Kickstarter Lesson #141: The 5 Types of Spam That Creators Receive During Crowdfunding Campaigns…and What to Do About It

4 March 2015 | 23 Comments

When I launched Between Two Cities on Kickstarter last week, it had been about 8 months since my last crowdfunding project as a creator (the Treasure Chest). I had received spam during previous campaigns, but I was surprised by how much more I’ve received during this project.

Now, I like to keep these KS Lessons positive and constructive. I’m not here to judge promotional services (I’ve already done that). Rather, the reason I’m writing this is to help crowdfunders identify spam, as spammers have gotten really good at disguising their services.

Why is spam a bad thing? Well, let’s look at this blog. You’re choosing to read this entry. Maybe you subscribe to the RSS feed or to the e-mail subscription. Or maybe you saw it on Facebook or Twitter and clicked on the link. The point is, you made the choice to read this.

When someone spams your inbox, they’ve taken that choice away from you. They’ve shown up on your digital doorstep without your permission. That’s not cool.

So what type of spam can you expect to receive during a Kickstarter project? Here’s the list:

  1. Campaign Boosting Services: Typically you’ll get these messages through Kickstarter itself, but sometimes the service will track down your e-mail and send it to you there. I’ve gotten a few that said that claim to have carefully selected my project out of all the other projects–this is just a trick to make you feel special. Don’t fall for it. This is spam.
  2. Campaign Consultants: These message come under the guise of friendly advice. I’ve gotten the same e-mail from 3 or 4 people that says, “Hey, I thought you might like this article about crowdfunding!” The article itself is actually decent, but the core point of these messages is for you to go to the website and pay for the consulting service. This is spam.
  3. Social Media Boosters: This is a new one–I haven’t seen this on previous campaigns. I’ve gotten several messages that say, “Hey, we can help you use Facebook better to attract more people to your campaign.” I can’t speak to how well these services work, but they’re certainly not in line with a relationship-driven business like mine. This is spam.
  4. Cross Promotion from Strangers: If a stranger contacts you on Kickstarter and asks you to promote or cross-promote their campaign, this is spam. I’ve written more extensively about this here.
  5. Exclusive Clubs: I’m not going to name names because I don’t want to promote this website, but there is a new website where creators sign up to offer special deals to backers who have pledged to more than 50 Kickstarter projects. I don’t like to treat people differently just because they’re new to Kickstarter, so I’m not a fan of this concept. The generic invitations I’ve gotten to it on Kickstarter are all spam.

Like I said, I don’t mean for this to be a negative post. You might find value in these types of services–that’s totally up to you. But I want to help you separate the spam from the other messages you get about your campaign, because some of the messages are from people who genuinely want to help you (those aren’t spam).

What should you do when you receive spam on Kickstarter? Mark it as spam (there’s a button that lets you do this). That way Kickstarter can identify the spammers too and hopefully prevent them from spamming others.

23 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #141: The 5 Types of Spam That Creators Receive During Crowdfunding Campaigns…and What to Do About It

  1. Thanks for the good advice Jamie. We’ll be launching our first campaign in late April and be on the lookout for spam. Congrats on your early funding! Looks like a super fun game!

  2. In our chat at The GameCrafter, we were just talking about #5. It seems like an idea…but none of us were really sold on it being a good idea. At the very least, you’d want some kind of testimonials from people who’ve actually used the service to see if there is real impact.

    I’ll save my pennies for ads.

    1. Paul: Right, I agree. The concept doesn’t make a lot of sense to me–I can see the idea of rewarding loyal customers, but a loyal customer to Kickstarter isn’t connected to one specific creator or company. They just like backing things. Which is great, but it’s like if Target decided to reward people who have shopped at 50 different stores. There’s a huge disconnect there. Like you, I’ll save my pennies for ads (ads on places where people actually gain invaluable information from the ads, like BGG).

  3. I agree with everything here, except point #4. I don’t think offers of cross-promotions are necessarily spam, especially if they come from other game creators (or any domain that is similar to the domain of your project).

    I wrote more about it in a comment on your other post (https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-51-cross-promotion-between-kickstarter-projects/#comment-8750), but I think gentle and tactful cross-promotion can be a good thing, especially to new creators who don’t have a big social reach yet.

    That said, if someone you don’t know asks you to cross-promote their project, and their project looks terrible, or has absolutely nothing in common with your project, please, for the good of humanity, tell them “no”. :)

  4. Jamey,

    I’m actually writing to you having read both this post, especially #4, and the previous entry, as it jumped-out at me. I’m also echoing ingredientx comments, as I’ve done it in the past with other KS project creators, to positive effect. Have you had a bad experience?

    Cheers,
    Joe

  5. ingredientx and Joe: This entry is purely about spam, and receiving an unsolicited e-mail from a stranger who has sent the same message to a bunch of other people is spam. I’ll respond to the points about solicited cross-promotions over on the other entry in a minute.

    1. Funny, I haven’t gotten many of those. All my cross-promotional offers have been individual messages.

      In fact, I’ve gotten maybe 2-3 actual spam messages via Kickstarter. I think they’ve really cracked down.

