance in connecting with a solid foundation of people in his network who were likely to back his campaign, and hoping that they would in turn spread the word via their own networks. For example, The Coolest Cooler’s Facebook page posted a video asking viewers and fans to share it to their own networks via the provided button and received over 350,000 Facebook shares alone.

With this, he didn’t wait until the Coolest Cooler campaign was live on Kickstarter again, but rather began months before. Social media success does not often come overnight, and in realizing this and putting in the effort to connect with a target online community, Grenner saw the Coolest Cooler catapult to success raising $13,285,226 with over 62,000 backers.

Key tips:

  • Tap into existing online communities and networks
  • Begin social media efforts and marketing initiatives months before actual Kickstarter campaign start date

Exploding Kittens

Raised: $8,782,571  (87,825 percent of goal)

Backers: 219,382

Funded: February 19, 2015

The unprecedented success of the Exploding Kittens Kickstarter campaign proves that sometimes the simplest ideas can see wild success if there is an enthusiastic community backing them. Creator Shane Small, business partner Elan Lee, and cartoonist Matthew Inman, the creator of the popular web comic The Oatmeal, were able to see Exploding Kittens reach its funding goal in just 20 minutes. Within seven hours, it had raised over $1 million, 10,000 percent over the original goal.

With the game described as “a strategic kitty-powered card game based on Russian Roulette,” the success of Exploding Kittens shows that the actual product itself is not what ultimately determines a Kickstarter’s record-breaking success. For Exploding Kittens, the catalyst to success was the day Inman spent on social media uploading images, gifs, videos, and graphics of cute exploding kittens as a kind of thanks to The Oatmeal fans who had backed the campaign. The Oatmeal had over 3.1 million Facebook likes, and Inman himself had over 480,000 Twitter followers, so there was a huge online community already in place to back his next project. With such a large network, the power of social media is seen. As Microsoft explains, “Not only do large networks provide a large number of potential backers, but the more word spreads, the more likely it is the product being funded that catches the attention of the mass media, which exposes it to even more people.”

Focusing on the community was Exploding Kittens’ most significant undertaking, with new challenges being put out to their fans every day of the campaign. Asking members of their online community to, for example, take pictures of themselves as cats but not necessarily requiring them to contribute any more money, the creators realized that building and maintaining the community has incredible value in and of itself.

With this focus on community, Exploding Kittens became Kickstarter’s most backed campaign ever, with 219,382 backers. The week it launched, Exploding Kittens saw 230 Tweets per day, with over 1,610 Tweets in seven days, a huge accomplishment for a cat-themed card game.

Key tips:

  • Don’t expect your product to sell itself
  • Develop original methods of online engagement with your audience to set your campaign apart and build buzz

OUYA

Raised: $8,596,474 (904 percent of goal)

Backers: 63, 416

Funded: Aug. 9, 2012

Although OUYA’s original Kickstarter goal was $950,000, the Android platform video game console quickly surpassed that and eventually raised $8,596,474. OUYA was created by Founder and CEO Julie Uhrman and designer Yves Behar, to fill a void in the gaming market in an effort to make games cheaper and more accessible. With OUYA’S open source platform, every game is free to try and any developer can publish a game. Positioning itself as “a console for gamers that couldn’t exist without their support,” OUYA appealed to the gamer community immediately and became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter for days after initially being unveiled.

Establishing the console within this community also meant using high-level gaming influencers associated with the product. Besides Julie Uhrman and Yves Behar, the group behind OUYA originally included Ed Fries, one of the founding fathers of the original Xbox, and Muffi Ghadiali, who is responsible for the Amazon Kindle. Combining the community minded social media marketing message with these gaming and technology influencers, OUYA raised a whopping 904 percent of their goal.

Key tips:

  • Craft your message to your audience and place them at the heart of your social media efforts (Gamers, in OUYA’s case)
  • Source community influencers to back your campaign and appeal to potential consumers

The Veronica Mars Movie Project

Raised: $5,702,153 (285 percent of goal)

Backers: 91,585

Funded: April 12, 2013

After cult TV series Veronica Mars ended in 2007, diehard fans were left wanting more. When it was announced that a movie reboot was in the works, they were eager to jump onboard. So, writer Rob Thomas and the show’s star Kristen Bell launched a Kickstarter with a goal of $200,000.

The campaign’s social media efforts were key in not only meeting, but substantially exceeding that goal. Although working with a very limited marketing budget, the Veronica Mars Movie became the fastest Kickstarter to raise $1,000,000 and $2,000,000, respectively. The latter goal of $2,000,000 was the highest goal ever set on Kickstarter and was surpassed in just one day, becoming a single day record for the site.

To make this happen, marketing company Big Fuel led social media efforts including:

  • A Twitter Q&A Party attended by writer Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell using the hashtag #VeronicaMarsMovie (which earned 2,400 mentions in just 20 minutes, and saw over 850 mentions per day for the remainder of the campaign)
  • A Facebook page created to accompany the Kickstarter campaign, which achieved 24,000 fans in one week
  • An Instagram account with over 11,000 followers in less than a month
  • No paid advertising or media

With this monumental success, the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter became one of the most discussed and publicized social media campaign in history.

While the celebrity factor was of course instrumental in this achievement, some reliable social media practices undoubtedly helped in making it so successful. Big Fuel aspired to tap into the fan base already in place, and ensured that Rob and Kristen’s social media accounts were personally responding to and thanking fans directly on a one-to-one basis. As they explain, “thanking them for their pledges drove extremely high sentiment and the organic growth that took the campaign viral.”

In the end, the Veronica Mars Movie raised $5,702,153 thanks to over 92,000 dedicated backers, and the film was released in March of 2014.

Key tips:

  • Nurture the already established fan base and community
  • Create a product or community hashtag to allow potential backers to easily find each other online

 

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