This post is part of a series ‘7 Things Artists Could Learn From Board Game Kickstarters‘ where I highlight some of the lessons artists and arts organisations could learn from the world of crowd-funded boardgames…

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Use Kickstarter as a way to generate excitement about your practice

(…as well as a way to launch something new, give a worldwide exposure to your work and find new audiences for your work!)

Running a Kickstarter campaign as an integral part of your arts project has the potential to generate lots of excitement around your practice, vastly expand the number of people who know about your work and gives you a good excuse to get in touch with people (in general, and in particular those whose opinion you value or who might be useful to your career) to tell them about the exciting things you do.

One of the strongest lessons I have learned by working on boardgame projects is the importance of tapping into the geographically dispersed (but electronically highly connected) community of interest that surrounds what is often referred to as ‘the hobby’. Art and arts practice functions in many similar ways (although within the field of contemporary art this interest has been professionalised and would find the term ‘hobby’ dismissive), with hubs of activity where people meet to share their passions, lots of associated online chatter and discourse, and importantly a strong, highly connected community of interest who define (at least in part) their identity around their interest. These are people who like to recommend things to others, who get excited about new things / projects / ideas and who are excited by ambitious people doing ambitious things – essentially, they are the people you are going to help you get your project out there!!

Expand your social reach

Think about elements of your project that people are going to want to share and consider this when you prepare your project page, what you send out into the world via social media and when you prepare press releases about your project. If there is nothing that people are going to want to share, you need to seriously re-think attempting to fund your project.

In the run up to, and during, your campaign you are going to need to increase your activity on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. I would recommend focusing most attention at users who are engaged in your sphere of interest online, as they will be most comfortable with using Kickstarter as a mode of backing your project. Obviously, print materials can be useful for when you meet with people face-to-face but online activity will pay off to a greater extent.

  • Twitter is your friend – open social networks like Twitter are really useful ways to find people who you don’t necessarily know but share your interests. Use Twitter to have conversations with people around the world, extending the reach of your campaign.
  • Find opinion formers – use services like wefollow and Klout to find out who are opinion formers in your area of interest and in the field of interest of people who are likely to find your project attractive. Start to interact with content published by well-connected people, build online relationships and share information about your project.
  • Make use of the voice of your backers – getting your backers and/or existing supporters to shout loudly online about your work and project can be really beneficial to attracting attention to your campaign. Encourage supporters and backers to share comments and links to your project page to spread the word online.
  • Good excuse to get in touch – running a public campaign like this can be a good excuse to get in touch with people who you haven’t seen or connected with for a while, and/or people who might not be aware of your work. Spend some time getting in touch with people individually and giving them an update about what you are working on.

A different kind of press release

Focusing on online media (as opposed to traditional print media) is beneficial in three main ways:

  • Fast-moving and timely – because your campaign will be relatively short – 4 weeks ish – your turnaround on getting people to cover your project also needs to be fast.
  • Easier to convert coverage to backers – linking straight to your Kickstarter project page from articles, easy to share and re-share content
  • Not bound by geography – approaching online media sites from around the world opens your project up to a potentially worldwide audience

If you haven’t done a lot of work engaging with audiences online before, you’re going to need to get your head round writing a different type of ‘press release’ and taking a different approach to contacting bloggers, reviewers, online journalists, writers and other ‘connectors‘. Think about where can you find the people who will potentially buy-into your project via Kickstarter? Is there already an established group of people who will be interested? How do they find out about new things happening in their area of interest? Do lots of searching around for sources of information you don’t necessarily engage with yourself to try and widen your potential audience.

As part of ‘ blog post Hacking Kickstarter: How to Raise $100,000 in 10 Days, Ferriss suggests useful ways to make a current, targeted media list of sites or writers who will be interested in covering your project. While generating this list he advises using the following checklist:

Relevance – will their readers LOVE your project?

Readership – how much traffic does their site get? [TIM: For a quick idea, I use the SEO for Chrome extension]

Relationships – do you know at least one person who can make a strong introduction?

Reach – will the blog reach prospective backers by promoting your post via email newsletter, RSS feed, Facebook, Twitter, and other channels? [TIM: This is the most neglected checkbox. Blogs that expect you to drive all traffic to their posts are a waste of time. Remember: big site-wide traffic does not mean each post gets much (or any) traffic.]

(Tim Ferriss – Hacking Kickstarter)

He goes on to suggest really useful ways of finding relevant blogs (through image searching), researching site traffic (and potential reach), identifying mutual relationships, building professional friendships and how to make specific requests to get wide coverage for your project. I would highly recommend checking out the original article here!

Once you have shortlisted 10 main online contacts and started to build an initial relationship with each of the bloggers, writers or journalists in question, send individual emails, along these lines (Ferriss’s example):

Hi John

It’s great to meet you. I’m a huge fan of Gear Patrol and wanted to pass on something new that could be a nice fit for your kitchen section. I’ve attached an image of the Soma glass carafe and our revolutionary water filter. Our Kickstarter page has a video and bullet points on why Soma is unique.

We think Soma could be a great story for Gear Patrol for these reasons:

Innovative gear – Soma is the world’s first compostable water filter: made of Malaysian coconut shells, vegan silk, and food-based plastic.
Sleek design – The Soma carafe is made of decanter-quality glass, in a world of plastic pitchers. The hour-glass shape is unprecedented in the industry.
Made for busy guys – Soma delivers your water filters right to your door so you never forget when to change it.

If you’re interested, please let me know how I can make the writing process easy for your team. I’m happy to send more hi-res photos. We launch Tuesday at 8am PST.

Thanks for taking the time to check us out,
Mike

(Tim Ferriss – Hacking Kickstarter)

As Ferriss points out, your crowdfunding project page acts like a type of extended press release, so you can save yourself time by not having to prepare individual / targeted press releases.

The good thing about Kickstarter is that most of the information and assets bloggers need for a story can be found right on your Kickstarter page, including high resolution photos and the embed code for your video. We built a press page and wrote a press release. In retrospect, they may not have been worth it given the amount of time we spent on them. All you need is a DropBox folder with hi-res photos and 5-7 bullet points about your project that you can paste in an email. The key is to make sure you package everything in a way that’s convenient for bloggers. (Tim Ferriss – Hacking Kickstarter)

 

By engaging in social media activity and making targeted approaches to people in the online community you should be able to generate a greater interest and exposure for your arts practice in general, which will be beneficial to you not only for the duration of your Kickstarter campaign but long after it finishes. This should be a key reason to spend time and energy on promoting your campaign (which is strangely often easier than promoting your own work!) and provide some extra comfort when reading the last post in this series ‘Some people are never going to back things on Kickstarter’.

PART 7: Some people are never going to back things on Kickstarter >>

 


Are you an artist or arts organisation looking for some help in shaping a successful crowdfunding campaign? Get in touch to arrange an online Helpout! I also run workshops for students, arts practitioners and arts organisations in creative approaches to crowdfundingcontact me for more details.


Rachel Dobbs is one half of LOW PROFILE, an artist, educator, tinkerer & freelance boardgame art director with Grublin Games… currently based in Plymouth, UK.