Kickstarter Lesson #248: Break the Internet to Make a Community

16 April 2018 | 16 Comments

Have you ever read a Buzzfeed list or filled out one of their quizzes?

If you’re like me, you have. But if you’re like me, you may not have realized the overarching philosophy Buzzfeed uses to encourage people to share and interact with their content. That will change if you watch this TED Talk:

The question Buzzfeed asks really surprised me, as it’s related to a few things I’ve advocated to content creators for a long time now: “How is [our content] helping our users do a real job in their lives?”

Sound familiar? It’s the same concept I discuss in “Write a Blog”: Create content that adds value to other people. It’s about thinking about the user instead of yourself in a way that Buzzfeed calls “cultural cartography.”

Dao Nguyen explains the concept in a brilliant way that expands the reach of what “adding value” means. Buzzfeed aims to create content that fits at least several of the following categories, each of them trying to help their users in some way:

Think about the last piece of content you shared with someone or even just engaged with yourself. Did it fit into some of these categories? For me I think it was a Seth Meyers story about his wife giving birth in an unconventional location. It made me laugh, but it also made me want to connect with my family over it, so I shared it with my parents, sister (who is currently pregnant), and brother (who recently had a baby).

I love thinking about content in this way. There are lots of blog topics on my list that I want to write about. But some of them sit on the list for a long time or even get removed because I can’t think of how they might add value to you. It’s more than just the topic itself–it’s how I present it.

When I was running Kickstarter campaigns, I tried to think about project updates the same way. For every section in my project updates, I tried to keep it focused on adding value to the backer. Looking at the chart above, I can see how the content in those updates fits into these categories.

Buzzfeed is obviously an outlier in terms of the number of users. But I think their method is universally effective at organically encouraging people to engage with (and potentially share) content. When you have people engaging with your content, you have a community.

Do you think about the content you create in this way? Have you seen positive results?

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16 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #248: Break the Internet to Make a Community

  1. I suppose that the question flipped is also important to examine – why are YOU doing this?

    Sometimes, we do want to connect and practise good writing/design. Maybe for someone else, it may be a personal challenge, seen as practise, or even a form of examining one’s own thoughts.

    If that’s what you really want, then maybe it’s good to be honest with oneself, try to not worry too much about the reception to those things, and then start a 2nd blog, site, or series of games for the purpose of bringing value to others.

    I mean, whilst you’re practising your art and ‘just’ trying to improve yourself, continuing to do it and upload it is OK.

    I guess it’s just important to segregate those things from the things that you are doing primarily to share.

    And when you do, I love the notion of ‘cultural cartography’.

    It also reminds me of not only your principles but also Gil Hova’s ‘experience first’ approach to design.

  2. Thank you, thank, thank you. I am humbled by this lesson in so many ways. You’re right. Any content that you are sharing with a wider audience (Internet or otherwise) is meant to contribute in some way or another to a greater good but, more importantly perhaps, to something personal within the individuals you are seeking to connect with. I am embarrassed to say I that I lost sight of that with my own initiative to help create better communities through stories, games and infographics which is a special type of irony in itself.
    You see, in late 2017 I felt the strong urge to extend my focus from making simple Print-and-Play games in training manuals for the Red Cross to setting up my one-person operation of designing games (among comics and infographics) to help people improve physically, mentally and socially in relationship to their environment. Because of the current social conditions in Europe and the U.S. regarding the rise of populism and aversion towards others who don’t share the same culture/religion/race/gender, I decided to focus on prejudice awareness and reduction in 2018. I set up a Patreon page, Facebook Page and other soc. media outlets and started designing.
    Only somewhere along the line (and we’re not even that far yet!) it became more about the process of designing and sharing that with others became an afterthought (like ‘Oh, I have to not forget to keep my patrons updated’) I became enamored with Kickstarter and the fellow game designers I admire. I even contacted a few to see if they were willing to team up. I had a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-migrant’s-journey idea and an exploration-co-op-patient-with-amnesia game. It is hard work doing everything alone, but what is harder is building an online community that will be there to back and support your initiative, no matter how noble your intentions may be.
    You’re right. If you don’t connect with them in a meaningful way and give them what they need to allow that connection to flow organically, you’re adrift on your own private ocean. It may look pretty, but you’re all alone. The last bit of irony in this story is that I am a UX designer by profession – I really should know better ^_^

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Marcel! I think it’s great that you know the “why” behind your actions–that’s a compelling thing for people who learn about and participate in.

  3. This is so fascinating. I have been sharing the video for the past 24 hours. I don’t think it has successfully been received in such a way that it is accomplishing the need to connect, but I am still finding value in how can help me do something. This is probably a good time to reassess my game’s marketing strategies.

  4. Great article Jamey. I have just started a blog myself on BGG where I wanted to plot my experiences of making a game. Sometimes I am torn between if it is only myself that might find it interesting, but another part of myself thinks the process itself is genuinely interesting. I am just an everyday person who has wanted to make a game for a while and decided to have a crack now that gatekeepers are no longer a thing (and sort of kicking myself for not getting onto it sooner). I am not 100% sure if board gamers are remotely going to be interested in the experiences of an everyday guy.

    I will try to be even more mindful of the reader in the future and what you have written here, but I am a little unsure what more I could offer the reader outside of an inside glimpse of the process as there are tonnes of blogs that are far more informative and have real value (like yours for instance). I am a little unsure what else I can bring to the table so to speak.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

    1. Thanks Chris! Could you link to your blog? I’d like to check it out (I don’t think I’ve seen it).

      I think the chart in this article shows that there are lots of ways to add value to people. It can be as simple as sharing your journey in an open way–in fact, it’s an asset that you see yourself as an everyday guy. That’s refreshing.

      1. Absolutely

        I know you are very busy and if you don’t get around to looking at it that’s completely understandable, but if you had any feedback in the ways of a thumbs up or down if I am going in the right direction (as in its interesting to the reader or just interesting to me) it would be appreciated.

        And yes I will be thinking on that chart next time I blog.

  5. I think about my content that way to some degree. When I write, I think about who I am trying to reach with that post, and what reaction I am trying to evoke from them. I currently have 2 blogs: one for BGG and one for my game, Book of Villainy. The BGG blog is more of a personal blog, but when I post I try to capture the perspective of a casual gamer’s journey into the new wide world of tabletop games.

    That in itself isn’t necessarily interesting, but perhaps the insights I learn about human interaction and the takeaways I get from games that i didn’t expect- I think those are more valuable to people reading. So maybe a person doesn’t care about the new game I just played, but perhaps they’ll find their perspective widened when I talk about how that game made me connect to a personal struggle and look at it in a new light?

    For my game blog, I assume people will go there to get updates on my game, or perhaps if I manage to grow a strong enough community, it will be a diary that aspiring designers might look back on to see the full journey of making a game? So I use it as a digital sketchbook to give insight to my thought process and the steps I make in game design. Even though it’s specifically for my game, I try to make sure there is take away for people who maybe aren’t interested in my game, and rather, they’re just designers browsing for insight.

    I think perspective is valuable, hard to come by, and even harder to transform into words that evoke the same power as the moment they are trying to convey. I try my best at telling a story and recreating that moment in hopes that it might just be the small nudge someone needed.

    1. I like how you put this. I think that’s one of the powerful things about sharing something personal (and sometimes vulnerable)–your openness can open up the opportunity for a stranger to feel like they’re not alone.

      Feel free to share a link to your BGG blog if you’d like!

          1. Thank you Dorothy. It has certainly changed how I interact with those around me. I am constantly learning so much about the world around me through games, when I had been blind to it before. It’s mind-boggling haha.

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