Your Thoughts: Following Creators on Kickstarter

13 October 2016 | 39 Comments

Have you ever backed a Kickstarter project because you saw a friend back it?

For a long time now, Kickstarter has let users “follow” each other (I think the requirement was if you were Facebook friends). It’s part of their discovery process: A friend backs a project, you get a notification, and maybe you back the same project. Until it gets annoying (at which point you can stop following that person), it’s a win-win for you, Kickstarter, and project creators.

Recently, Kickstarter expanded upon that premise by letting users follow creators, whether or not you’re Facebook friends with those creators. Here’s how they put it in their announcement last month:

“Starting today you can follow creators directly and be first to find out when their next projects launch. You’ll also be notified when they’ve backed a project that’s just getting off the ground.”

It’s an interesting development, because those two concepts are barely related. The first sentence is something I’ve been hoping Kickstarter would do for a long time: Make it easy for backers to know when a creator they like has launched a new project.

That makes sense–if you backed something from a creator once, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll want to know when they launch something new, and not every creator has an e-newsletter.

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The second sentence is a completely different concept, though, as it’s an extension of the original idea of “following” other users. Except it operates under the idea that you’re likely to be interested in the same things that random creators are interested in.

That’s a bit of a stretch, in my opinion. It’s not a problem, as it’s predicated on you following the creator. But just because you want to know when a creator makes something new doesn’t mean you’re interested in when a creator backs something.

The latter will likely lead to a lot more notifications filling up your inbox, meaning you might even turn off those notifications, thus resulting in you missing out when the creator launches a new project.

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Here’s my other concern: Will creators start using this system as a marketing tool in a way that is annoying to creators with lots of followers?

I ask that because, in truth, it is a powerful tool. If you can get an influential creator to back your project, within seconds thousands of people will know that your project exists. So what is to stop you from from messaging 5-10 influential creators and asking, begging, or paying them to back your project?

So far I’ve been pleased to see that very few creators have messaged me with such messages. I think that’s a good thing. Maybe people understand that just because I back something doesn’t mean I endorse it.

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If you’re interested in following some creators of projects you’ve backed, click here. Overall I think it’s a pretty cool concept, and perhaps over time they’ll let users delineate between getting notifications when creators launch new projects versus notifications when creators back other projects.

I’m curious to hear what creators and backers think about this new addition. For creators, has it made you more hesitant to back projects since your personal decisions might have an impact on hundreds or thousands of other people? For backers who follow some creators, have you been influenced to back something you wouldn’t otherwise have known about?

 

39 Comments on “Your Thoughts: Following Creators on Kickstarter

  1. I think the whole ability to follow friends and creators on Kickstarter is pretty cool. I have friends who back games that I do and vs versa. As a creator, I think this is absolutely wonderful. I think it helps spread the word about your project faster. I also agree that it could be misused and hopefully people won’t do that. So far, I am a big fan of this development from a backer and creator standpoint. Kickstarter still has no much they can innovate at this point but this is a good step!

  2. Maybe I’m totally missing it, but you can’t follow ANY creator only creators where you have backed a previous project of theirs. If I’m mistaken let me know, but I couldn’t figure it out.

      1. If you go to their project, click their name (to bring up the about the creator popup) then click their name again (this brings up their profile) and you can follow someone you have not backed.

          1. Also, I was considering backing the game Hope by Morning Players, and I admit that I looked at your profile, saw that you backed itl, and so I did too!

  3. I will generally look at projects that are backed by those that I follow out of curiosity. Also when looking through the projects on KS it is interesting to see who else is backing from those you follow. Lastly, patterns emerge and you see some names again and again leading to a subset of the community coming into play, namely those that have similar taste in projects. I will tend to read their comments more carefully and follow their choices with greater interest. When a creator falls into this catsgory their projects are followed with greater interest. This can also lead to you “switching off” if you see that tastes start to diverge.

