4 September 2013
You may have noticed that the full list of Kickstarter Lessons is chronological. It’s a step-by-step guide of how to create your Kickstarter project, starting several months before your launch date.
Today’s entry is now first on that list, even before Kickstarter Lesson #1. Today’s lesson is all about building readership and content months–if not years–before you launch your Kickstarter project.
Why You Should Start a Blog Today
I started writing a daily blog over 6 years ago. That was before Kickstarter existed. At the time, I just wanted to give myself a little kick in the butt to write every day. I didn’t have many readers back then–just a handful of friends–but knowing that people were reading what I wrote was a great motivator for me to keep writing. Flash-forward to today, when, thanks to a strict regimen of 5 new blog entries every week over the last 6 years, I now have the #1 blog about myself on the entire internet. True fact.
Here are a few key reasons why you should start a blog, especially if you want to launch a Kickstarter project someday:
- It will teach you how to connect with people online. There are things you won’t truly understand about connecting with an online audience until you do it in blog form. Kickstarter project pages and updates are very similar to blogs in terms of long-form content, so now is your time to hone those skills. For example, by writing a blog (and reading lots of blogs), you will learn that people find it much easier to read content when you use lots of list an keep your paragraphs as short as possible. You will also learn how to respond to comments that are less than favorable.
- It will help you develop a readership and maybe even a fanbase. It’s a bit of a stretch to think that you will be able to convert your readership to Kickstarter backers. Some will support you, but probably only about 5% of your regular readers. But that doesn’t mean that a readership isn’t important. They may not buy your product, but they may share it or even just offer words of encouragement and feedback. If you’re crowdfunding a product, you need to start building that crowd well in advance of the project launch.
- It will give you a wealth of content to share. Content is good. Content establishes an online presence, a symbol of commitment, a legitimacy. It shows transparency and wisdom, or perhaps humor and a human touch. Content gives you something to share with people and something to keep them in the loop. If you don’t give strangers a reason to stay in the loop now, how are you going to get in touch with them when you have a project to share?
Why You Haven’t Already Started a Blog
If you haven’t started a blog, you’ve probably convinced yourself that one or all of the following are true:
- “There are so many blogs out there already–what can I possibly add that’s new?”
- “I don’t have time to write a blog.”
- “I have nothing interesting to say.”
- “I’m not a good writer.”
- “Blogs are outdated–I’m already on Twitter and Facebook.”
- “I don’t have anything to promote yet.”
These are all excuses. Find your angle, your voice, your unique perspective. Make time, even if it’s just 30 minutes once a week. Even if you’re not a good writer, not writing isn’t going to improve your skills. And sure, you might already have a social media presences, but a blog is a completely different format. It’s more permanent. It gives people a resource to access for years to come, not just the next 5 minutes.
It’s Not About Promotion
That last point–that you don’t have anything to promote–is the wrong philosophy. Get it out of your head right now that you’re here to promote something. If you’re reading this only because you want to figure out how to sell your thing to more people and make more money, these Kickstarter Lessons aren’t for you.
However, if you’re here because you want to find a way to connect with people and add value to their lives, you’re at the right place. Important things like funding and backers will come to those who focus outwards, not inwards. And that’s the exact philosophy you should take when you start a blog.
One of the best examples of this that I can think of is Happy Mitten Games. They’re still looking for their first game to publish, and yet they’ve been creating amazing content in the form of blogs and podcasts since early May. Other great examples are Today in Board Games and Cardboard Edison. (There are many, many other great blogs out there, but here I’m thinking of blogs that will someday have something to promote or share–or recently had something like that–but they’re spending many months simply building up invaluable content.)
But It Is About You
There are millions of blogs out there with no more than a few entries. The most common thing I see is that someone gets an idea for a very specific type of blog, they write two entries, and then it fizzles out.
The way to prevent this from happening is to simply write what you’re excited about. It could literally be anything. Keep your audience in mind, of course–write about the topic in an accessible, conversational way–but give yourself the freedom to write about what you want to write about. That’s the only way to sustain the blog. Don’t pigeonhole yourself before you write the first entry.
That said, if you plan on launching a Kickstarter project, a starting point for the blog would be to write about your product development. If you do this, you have to be particularly careful to write about your product in a way that adds value to other people. I see way too many blogs out there that read like daily diaries about a game. It’s not interesting to read about someone else’s game development unless you make it interesting. Give me something to take away from it. The two best examples I can think of are Ruby Cow Games and Hyperbole Games. Both Michael and Grant share their games in a way that adds value to other game designers.
Also, make yourself a part of the blog. It shouldn’t be an online diary, but make it personal. People much prefer to read things that give them a feeling of connection to someone else than something distant and impersonal. Write it in your own voice–it shouldn’t read like technical writing. Be human, real, vulnerable, and relatable.
How to Start a Blog
It’s not hard. In fact, it’s so easy that you figure you’ll just do it later. You’ll do it after you have 10 entries perfectly planned and written, and then you’ll launch and have a million readers and Buzzfeed will feature you.
Nope. If you take that approach, you’re never going to start the blog. Don’t put the blog on a pedestal. Just do it. Start it right now. In fact, if you start it right now (or if you already have a blog that follows the philosophies I’ve outlined above), I give you full permission to include a link to your blog in the comments below. Here’s how you do it:
- Go to WordPress.com and start a blog. It’ll take 15 seconds (maybe a little longer if you can’t find the name you want. You can always change that later).
- Write the first entry. Write about something that excites you right now, today. Something that made you think or laugh or smile. Something you think is worth sharing. Don’t write some epic entry. Just write a few paragraphs and click “publish.” The great thing about a blog is that you can always go back and change the content later.
That’s it. You can spend time picking the theme and the settings later. For now
Don’t Forget to Encourage Conversation
A major part of a blog is the comments section. This is where you’ll connect with people. Don’t turn the comments off. Don’t set your discussion settings so you have to approve each comment (if you have annoying commenters who are ruining the conversation, you can always block their IP addresses later).
Also–this is the biggest mistake I see today, even with blogs I love–let people subscribe to comments. If you don’t enable that function, someone might comment on your blog, but they have to keep checking back to see if anyone replied. They’ll forget to do so pretty quickly, and then the conversation dies. In WordPress, go to Settings/Discussion and scroll down until you see “Show a ‘follow comments’ option in the comment form.” Select that box. I’m pretty sure that Blogger has something similar.
How to Learn More
A few years ago I actually wrote a short ebook on the subject of writing and sustaining a blog. It’s a free PDF download, and it’ll take about 5 minutes to read. If you’d like a more in-depth look into the world of blogging, I’d highly recommend you read this.
There’s also an article/interview about starting a YouTube channel and a great article by Todd Sattersten about building a platform.