Connect With Fans

All posts tagged Connect With Fans

Originally Published on Techdirt.

Kickstarter has become a powerful tool for artists and creators to take their future in their own hands and succeed or fail by their own merits. While a Kickstarter based business is not a guaranteed success, it is one of the many powerful tools for that purpose we highlight here on Techdirt. Much like any other business model, running a successful Kickstarter campaign takes a lot of work and a lot of speculation about what your potential fans and backers expect. With all this in mind, it is great when people, who attempt a Kickstarter, share their experiences, whether good or bad.

Over at Gamasutra, one such creator, Ryan Payton, shares his experience running the recently successful Kickstarter campaign for Republique. As Ryan explains this Kickstarter was not an easy success.

I was driving across Seattle’s 520 bridge on a beautiful, sunny afternoon on the third day of our Kickstarter campaign, dazed and confused, and momentarily considered hitting the red “abort mission” button on our whole Kickstarter. Fifty-five hours into our campaign and we had only gathered 11 percent of our funding goal.

It was this moment that he realized that he needed to figure out why it was not going as smoothly as he expected. While he lists a number of reasons for why the campaign was struggling and what he did to turn it around and eventually succeed, it was his first discussion point that took me by surprise. One of the reasons he felt his campaign was not succeeding was that many people thought the campaign was “too polished.”

A week into our campaign, we were surprised to see dozens of comments online from people saying: “Look at that game, look at how expensive their video looks… They don’t need our money.” Meanwhile, our company bank account was getting dangerously low.

As I sought out reasons as to why our campaign wasn’t resonating, I realized that people were put off by how polished everything looked. This was disappointing because, yes, in fact, we worked extremely hard to make everything as professional as possible.

This has been one critique of Kickstarter we have seen come up from time to time. If potential backers feel that the person asking for money doesn’t really need it, they will complain and withhold their money. This is an unfortunate attitude for people to take because it really doesn’t matter who you are and if you “need the money.” What matters is that you are using the campaign to connect with fans and get the money needed to succeed where you need to.

Initially, I was frustrated at the “too polished” complaints, especially when I remembered the late nights and weekends Craig Cerhit put into our video content. I often thought about the rich guys on Kickstarter intentionally making rough-looking webcam videos to appeal to peoples’ charitable instincts and subsequently pull in six or seven figures in pledges.

Based on what I have read about running a successful campaign, having a quality campaign video is one of the primary ways to reach your goal. Even Kickstarter tells people that having a good video is helpfulin making a project successful. If your video is utter crap, people will lose interest. But is there really such a thing as having a too polished video turn off fans? Honestly, there is no reason why it should be an issue. Having a high quality video shows off the love you have for your project. That is the important thing to convey to the public and especially to build a report with them. Something that Ryan learned as the clock was running down on the campaign as his team prepared both a new video and a Livestream event on the last day.

Instead of focusing the team on Kickstarter success or failure, we decided to host a Livestream party for the final three hours of the campaign and just have fun regardless if we hit our funding goal. Too distracted to work on the game, the team started prepping food and activities for a big online thank you party for the community. At the time, over 7,000 people had pledged a total of $355,000 towards our game. We wanted to thank them, even if we failed and didn’t receive the money.

What transpired what something I was dreading the entire month: dozens of articles with headlines like “République May Miss Kickstarter Goal.” While I was anxious about that negative press, it was calling renewed attention to our campaign, which we smartly prepared for: we uploaded an entirely new debut pitch video that reviewed all of the news from the past 30 days (PC & Mac announce, David Hayter & Jennifer Hale), showed new gameplay footage, and addressed all the feedback we got from the community. We slapped a “New Video!” sticker on the top of our page, welcomed all the new and returning visitors, and crossed our fingers that this time they would pledge.

What happened in that last day was an amazing turn around for Ryan and his team. They managed to complete the goal of $500,000 and then some. An excellent ending for what looks to be a great game.

So what exactly turned this campaign around? Ryan and his team did a whole lot of prep work prior to launching but all that prep work did little toward the final goal. What Ryan learned and highlighted in his other points was the importance of engagement with the community in order to connect.

The final three-hour Livestream was the best idea we ever had. We don’t know if the 4,500 views sparked increased pledges, and we didn’t care — it was all about connecting and celebrating with the thousands of dedicated backers and enjoying the victory together. By the time the clock struck zero, we were at $555,512 and hugging each other.

I don’t really know how many different ways we can say it. “If people like you and your work, they’ll pay.” CwF+RtB. Being Open, Human and Awesome. And many more iterations on the same theme. The fact remains, this concept is integral to success.

Originally Published on Techdirt.

There is a lot that can be said about being open and honest with your fans. Sure those fans can be pushy and complain a lot, but amongst all that, there is a real opportunity to connect with your fans and help them build up greater love and respect for you and your brand. We have seen many cases in which doing so has helped build a stronger following and bring in a lot more revenue in the process.

Despite this strong evidence for the power of being open and honest, there are still some companies that feel the need to avoid talking to the public. Any time a fan asks a question about anything, most often the responses are either silence or some form of “No Comment.” When fans hit that kind of brick wall, they feel as if the company doesn’t care about them and are less likely to be engaged in the future. Such responses can also lead to further complaints from the community as well as lost sales.

When the complaints reach a certain threshold, then it reaches the ears of those who have a platform in which to speak and reach a large group of listeners. So when a site like Kotaku gets on its soap box to complain about game publishers who will not engage with the community, then you know a lot of people are listening. The whole article is worth the read but I want to highlight a couple of the suggestions that Kotaku gives at the end.

  • Answer questions. As many as you can. Questions are not your enemy. We’re all here because we all love video games.
  • Don’t be afraid to tease games that are coming in the far future. We love teases. And we won’t even mind if those games get cancelled, as long as you don’t lie or pretend they’re not.
  • Just talk to us. Explain the logic behind your decisions. Help us understand you. Help us relate. Help us empathize.

They have a couple others that are a bit more specific, but these three cut to the heart. Answer questions, don’t be afraid to tease, and just talk. All these things are important to fans and potential customers. These are all part of that process in getting people to not just like what you do produce, but like you as a person or a company. How can they like you if you don’t engage with them? It is this engagement that promotes the transparency needed to increase sales, too.

On the other hand, by ignoring your fans you lose the power to control the conversation as well. We highlighted a story last year in which Nintendo made a very weak gesture at engaging with fans. Unfortunately, there was no such engagement and the fans took control of the conversation. Since Nintendo failed to control the conversation by being engaged, the fans began to complain about policy decisions they felt were not ideal. By not engaging, Nintendo lost a lot of good will that day. Had Nintendo actually taken the time to answer and ask questions as Kotaku recommends, they would have had a far better promotion at the time.

As more and more companies learn how to be properly engaged with their respective communities, we should see a lot more successes like those we highlight on a regular basis, such as Louis CK, Amanda Palmer and Double Fine. These people have taken the time to really build a relationship with their fans. A relationship that leads to those fans parting with their money to see more art created. Isn’t that what is important?