  4. I like the idea of knowing when a creator launches a new campaign. Not all of them let you know ahead of time or even send a newsletter within the first week. It is especially helpful for those with early bird pledges or daily bonuses. But I was surprised when I received a notification that a creator backed a project, I guess I didn’t read the announcement well… It was John from Genius Games that backed a biology game. I jumped right in after him! I’m always looking for games like that since I studied biology in college, so I can’t wait for Cytosis! I would have never seen the project otherwise…

  5. I had never connected my Facebook profile to Kickstarter, so I was completely missing this aspect before. When this feature was added, I started following about half of the creators of projects I have backed. Being exposed to projects as they are then backed is really neat. It definitely helps to see projects that you might have otherwise missed. It is also interesting to see which projects are hot, when several people that you follow all back them. I have since gone in and connected my Facebook profile, but I don’t appear to have any Facebook friends that either back Kickstarter much, or just haven’t connected Facebook to Kickstarter.

    If I was getting an email for each notification, that would probably get really old really quickly. I have a phone setup to receive notifications instead, and that isn’t too much noise for me.

    I really like it overall!

  6. I have personally followed every single creator I have backed. (Over 50) and have not at all been overloaded with notifications. I have, however, seen multiple projects that I otherwise would not have seen.
    Here is what I like about the “following” feature:
    – Inside scoop: Many, but of course not all, Kickstarter creators are very involved in kickstarter and are always looking at, learning from, and backing other projects. Following creators allows me to see what’s hot and interesting.
    – Social aspect: I have long been an advocate for Kickstarter embracing the social networking side of crowdfunding. Mostly I’ve been looking for a better way to connect with people on kickstarter. I was hoping they would allow an east “reply” function for commenting on project pages so that you can get a notification when someone or the creator replies to your comment. But, this is a good first step.

    That’s the gist of it. Crowd funding is making it easier to see just whose in your crowd and to connect with them. I am personally confused by Kickstarters hesitation, maybe they don’t want to be a social networking fad, maybe they are afraid of people bringing personal beliefs to the business table. Maybe they don’t want to make things harder on the creators by adding a complex social aspect…..OK so I guess I do understand their hesitation. I just want to be notified when a creator answers my question in the comments, ok.

    1. Thanks Zack! I really like your suggestion that Kickstarter make it easy to quick-reply to someone when they respond to a comment you posted (and get notification of it). A better commenting system is at the top of my list for Kickstarter improvements.

  7. It’s a gift, and a curse.

    Why?

    Knowing first hand who backed what:
    1. changes the hype of campaigns (the Kicktraq chart)
    2. modifies the “projects we love” banner
    3. allows visibility via KS network
    4. as mentioned, “big names” ‘s influence is easier given, if not asked politely/begged

    That’s the good thing I see. Now for the bad things:

    1. for $1, you get more people influenced in a specific target group (arbitrarily taken, Board games field) than a $1 ad on FB, or a several hundred $ on other sites.
    2. Creators could get annoyed from the messaging Jamey mentioned, and get it influence their creativity, or even delete KS account.
    3. Backers may not want ALL the projects a creator backed sent, imagine following one that already has 700+ projects backed and another 700 coming this year. HE may have the $ to support, I don’t .
    4. It changes Kickstarter from a platform that is used to offer opportunities, to a platform used to “purchase” opportunities.

    I can go on, but they all are my points of view.
    Have a nice day, and back carefully :)

  8. Your points are well taken, Jamey. When I followed a few creators (yourself included) I didn’t even realize that I would get notifications about what they back; I really thought I would get notifications only about new projects. This is because on occasion I have actually missed out on a project by a creator who I have backed before.

    One downside to this I see for creators is that they lose control over the release of information regarding what projects they have backed. Anyone who backs a project on KS can choose to share that event with others, or more importantly, not to share that information. Creators now seem to have no choice in the matter. I’m not sure that’s fair to creators.

    Having said all this, I’m actually happy that I received notification about a project backed by a creator who I have packed before. If I hadn’t received the notification about Illimat having been back by one of my favorite creators, I would never have known about the game, and I did choose to back it. There are so many projects out there that it’s very difficult to get a handle on everything you might be interested in.

    However, I can see a negative impact on creators, in that fewer people will choose to follow them because they don’t want the notifications about everything that creator backs. Which means, as you suggested, some people may miss out on a new project launched by a creator merely because of the desire to avoid the ongoing nuisance of email notifications.

    The best solution is to allow followers to choose what information they want, new projects, back to projects, or both.

