25 May 2017
Has a Kickstarter backer ever threatened you?
I’ve seen this quite a few times, both on and off of Kickstarter. In fact, just a few weeks ago a creator wrote to me to say that a few backers were threatening to cancel their pledges if he didn’t improve his stretch goals.
Now, let’s be clear about something: Backers have the right to challenge creators in healthy ways. That’s how projects and products improve. Backers also have the power to vet project creators who are trying to scam people.
But there’s a big difference between a backer saying, “I’m interested in some bigger stretch goals” versus “The stretch goals are terrible. I’m canceling my pledge if you don’t improve them today.”
That’s a threat. We simply don’t talk to people like that. These are live Kickstarter projects–the creator doesn’t owe you anything until the project ends, and you’re free to leave at any time. You don’t have to bring your pitchfork and torch to the comments.
So what should a creator do when someone threatens them? Here’s my take:
Please don’t spend your time or energy on people who threaten you in any way. Those are the 1% of backers that will make your life miserable for the next year. Let them leave.
The key to remember is that way more than 1% of your backers are going to disagree with you at some point in the process. That’s fine and normal. Most of them will express their disagreements in constructive ways. It’s not fine or normal for a backer to threaten you during a live Kickstarter campaign.
How should you respond in the moment? My approach is typically to ignore threatening comments unless they’ve asked you a direct question. It’s like trying to have a civil conversation with someone after they break down your front door. The backer had the opportunity to make a civil comment (or just cancel), and they chose to take an aggressive approach. It’s okay for you to not dignify them with a response.
I’ve also tried acknowledging the constructive portion of the threat in an attempt to reframe the discussion. In the example above, I might respond, “These are the stretch goals we’ve carefully planned and budgeted for, but the great thing about Kickstarter is that backers can express their ideas and inspirations. Is there a specific stretch you would like to see?”
To the 99% of backers who find civil ways to share constructive feedback, thank you. You’re awesome.
If you’re a creator who has experienced this type of threatening behavior, I’m sorry. Let me know in the comments how you dealt with it.