      Now, the number of Kickstarter spam messages I’ve gotten on my blog… :)

      (BTW, I finally got around to updating my cheesy old Gravatar profile. I don’t need to be known as “ingredientx” anymore!)

      1. Jamey & Gil: Perhaps this is a function of campaign size?

        I can imagine spammers get the most bang for their buck by spamming campaigns in order of the size of their backer base, since an untargeted cross-promotion would benefit most from being seen by lots of people.

        Conversely someone who’s thinking about it and looking for campaigns that are likely to have backers with similar interests and creators that they like and would enjoy working with would be broadly unaffected by campaign size.

        Let’s also be a bit cynical and make the assumption that there are more spammers than thoughtful types. The emergent property would be that if you had loads of backers the majority of cross-promotion offers that you saw would be spammers, but if you had a smaller campaign you’d see more genuine offers. That’d explain why Jamey experiences cross promotion mostly as spam where other creators don’t (With 780 backers I don’t remember seeing any offers that I thought hadn’t been tailored to me as an individual – perhaps there were one or two and I deleted them out of hand without processing deeply enough to form a memory of it)

        1. Greg: I think that’s certainly part of it–I can see that spammers would target “bigger” campaigns. But I can also see those services trying to take advantage of campaigns that are struggling to fund, which is unfortunate.

          Specifically for the cross-promotion experience, I definitely think you’re right. The offers I’ve gotten have mostly been from complete strangers whose projects have nothing to do with mine and they haven’t even looked at what my campaign is about–they probably just looked at the funding total. It’s pure spam.

          I did receive a few cross-promotional offers from people I know through the industry, and while I appreciate those offers, it’s just not a good fit for me (regardless of the size of those campaigns–that’s not something I consider at all).

  6. Jamey,

    I just want to thank you for the wealth of knowledge you’ve given everyone. This advice has been so helpful and educational! Congrats on your newest project being funded! You deserve it!

  7. I didn’t know how badly creators are hurting and how touchy KS support has gotten on this subject until I tried to offer free advice and experience to just over half a dozen projects last week. They looked promising and likely to succeed a second time around (I wasn’t kidding when I stated that the first campaign was doomed to fail, halfway in with less than 2% raised). My intention is to learn more about kickstarter and the gaming industry by imparting my knowledge about project management and marketing. Maybe one of the first creators I contacted actually marked me as spam, I don’t know. What I do know is while I’ve since spoken to and helped several creators make improvements to their project and marketing, KS has shut down my ability to message anybody through the platform, stating that despite the fact that I had the best intentions and do not in fact charge for my advice (gainfully employed and not looking to freelance), what I was doing was spam in their opinion. People abusing campaigners (one frustrated creator told me he had hired 4 companies, with nothing to show for it) for their own gains are ruining my chances of offering pro bono advice. It’s a real shame, because I still feel that advice, not funding, was the thing these projects need most.

    1. Berthold: Can you copy and paste one of the messages you sent in the comments here? You can cross out the name of the project you refer to in the message. I think this might give us some insight into why your message was marked as spam.

      1. Bear in mind it was the first one I sent (and also that the second one was just a copy/pasta). I did not receive a reply to these:

        “Hi guys,

        I’m feeling my way around kickstarter, looking for projects that are not hitting their funding despite promising concepts. I’m looking to support a small number of these projects with my brand and product management expertise to help understand what isn’t working and how to fix it – free of charge.

        If you’re interested, hit me up on Skype under bertholdbarth.

        Cheers, Berthold”

        This is a later example that did get a reply. KS took action after I sent these (I have since dug a little deeper into stats, was pulling my info about funded rate from an article that wasn’t entirely clear on how the data came together):

        “Hey David.

        . As it stands currently though, your funding is probably not going to come through this time around. Which is nothing to be ashamed of, less than 10% of projects (including those with professional help and/or big celebrities attached) ever make it. Less even get completed after funding closes. You’re ahead by an impressive demo already.

        Why am I writing you all of this? I’m a veteran Brand and Product Manager looking to help promising projects such as yours succeed the second time around. I can help you analyse and streamline your project for better chances of success, support you in crafting a narrative about the undertaking that will grab people’s attention and assist you in delivering on your promises. And the best thing: I’m doing this in my spare time, with no charge to you.

        It’s important to start early to salvage the goodwill you have built up through this kickstarter, so the sooner you hit me up, the better.

        Cheers,
        Berthold”

        1. OK, it cut the text in brackets I used to describe that I had written my thoughts on the project and why I was of the opinion that it had a chance to do well. It just left the full stop, at the start of the second message.

        2. I think the main thing that identifies spam as spam is where you have a message that’s not personalised, perhaps the deleted first paragraph would have helped, there’s no way to tell without seeing it :P If you sent the message as written here I’d definitely take it as spam, you could send that exact same message to a hundred people.

