10 June 2014 | 19 Comments
Something happened at a wedding reception this past weekend that I haven’t stopped thinking about.
After the last of the “spotlight” dances (bride and groom, bride and father of the bride, groom and mother of the groom), the DJ announced a mandate to the room of 300 or so attendees.
“I need everyone in the room to get on the dance floor right now. Everyone is going to dance to this song, even if this is the only song you dance to tonight.”
The peer pressure was overwhelming, so nearly everyone–from those who really wanted to dance but didn’t want to be the first ones on the dance floor to those who really didn’t want to dance–shuffled to the front and danced for a few minutes to “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas.
When the song was over, a few people left the dance floor, but the vast majority stayed.
What does this have to do with Kickstarter? Whether you’re a DJ at a wedding full of strangers or a new Kickstarter creator, your biggest challenge is getting people to show up at the beginning. The DJ solved that problem using peer pressure, and then he made sure people had a good time afterwards. You can solve that problem by building a fanbase and creating relationships with the media well before your project launches–there are a dozen or so Kickstarter Lessons about that here, and John Coveyou talked about a unique method he used here.
But up until this point, I haven’t talked about the impact of momentum on a project–the why behind your motives for getting people to show up on launch day. Perhaps the anecdotal evidence from the wedding will suffice for some, but I love data, and I finally have some data to support this claim.
A recent study published by behavioral psychologist Dr. Arnout van de Rijt (shared with me by alert reader R.B.) showed that early support of a project translates into more funding from other sources than projects without early support. Here’s the basis for the study:
Dr van de Rijt picked 200 new and unfunded projects and gave half of them, chosen at random, either 1% or 10% of their stated target.
Only 39% of projects in the control group (ie, those that did not benefit from Dr van de Rijt’s largesse) got even a single donation from another source during the trial period of 24 days when the team was monitoring things. By contrast, 70% of those to which he had given seed money received at least one other donation.
That’s a significant difference. Basically, van de Rijt shows that people are more likely to join in if they’re not the first ones on the dance floor.
Interestingly, the study goes on to show this:
When he and his team then looked to see whether the effect was related to the size of the initial leg-up, they found it was not. It made no difference whether their Kickstarter donation was 1% or 10% of the target sum. Nor, as a subsequent experiment showed, did having four apparently separate donors each give 1%.
It’s not a matter of quantity–it’s the fact that your project has some level of support, period. That’s not really what I expected, at least not the last point. It seems like having more backers–even at the $1 level–would instill confidence in other potential backers (like seeing a long line at a restaurant–it must be good!) It does reinforce the evidence that having a $1 level is really important.
The nice thing about this is that your job just got a lot easier. All you have to do is get one backer, and your chances of getting subsequent backers jumps from 39% to 70%. I would extrapolate upon that and take a lesson from Funding the Dream’s Richard Bliss–every time you’re struggling to figure out what to do next on your campaign, just try to get one more backer. Just one. You can do that!
One related question posed to me recently by creator Yama Ploskonka is: Couldn’t creators game the system? Given the importance of momentum, couldn’t they appeal to a few friends to pledge $100 or so each and then later retract their pledges?
First, let’s address the obvious: Real pledges are always better than fake pledges. So sure, while a creator could possibly get some friends to sign up for big pledges on day one that they’ll cancel a few weeks later, it’s way better if you get that money instead from people who are actually excited about the project and aren’t going to cancel.
It’s for that reason that most people (to my knowledge) don’t do what you’re describing here. You’ve probably experienced this as a project creator–you’re putting something out there to the world that’s very important to you, and you want the world to accept it. You want the world to WANT it. Having backers sign up to support you–particularly complete strangers–feels really good. I think the vast majority of creators don’t want to game the system because they’re hoping people will love their project for what it is.
Second, could you game the system? Sure. And it might just work–the data I mentioned today shows that it would make a difference. But I predict that gaming the system would actually lead to something else, something I’ve seen quite often on projects that offer early-bird rewards: They fund rather quickly, and then…hardly anything happens for the next 30 days. Momentum helps, but if you don’t have a cool, compelling project with attractive, inclusive price points, early momentum isn’t going to translate to a consistent flow of backers to help you fund and overfund.
What do you think?