Toxic backers: every project has them.
Toxic backers are those who fill the boards with negative comments. They’re not constructive–they’re mean. Elsewhere on the internet they would be known as “trolls,” but on Kickstarter, they only have the ability to comment if they’re a backer. So it puts them in the unique position of caring about your project and deriding it at the same time.
To me, Kickstarter is all about building a community and an ongoing conversation about the project. While I love my backers, toxic backers directly get in the way of that goal.
So I’ve developed a few ways to deal with toxic backers so that toxicity doesn’t spread. Here’s are those ideas:
- Report them to Kickstarter. If someone is truly trolling or spamming the comments, it’s completely fair game to report them to Kickstarter. Kickstarter makes it very easy to do this. However, I rarely recommend this as a solution, as I think there are better ways to convert a backer’s negative passion to positive passion.
- Let other backers deal with them. The crowd is a powerful entity. If 5 backers respond to 1 negative backer in defense of a project or project creator, the toxic backer will often change their tone or not speak up again.
- Respond non-defensively. Particularly when it comes to online interactions, we almost expect people to get defensive to pretty much anything. So when someone replies with grace and poise instead of a defensive stance, it’s so refreshing that it can often cause the instigator to change their tone. I try to use this approach as much as possible.
- Privatize them. Sometimes I encounter a toxic backer who I realize could be a true asset to the project. Typically these are highly intelligent people who maybe just don’t have the best social skills. So what I try to do with these people is privately message them to turn a toxic public conversation into a productive, insightful private one. I use this technique selectively, but it has a 100% success rate so far, and I’ve learned SO much from these people after we “go private.”
There is one other type of toxic backer I want to address here: The toxic non-backer.
You see, only backers can comment on your project, but anyone can message you on Kickstarter. So you’re going to hear from quite a few people who aren’t backers.
Usually those people aren’t toxic in terms of negativity–there will be a few, of course, but not too many. Rather, the non-backer toxicity is that sometimes people will take up a lot of your time even though they’re not backers. That’s toxic for you as the creator, because they’re taking you away from the project itself.
Now, part of your job as a creator is to engage more people and bring them into the fold. So replying to a message or two from any non-backer is really important. It’s when you notice that the person really has no intent to become a backer and they’re just talking to you about stuff that you need to draw the line. Your main focus should be on creating the best experience for your backers, not your non-backers.
Unfortunately, the most common occurrence of this for me during the Euphoria campaign was with other project creators. Now, I love interacting with other project creators, and I love helping people with Kickstarter (hence this blog). But I realized midway through the campaign that I was spending a LOT of time answering questions from other project creators that weren’t Euphoria backers–not even for $1! It continues to baffle me that those people thought that was okay. But part of it is on me too–it’s my responsibility as the project creator to draw a line with people so that I can give the majority of my attention to my backers.
Other than those four ideas I mentioned, how else would you recommend that project creators deal with toxic backers?