The old philosophical thought of “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” could very well have been written about crowd funding. You could have the best project, a wonderful outline, killer rewards and captivating media, but if no one gets to hear about it, does it really make a sound? In effect, it is the engagement with the crowd that is the most crucial component of crowd funding, so the first step in any campaign must be the have a crowd to whom you speak.
So how do you build the crowd?
The advent of crowd funding is perfectly timed. With the existence of the internet and social media, the crowd exists just a few mouse clicks away, and anyone can build a crowd if they use the right tools applied in the correct manner. Facebook is the greatest supplier of traffic to crowd funding campaigns, so how do we create a following there? Start with the people you know – family, friends, neighbours, workmates, and anyone who you meet face to face. Then use the Find Friends button to suggest even more people you can approach, and your numbers will start to grow. Make sure you put a link to your facebook page in the signature line of your emails, and watch people start to follow you as you routinely goabout sending emails (and while you’re sending emails, do an email blast to let people know you’re after Facebook followers). Use every opportunity to refer people to your Facebook page, like on your business cards or by putting a Facebook “LIKE box” on any blogs you might write.
Twitter also represents a great, simple, and fast was to reach and build a crowd. Start to search out and follow people who share similar interests to you and what your campaign is about. Check out their followers and follow them as well. There are various websites and tools that can help you find people to follow and to make the whole process of connecting that much easier. A simple Google or You Tube search will help you find these, and then it’s a matter of using these tohelp you increase your reach. A word of advice – make yourself aware of the rules of Twitter, as to how many people you can follow, etc so you don’t go upsetting people or putting your page at risk of being barred or banned.
Building a crowd on a number of social media platforms will expose you to different groups and allow you to speak to a number of different audiences. Google Plus is fresh and growing exponentially so is a good one to get on to. You Tube is technically not a social media platform, but is the second most used search engine on the ‘net, so it’s well worth starting to be part of it with a simple video. Linkedin can be especially useful for commercial projects as it tends to have a greater following amongst businesspeople and professionals.
The key to building and retaining a following is to engage and not just communicate. Don’t just stand on your soapbox and address the crowd. Step down, walk amongst the crowd, and start a dialogue. Asking questions and posting pictures are powerful tools for building crowd engagement. And be sure not to just ask for cash – your social media activity should not always be about the money. The central theme of your social media program should be your campaign, and what your project will deliver. Remember, this is the crowd that will not only fund your campaign, but who will spread the word, and be loyal fans for the life of your project and well beyond.
The importance of building a crowd before you start your campaign cannot be understated. As a general rule, 10% of your total crowd (that is 10% of the total of all your followers on all forms of social media, less any double-up) will pledge an average of $50.If the total of all your social media followers is 1,000 and 10% of these (100 people) each give $50, you are well placed to raise $5,000. You could easily raise more if the word goes viral or if you get support from traditional forms of media, but it is the size and calibre of your initial crowd that will largely govern the basis for your success.
Your crowd funding campaign does not start on the day your project goes live on the site or even when you submit it to the platform for their consideration. Your campaign must start days, weeks, or even months beforehand as you build the crowd and get their engagement primed well before you expose your campaign to the world. Get this right, and you have laid the foundations on which to build a solid crowdfunding campaign.