9 March 2017
Up until recently, I didn’t believe in magic bullets and shortcuts for Kickstarter success. The vast majority of successful projects are successful because the creator put in a lot of hard work and made a lot of smart decisions.
But a few weeks ago, I read a comment on a Facebook group about Kickstarter that I had to take seriously. Here’s a snippet, and when you see the full comment later in this article, you’ll know why it’s such a big deal:
A tastemaker is a person, organization, or platform that reaches and influences millions of people, usually on a daily basis. These are the Pewdiepies, the Patrick Rothfusses, the Lady Ga Gas of the world. A single mention of your project by a tastemaker can have a huge impact on its success.
I went back and looked at the stats from my Kickstarter campaigns to jog my memory, and it appears that Stonemaier has never had a tastemaker impact one of our projects in a significant way. The closest examples were Shut Up & Sit Down ($12,013 in pledges) and Kotaku ($6,623) for the Scythe campaign.
I mention that because identifying and leveraging a tastemaker (or just getting lucky) isn’t necessarily a magic bullet, nor does your campaign need one to be successful. But it doesn’t hurt to spend a small percentage of your time nurturing relationships with a few tastemakers. Worst-case scenario, you get to interact with some interesting people.
But don’t take it from me. Take it from the CEO of one of the most successful Kickstarter-driven companies ever, Chern Ann Ng of CMON:
Chern Ann shares a lot of great points in this post, but let’s start with the big one:
“You only need this to happen once. Ever. In the entire history of your company.”
I think this is 100% correct. If just once a true tastemaker mentions your project, whether it’s before, during, or even after your campaign (if you’re still accepting pre-orders), the backers it provides for you can become a strong foundation of a permanent fanbase. You might have gotten there eventually anyway, but a tastemaker can significantly accelerate the process.
Catching the eye of a tastemaker doesn’t need to be a passive process–you don’t have to sit back and hope you get lucky. But it also shouldn’t be a pushy, self-promotional process. Chern Ann offers a happy medium:
“Your job is to identify who these people are, what they want to see and what they want in return (if anything), or figure out who knows someone, who knows someone, etc.”
In other words, months before you launch your project, target a few tastemakers who you admire/follow or who are a good fit for your project. Learn about what they like and dislike. Interact with them in public (and, when appropriate, in private, but keep in mind that tastemakers get a lot of messages). Then, at the right moment, mention your project in a clear but non-aggressive way to see if there’s a way they might be compelled to talk about it on their platform.
But there’s a catch, particularly before and after the Kickstarter campaign: If you have no way of capturing all of those referrals to sustain communication with them, you might end up being a one-hit wonder:
“Make sure you have somewhere to send interested people to–both an email signup and a Facebook page that you actively update.”
Again, finding a tastemaker is far from the only path to Kickstarter success. There are many more reliable ways to build a crowd and attract interest in your project. But there’s no doubt in my mind that a tastemaker can have a significant impact on your project and your company.
Have you ever been influenced by a tastemaker? Or maybe you’ve seen a crowdfunding project’s funding goal skyrocket after a tastemaker mentioned it on their platform? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.