          Two things about it that would put me on my guard:

          “Less than 10% of projects make it”, I’m fairly sure that this is untrue

          “looking to help promising projects such as yours” Why? If you’d talked about my campaign specifically and said something like “I saw the reviews and I really want to play your game, so I want to help it get made” or otherwise seemed excited about what I was doing I might be more convinced. Someone offering to help “projects such as mine” with no personal stake for no money – that sounds fishy.

          1. Berthold: I agree with Greg here. I can tell from your original comment that your intent was good–you were trying to help people. But your messages definitely look like general copy-and-paste spam. The line “the sooner you hit me up, the better” sounds exactly like something a marketer would say, not someone trying to help.

            Here’s how I think your method could have worked: Instead of creating a hook, you could have simply given a few pieces of specific feedback about each project in the message. That way it’s clear that your message isn’t copy-and-paste spam, you get to help the person right away (which seems to be your goal)–they don’t have to write back to gain value from you. I think it also makes a difference if you’re a backer of the projects, even just for a few dollars.

      2. Re: your comments on my messages (I need to start replying up here, it’s not going to nest any further.)

        @Greg: The stat is wrong, to be sure. I noted above that I (mis-)quoted an article (https://www.theverge.com/2013/8/7/4594824/less-than-10-percent-of-projects-on-indiegogo-get-fully-funded) and have since discovered the actual stats which aren’t as bad, but still low enough to tell people they’re not the only ones who didn’t make it the first time around.

        And yes, the first paragraph talks a bit about why I believe the particular project has a chance at success.

        @Jamey: I fretted about that line a lot myself. In any other scenario, I dislike creating undue pressure. But seeing as some of the projects had 100+ backers and hadn’t updated since the midpoint (e.g. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/410974861/zombie-mike-now-that-hes-dead-hes-really-living – I contacted Joe only 4 days before the campaign finished and I’m afraid that despite wanting to set up a call with me (gave me his #) he was too jaded to follow through), I really do believe that time was of the essence in coming clean with backers and keep them in the loop so that they might trust the creators a second time around.

        I also considered giving specific feedback, but decided against it for several reasons: I tend to overexplain and I’m afraid if you’re already frustrated with you kickstarter you don’t want someone starting a conversation berating you (while simultaneously, I can’t just offer to listen; these people are looking for answers). That goes double for anything they’ve learned themselves over the course of the campaign and would not care somebody else reiterate. I really want to listen first, advise later. Maybe what I can see from the outside isn’t representative of the inside (one creator told me had already made peace with his campaign, just neglected to let his 3 backers know). A tough nut to approach to be sure and maybe directly relates to…

        …becoming a backer: While I know I have nothing to lose on these campaigns, I also felt that it was kind of insincere and looked like I was chipping in just to grease the wheel (I could easily leave the largest pledge anybody had given to the project to get the creators attention). But maybe that’s just me being paranoid and I will definitely try doing that in the future.

        I have since been cleared by KS but am not allowed to contact creators in this manner – which I will now do through other channels although I fear I will still compete with dishonest scammers for their attention. To be fair though, I was doing the scattershot approach mainly because I thought most people would just ignore me – but near everybody replied. For now, I’m actively working with 2 out of the 6 projects (and chatting with the others) I was hoping to work with and don’t need to contact anybody else. That’s about the maximum I can do on the side anyway, so in the future I will have more time to craft my own message for interesting projects.

        Funny sidenote: While I was writing this comment I received an unsolicited offer regarding some sort of documentation solution for a conference I am hosting. The personal bit: “I have learned about your conference and it sounds really interesting.” So yeah…

        1. Berthold: Thanks for your responses. It’s interesting to hear your perspective. I’m replying to this both as someone who has researched thousands of projects, interacted with thousands of creators, backed hundreds of projects, and created 6 projects. So there’s a mix of all of those perspectives in my response.

          In short, I’ll stick with the advice I gave on my previous comment. That advice was geared towards converting your spammy message to non-spam. I hear your concerns, but I wouldn’t be concerned about any of them. The only think I might add to my previous comment is that you should start each message with a specific reason or two about why you like the person’s project. That–added to your financial support of the project–will show the creator that your heart is in a good place and that you’re there just for them instead of sending a generic message to a bunch of creators.

          Also, the “scattershot approach” is definitely spam. Find a project that you personally and passionately want to see achieve, and focus on that project.

          Good luck in your quest!

  8. I just got a weird new Kickstarter spam. That’s actually why I googled and eventually found your article. And thank you for the article! I have seen 4 out of 5 spam Kickstarter messages you mentioned and my project has only been active for a little over 24 hours. I now feel much better about having deleted the messages out of hand.

    Ok. Here’s what the message was. It was a guy offering to promote my Kickstarter on his blog Here is what he said.
    “Hi there, I’d love to tell my readers more about your Kickstarter campaign. In fact, I’d like to feature you in the crowdfunding portion of my blog this week! Send the campaign details to my editor by filling out our blog form here:”

    And he included a link to a google doc. No mention on his website anywhere. That one seemed much little less benign than the others, just because I feel like it was maybe a phish,

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