    1. Scot: This is a great point about privacy: “Anyone who backs a project on KS can choose to share that event with others, or more importantly, not to share that information. Creators now seem to have no choice in the matter.” While I’m generally fine with sharing that information (personally), it has made me more aware of the impact of when I back a project, as it’s no longer just a personal choice–it’s a choice that 1620 people are going to know about within a few minutes.

  9. I’m surprised more creators aren’t talking about this feature and I was hoping you would give us your thoughts on it, Jamey. :) As a backer, it has definitely caused me to back projects I otherwise may have missed, which is helpful to me. Thanks Kickstarter!

    As a creator, it has actually caused me to NOT back some projects I otherwise would have. In the past, I might back something just to follow along and learn more about a game or a project when I know almost nothing about it. Now it feels more like an endorsement since I know everyone following our account, people who I care about and respect, will get an email when I back it. I feel like I need to do my research and put more thought into the ones I want to back now — it’s that loss of control over the release of information Scot describes. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but it has caused me to change how I use Kickstarter.

    1. Wow Brian, that is a very different take and an important one I think. It is easy to read into this blog and think of things from a backers perspective- but i definitely see your point for the creator’s perspective that loss of privacy can become a strong inhibiting factor in certain situations. Now does it apply every time no, but yeh I can see it cause certain projects to not get every pledge they would otherwise.The rub being how do you balance that out with the increased exposure a project gets because other creators backed it. Perhaps creators should have a privacy option to allow them to control what a follower sees. That seems like the fix

  10. Fascinating. This could lead to a very interesting discussion around demographics and path dependency.

    For me personally, the most significant reason to follow a creator is to gather data around the topics in which they are influential. For example, I would be very interested in certain types of projects by Seth Godin, the author and speaker, based on my knowledge of the things that make his brand uniquely valuable. In some ways it is an endorsement, as Brian mentioned above, but on a case-by-case basis, following certain creators allows me to inform other (non-project-based) decisions by this project information. I hope that makes sense.

    As with many social circles, this allows KS users to add depth to their information base and make better decisions overall, which is empowering.

  11. Jamey,

    I just wanted to say thank you for all that you do for our community. I really enjoy your Stonemaier blog, and your lessons have a value beyond what I can describe.

    Not too much else to say.

    I do have a blog that I’ve started myself. I don’t want to seem self-serving and plug it here, but if you would like a link to it, let me know and I’ll direct message you the information.

    Thank you again for all the work you do, and the wisdom you share with the community.

    Jim

  12. So far I am just in favour of this new feature, if it had been spamming my Inbox I would have removed all follow requests so somehow there must be a way to not receive an email everytime a creator backs something – probably to do with the fact I only get project update emails???
    What does annoy me about it is that when I log in to kickstarter and see a small green disc on the side of the globe I get breifly interested/excited to see who has sent an update out only to find it is telling me about a creator backing a project I have no interest in and disappointment sets in. If I was bothered about what a creator was backing I could click on their profile like any other backer and see the projects they backed.
    I can see creators making a second account to back projects with so people could not track them.

    1. Paul: Yeah, I’m concerned about that too. I think it would be best if Kickstarter let you choose to follow a creator to get notification of their new launches and/or to get notification of their backed projects (instead of only “and”). Maybe they could add a different icon in your KS feed so you can quickly distinguish the various types of updates.

  13. I follow the new projects pretty closely anyway so when I see that a creator has backed something it doesn’t usually influence me. I do find it interesting to see what they are interested in though,

  14. It may seem a convoluted solution, but I’m wondering whether a creator might create a separate “personal” KS account — an account that never “creates” a project — for purposes of the tracking and following that Jamey mentions. That way, creators have a means to keep their “backing” private. If they decide to go “public” with it, and set off the e-mail chain, they can pledge $1 with their “creator” account whenever they choose during the campaign. It would seem to operate more as an endorsement that way, but if a creator genuinely thinks well of a project, they may be doing a service to their fellow creators and followers to do so.

    Again, I realize this is not optimal, and that it would be better for Kickstarter to just give people more choices. Just an idea.

  15. Wow, I hadn’t seen Paul’s comment above. Glad to see someone else thought about dual accounts as well. (I do the same for Twitter to separate my work-related account from my personal one).

