ONE OF THE most common questions I get asked at my crowdfunding workshops is “can I do a crowdfunding campaign if I’m not famous and/or already have a huge audience?”
The short answer: yes. The longer answer: everything tends to be easier when you already have an audience of people interested in what you’re doing. That doesn’t mean a crowdfunding campaign is easy, but it certainly helps you out of the gate.
“[Crowdfunding] is not good for building a tribe. It’s good for leveraging a tribe.” – Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception
The best way to prepare for your own campaign is to start building a tribe NOW. The further away you are from launching your campaign, the better.
While some of these points may seem painfully obvious, you’d be surprised how many don’t do them. Here’s some guidance to get your started:
1. Join Facebook
If you’re one of the six people who still isn’t on Facebook, I highly recommend you join immediately. Privacy concerns aside, Facebook is by far the most effective tool I’ve ever seen to build and audience and rally them to an event/cause or creative endeavour. Where I’m torn is whether to use a personal page or a Fan page.
A few months ago, I would have said Fan page, but Facebook’s recent changes to their algorithm for displaying posts means that a lot fewer fans will see you updates. (Instead, they’re asking users to pay for exposure, though the costs can be prohibitive if you’re not a large business or corporation).
Here’s what I recommend now: if you are comfortable using your personal page for “work,” especially if you already have a number of friends, then I suggest continuing to use your personal page. If privacy is a concern, or if your project is large and specific enough for its own Fan page, then go with that.
2. Start Tweeting
If you’ve never used Twitter, but you already have an opinion, forget everything you think you know. As Jonathan Harris, founder of the storytelling site Cowbird says,”Twitter is an incredible tool for directing human attention.” What’s more, Twitter is another very powerful tool for connecting with followers and spreading the word about your crowdfunding campaign. Here’s a quick guide to learn the basics.
3. Create a newsletter
In the age of Facebook and Twitter, you may believe having an old-school newsletter is outdated. Yet statistics show that newsletters are still the #1 most effective way of getting fans to respond to your calls-to-action. There are a variety of options out there, but I recommend two: Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Both offer vary robust platforms and reasonable fees for creating a newsletter and collecting signups. It’s as simple as cutting and pasting a piece of code on your website.
Speaking of which: how about signing up for my newsletter?
4. Give something away
“[Crowdfunding] as a phenomenon is made much more comprehensible once you realize that it’s not following the logic of the free market; it’s following the logic of the gift.” – Rob Trump, New York Times
You may not realize it, but there is a big difference between “free” and a “gift.” Free means ‘no value.’ A ‘gift’ on the other hand, means value-less. There is no price that can be paid for a gift. The only response is gratitude and a desire to reciprocate. To help build your audience before your campaign, consider what you can give away to the masses. If you’re a musician, you can give away a song. A writer can give away a few free chapters. A filmmaker can give away a short film, or perhaps even better, tips on the craft of filmmaking. Those that accept your gift will undoubtedly feel grateful, and when the time comes to launch your crowdfunding campaign, they will be more likely to contribute, and/or spread the word.
5. Reach out to existing networks
Why build your own audience from scratch when you can tap into an existing one instead? No matter your project, you are likely to find a variety of groups/sub-cultures that would be interested in your project. For example: if you’re making a social justice film about Tibet, there are hundreds of Tibetan activist groups and publications that would be happy to spread the word, as it helps their own cause. If you’re an entrepreneur creating a pair of emotive animal ears, there are legions of sub-cultures that would love to have them, from young ravers to veteran Burning Man participants (also known as Burners).
Keep in mind: it’s best to reach out to these groups long before your upcoming campaign. That way, when you ask them to pull the trigger and share with their audience, you maximize interest and potential to capture contributions and you’ve already tweaked your campaign hopefully with feedback from these groups.
What other ways have you found to build an audience before you launch? Share in the comments below!