A professional and personal life experience, that’s how I would sum up my first successful crowdfunding campaign. A few elements of context :
- Our objective was to fund a new media/community-based coverage of SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, looking specifically how this Texan city created and sustained its successful ecosystem.
- We needed the money no later than March 4th, and started the campaign not event a month before, due to, well, you know, usual business of life :). So 18 full days of crowdfunding.
- We needed 3 500â‚¬, got 4 350â‚¬ (or 125%!) and ended up spending 4401â‚¬ overall during the campaign, so we have a slightly negative balance from a financial point of view
- We were supported by 59 backers, 10 of which were institutional (startups, media, gov agencies)
I use to say I have a rather fixed mindset, meaning I don’t change my way of thinking/acting, love it or not, I’m the stubborn type and it doesn’t prevent me from going forward in my life. But I must confess I tried to execute what I would call a perfect social media strategy (from the point of view of the consultant), and ended doing exactly the contrary to get people fund my project.
What didn’t worked at all
- Identifiying and contacting (newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, mailâ€¦) “like-minded” institutions, startups, and anyone related to my issue. I spent 1 full day getting names, mail, sometimes phone numbers, to little avail. I had in the end 1500 qualified e-mails. I should sell them by the thousands now 🙂
- Creating segments of my supposed audience to adjust my message (great content for media, great contacts for startups, great visibility for partnersâ€¦). I spent 3 full-days designing, testing, writing, rewriting, analyzing, resending newsletters. Worse than nothing as I even got scolded a few times.
- Expecting an answer from French people. Sorry to “spit in the soup” as French say, but it’s astonishing to face again the level of indifference of French people being contacted for a new project. No no, no yes, nothing. Send an e-mail to any American or Singaporean and you *will* get an answer, whatever it is.
What worked somehow
- Begging to death the friends who didn’t support the campaign in the first place. That’s a matter of self-esteem vs. getting funded. I would say that anyone not answering after two messages should be left in peace. I thought I would use crowdfunding as a way to filter my true friends. Bad idea, as you never know (or know wrongly) why your friends did not answer.
- Use your personal social media to promote your campaign. Bring a few people on the crowd funding site, but in the end, you really spoil your “personal” space with “pro” content, on Twitter, it’s ok, on Facebook, a bit less.
What worked well
- Producing a ton of great content on your campaign. I can say we produced the best content before SXSW in French, and possibly during the festival. One month before, you had all the startups in finals presented and commented, all the speakers explained and compared, all the big issues put in context (why space exploration was obvious this year, etc). It really helped gaining legitimacy and have our first supporters engage their own audiences with this content.
- Try a bit of everything. We’ve been producing videos, slideshows, pictures, big texts, data, to assess what worked best as a content. We’ve been posting on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, e-mail, chat, Skype, in signature of our e-mailsâ€¦ Trying all the possible formats, shapes, places, will get you to know better media you don’t use a lot, and discover niches.
What really worked
- Your own local known network of friends and peers. Forget targeting people thinking like you. It’s only about people you know WELL. A good criteria would be to have his/her phone number, as it’s more personal than e-mail or Twitter handle that can be guessed most of the time.
- Your friends’ friends. Give your friends the ways to spread the word about your campaign. Design short messages, ready-to-publish tweets, e-mail signatures, banners or widgets for their blogs, badges for their Facebook profile. They want to support, but won’t create content or stuff.
- Having a partner for the campaign. We wanted to do a new journalism experience, which meant from day 1 we knew we needed tools, community and other input to go to SXSW. I teamed with a French social media agency working with people from innovation and science backgrounds, Umaps, and its community-based R&D social media, Knowtex. If I were to count every support we had, I think we would be near 50-50, as both of us were able to brought 5 big players and about 20-ish friends with smaller amounts.
- Branding the campaign. Luckily, the Knowtex team had a web designer on board, so we were able to craft a campaign message (Rock my SXSW), to produce banners and logo, to update a fake widget to show the progression of the campaign every other day, to polish and give ideas about the campaign vid, etc.
You can take a look at our crowdfunding campaign page (in French) and take a look at the News tab where we updated a content a day at some point.
You can also check our archives of Rock my SXSW as shown here, there’s DIY interviews, keynote wrap-ups, nice picture of Austin and its different venues.
More to come for SXSW 2014 !
4 thoughts on “Crowdfunding and social media: you’re probably doing it wrong!”
Excellent article and advice for people thinking of crowdfudning! If I may I will be refer to this in an article on tips from crowdfunders and will tweet and post to our Facebook Page.
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