  16. Interesting topic Jamey! So I can weigh in with personal experience on this. As someone who wants to help the community (and a board game addict anyway lol) I immediately followed all creators I backed when this feature became active. I was hoping for those important notices when new projects were released or gems they find by other creators become uncovered.

    When at any time there are 450+ live games sorted with such wonderful and accurate filters such as “by magic” and one of the poorest scrolling interfaces on the web It is not practical to see every kickstarter happening- let alone find the good ones.

    So in addition to wanting to know when certain creators release a new game; The idea that knowing when people whom have already proven to make great games back something there is a good chance they backed a great game- as a result I have found a few projects I didn’t see that were terrific and I was happy to back like Lazer Ryders for instance. But I have seen the negative side as well. One of the creators I backed apparently had a pen-chance for backing EVERYTHING from games, to comics, to even a risque’ NY photo shoot coffee table book; They literally backed 15 projects in one day- my inbox was immediately flooded with content that I had no interest in and had to un-follow the creator. I have had to d the same to a small amount of other creators. Now I have to remember to check periodical if they release something new which I may or may not see.

    It seems to me this tool is powerful and very useful…. but lacking. It needs to allow followers to select if they want notifications on new projects, creator backed projects, or both. Equally after seeing @brianhenk ‘s post creators should be allowed to decide if they transmit both backed projects as well as their own released projects

    1. Thanks Bill! I totally agree with this: “It needs to allow followers to select if they want notifications on new projects, creator backed projects, or both.”

      I also like the core idea you pointed out, that by following people who discover different things than you (but have similar interests/tastes), it makes discovery on Kickstarter much easier.

  17. So far it hasn’t really impacted me at all, but I’m sure I am microscopic in terms of the number of people who have begun following me. I did notice one “chain-effect” just the other day. I backed a project, and within hours I saw that a friend/follower of mine had then backed the same project. I’m pretty sure his discovery was because of his “following” me.

    Personally, I don’t follow anyone on KS. I sort of already have a “system” by which I discover new projects, and I don’t really need to be exposed to any more than that. I’d say I’m fairly well-versed on what’s out there, and I really don’t have any more space in my mind or my e-mail box for new discoveries. Plus, I already have a long backlog of titles I want to spend money on but can’t reasonably do so. As for those creators I’ve backed before, for most of them, I already have a connection or relationship with them on other media like Twitter, FB, etc., thanks to the great job they did on their previous campaign. So I will already know when they come out with something new without needing to follow them specifically on KS.

    My hope is that any creator who values and respects his followers won’t allow himself to become a “middle man” in a spam campaign or to be “bought” in this dishonest sort of way. Flip-side, anyone who earns a reputation for such behavior, as with a number of other uncool acts, will quickly find their support base collapsing. :)

  18. Agreed. I’m actually in a position where I now I wont’ back some projects I normally would because I don’t want people taking the notification as a suggestion to back it. Normally I’ll back a handful of broken projects to jump on and see if there’s a way I can help them, but I don’t want backers that trust my opinions to get all those notifcations about poor projects and wonder what’s going on and un-follow.

  19. Personally I think the notification of the next project is a cool feature. For many backers, KS may be the only platform they connect to the creators, so it is good for these backers to get the notification directly from KS, a win-win for both backers and creators.

    On the other hand, instead of updating backers what projects the creators back, KS should have something like testimonials, endorsement so that backers will receive the notifications only when creators endorse and not back. KS can put this type of notifications an optional setting so that backers can turn it off if they find it annoying.

    Overall I think the intention of this new feature is good, just that KS need to find a way to implement it and not to upset the users

  20. Though not yet a KS creator I already get messaged frequently asking for me to promote (not back) KS projects that my followers might be interested in. Conversely it allows popular creators like yourself to promote KS projects you like (those you have backed) without the extra work of Twitter, FB posts etc. And since KS relies on spreading the word, that is hopefully a positive.

    I’ve started following a few creators now as it is broadening my view of KS beyond people I would get the usual recs from.

    For instance, I have just backed the Game Tek book because I saw that you had backed it – I don’t think anywhere else in my social media would I have seen this project.

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