Does Kickstarter Have a Place in Your PR Campaigns?
A few weeks ago, reading through Mashable’s list of 10 Websites to Watch in 2011, I couldn’t help but notice a few interesting choices. Although I had fully expected to see Foursquare and Quora on the list (both of which have enjoyed mainstream exposure throughout 2010), I was pleasantly surprised to see that Kickstarter, one of the newest “crowdfunding” platforms, had not only made the cut, but was listed as the #1 pick to watch.
This site’s only been around for a year and some change, but it seems to be taking the social fundraising scene by storm lately, and I’ve had positive experiences as well. I’m anxious to see what the future holds for this platform, especially in terms of usage for PR and fundraising campaigns. So today, I share with you the quick-and-dirty down-low on this new tool.
What is Kickstarter?
One of the newest “crowdfunding” platforms on the social media scene, founded in April 2009, Kickstarter has gained a ton of popularity very quickly. In just a short time span, this site has helped hundreds of diverse projects to raise millions of dollars through a rather unique approach to social fundraising.
The site allows users to create a profile for a project, filling in the details through a standard “About” section. Users can then leave comments on projects, share via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, email, or even embed project videos and widgets on outside websites. By allowing users to share links to projects freely, Kickstarter integrates social elements seamlessly. The site’s real strength is in allowing users to share real causes with the world, connecting their stories with audiences that care about them, and are willing to support the cause through donation.
Users take action to donate for a few main reasons. First, the social-proof nature of the Kickstarter’s site inspires a sort of “group-think” mentality, where people are willing to donate to causes that have a good amount of support, and the sense of urgency that Kickstarter’s unique “all-or-nothing” deadline attitude creates.
Kickstarter uses an approach that allows users to set a fundraising goal, but only receive the money if they are able to fully reach that goal in pledges by other users. (For example: if you were to set a goal of $100, and find enough donors to back your project that you raised $150, you would keep $150. If you were to set a goal of $100 but only managed to raise $70, however, you would receive nothing.) In other words, if the entirety of the cause’s fundraising goal is not met by the deadline date, the cause receives nothing.
Here’s how Kickstarter explains it (taken straight from its FAQs):
Every Kickstarter project must be fully funded before its time expires or no money changes hands. Why?
1. It’s less risk for everyone. If you need $5,000, it’s tough having $2,000 and a bunch of people expecting you to complete a $5,000 project.
2. It allows people to test concepts (or conditionally sell stuff) without risk. If you don’t receive the support you want, you’re not compelled to follow through. This is huge!
3. It motivates. If people want to see a project come to life, they’re going to spread the word
So far this approach seems to be working for Kickstarter.
It worked for my college a cappella group…
Last year, The UGA Accidentals, for example, used Kickstarter to help fund our trip to New York to compete in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. Though our group was cash-strapped at the time, we decided to crowd-source to raise the funds for the multi-day trip.
Hearing of the success of other Kickstarter projects, we filmed a video expressing our passion for singing and created our own campaign, which we then linked back to our website and promoted via Facebook and Twitter. What worked for us? …Setting up progressively cooler rewards for those who pledged more also helped. Within days, we’d raised the money.
The result: in 15 days, more than 50 backers, dedicated Accidentals fans, pledged to donate to our project. In all, we raised nearly $4,000 dollars for our trip to New York through fan donations, in just over two weeks.
Look no further than “Blue Like Jazz,” an indie film project by Steve Jazz, slated to release later this fall. Two devoted fans created a Kickstarter project called “Save Blue Like Jazz” after hearing that the movie might be canceled due to lack of funding. Within weeks, thousands of online supporters rallied to funnel nearly $350,000 dollars to the film’s budget, in effect saving the film from being canned. Not only did Kickstarter help raise thousands of dollars to produce the film, but served as a method of free online advertising, and a great PR story.
Here’s what the “Save Blue Like Jazz” Kickstarter page looked like:
What this means for you, PR people
The above are just a few quick examples that illustrate Kickstarter’s usefulness for crowd fundraising and PR efforts.
Kickstarter works, but why?
It seems that the site’s power, and future success, lies in its ability to allow groups with real causes to share their stories with stakeholders and help fund dreams. Most people love a good story, or doing their part to rally behind a compelling cause. I predict that a great number of campaigns will begin to integrate crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter in their public relations campaigns.
Mashable already says that this site is one to look out for in 2011, and I co-sign this sentiment.
So what more are you waiting for? If you’ve got a cause and could use some cash for it, use this platform to connect with your stakeholders and reach your goals. It seems like a no-brainer to me.
Don’t just watch out for this rising star; use it in your PR campaigns. Find a cause that people can rally behind.
And now it’s time to share your experiences…
Have you used Kickstarter in the past? How do you see crowdfunding platforms influencing the field of PR going forward? Share your thoughts below.
* Special thanks go out to my friend @Kiley0 for introducing me to Kickstarter way back when it first came out. He is always “on the ball,” so to speak, when it comes to knowing about the latest new media platforms.