How Bringing “Sourcing” Back to the “Crowd” Can Translate into “Funding”

Crowdsourcing existed way before Jeff Howe famously neologized it. (How’s that for a fancy word for giving a name to something that didn’t exist before?) Now crowdsourcing has a permanent place in our popular lexicon—and that’s got to tickle Jeff Howe to no end! Wouldn’t you like to say you invented a word? Does it up his pay grade? Does he get invited to do Ted Talks? These and other questions take up too much of my time…..

As a little primer, let’s remind ourselves about how crowdsourcing works. Example: Just this morning I emailed a bunch of friends requesting names of acupuncturists they could recommend. They’re (hopefully) going to use their experience and contacts to help me find my dream acupuncturist at the perfect rate, location, bedside manner, etc. So now all I have to do is sit back and wait for the recommendations to come dribbling in.

The genius of using the Internet, or course, is that while my email went out to a few select friends true crowdsourcing uses the power of the Internet to disseminate requests and to deliver back a slew of germane leads.

Sites like eLance and oDesk and Mechanical Turk crowdsource workplace freelancers—also known as virtual assistants, since they could be located in the other hemisphere, which means not only will you never meet him or her (let alone be sure of their true gender) but you’ll probably not ever speak in real time.

Sittercity crowdsources child and pet sitters. I have used them to great success, finding a terrific, caring person to hang out with our dogs when we need to go out of town (thanks, Ingrid!) and so have my in-laws for their little Westie.

The design industry was an early adopter to crowdsourcing. Sites like Crowdspring and 99Designs have been matching clients with experienced web, logo, and graphic designers to varying success. I say “varying” because  most require that professionals work “on spec” and that can be a sticking point. But as a former writer who pitched editors regularly—and by “pitch” I mean I had to have a fully fleshed out story including sources before I got the thumbs up or down—I’m used to this. (I didn’t say I liked it.)

But the point is this is not new. Here, however, are some new industries enter the playing field and, flawed or not, I think it’s about time.

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Crowdsourcing Medical Diagnoses

Crowdmed.com is a long time coming. It’s a site that allows people with medical conditions that have perplexed the medical establishment to present their symptoms to the crowd for solving.

Crowdmed was started by Jared Heyman. His sister Carly had a condition that went undiagnosed for too long, much to the family’s frustration. As a means to help her—and also test out his medical crowdsourcing theory—he posted her symptoms on his site and….guess what? She got a diagnosis! You can read the story here.

There are two ways to participate. You can either submit a case, or you can suggest diagnoses—no medical degree required. To me, that’s not crazy; that’s simply utilizing the power of the crowd. (And the New York Times has had a successful column called Diagnosis that does exactly the same thing to great success.) Though crowdmed is very new, there are already many case studies you can read about.

Here’s where the “funding” part comes in. According to their site:

 Once you’ve proven your capabilities in making smart suggestions and point assignments, and have received good peer and patient ratings, you can fully participate in all cases on the site and earn even more rewards. . . Medical Detectives who contributed to these suggestions are awarded points, status, and even cash compensation from those patients offering it. But the greatest reward for most of our Medical Detectives is knowing they’ve helped people get their lives back.

Crowdsourcing Fashion and more

Crowdsourcing fashion ideas seems like a natural. I wrote a piece about Betabrand a while back. You can read it here. While their business model always included getting the thumbs up from the crowd before turning a mockup into a finished product, they recently added a crowdfunding component: submit your creations and if they are successfully funded you can earn up to 10% of the profit.

Reddit, the iconoclastic, glorified message board, recently launched redditmade which they say:

Allows users to create almost anything you want on, whether it’s a hat, sticker, glass, or something super specially customized and unique. We’ll help you make it happen! Want to make a T-shirt? You can create your design and make your campaign go live in just a few minutes. Creators get to decide how many they want to sell and for what price. They then have 30 days to reach their goal. If enough people pledge to buy production begins. Creators can receive all the profits, or they can donate them to any other person or cause you want.

According to its site, “Reddit is differentiating its service from existing ones by privacy features – managing all payment processing, item production, and shipping itself, user information never needs to be handed over to the project creator.”

That’s just for starters. Here’s an Entrepreneur article that delves into crowdfunding fashion further. Or just google “crowdfunding” and “fashion” and see what goodies come up.

Crowdsourcing Video Expertise

I talk to clients all the time who are perplexed about whom to hire to help them create a pitch video. Just a couple of days ago it was reported that two companies—one US-based, the other European—got smart and combined their expertise to “offer platforms that enable videos to be created for brands by a combined community of more than 120,000 film makers, writers, editors, and small production companies.”

The merger, called Vizy, asks individuals, brands or agencies to submit a proposal of needs. Participants must then present a creative summary or storyboard ideas for review. Vizy chooses the filmmakers to create completed videos and offers performance testing of submissions. Clients only pay for the videos they end up using.

No question, crowd dynamics is here to stay. So is this a good move for crowdsourcing in general and the crowdfunding industry specificually? I’d love to hear your comments.

Another question to readersQ5l0Jp

As a purveyor of information about crowdfunding, how am I doing? Am I delivering information that you care about? Are there gaping holes that you have been holding out hopes I’ll get around to filling? I don’t get a lot of “unsubscribes” but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I personally continue to accept blogs and newsletters in my in-box that I immediately send to the trash, just because I don’t want to offend by unsubscribing. I hope that’s not the case…but I’m here for you, so tell me what you need and I will try my best to accommodate you.

Case Studies? You are aware of my column on Crowdsourcing.org, right? It’s called Rose Recommends and each week I cover a single campaign created a brave soul who is willing to be critiqued in the hopes of getting it right—and helping others.

More Q & As? I really do try to interview people who’ve been wildly successful at crowdfunding. But timing is everything and they often so busy fulfilling their campaign promises a sit-down is hard to come by. But I keep trying.

Platform profiles? I hope this isn’t want you want, because there are so many other sources for these type of reviews and I try to keep my content to the kind of information that doesn’t look like it just came off wholesale rack, if you get my drift. I want to provide specialty-grade material. Think Stella McCartney vs. Target. 😉

Who’s Got the Crowd Investor-Consumer’s Back?

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The first post of the New Year should mark time in a special way. That’s why I’m excited that I get to write about Dara Albright’s inaugural column on Crowdfundinsider called Crowd-Investors Corner.

What’s unique about Dara’s tips column is that she is filling a vacuum in the crowdfunding and crowdfinance ecosystem that’s way overdue. While there is no shortage of information that is designed to help the entrepreneur get a leg up on how to navigate the industry and ensure the best chance of success, barely a pixel is given to assisting the investor/consumers—end users, all of us—on how to spend our money wisely.

But the news gets better. images

Because while there are plenty of articles out there generating industry information, Dara is in a bit of a class of her own. She’s a Wall Street insider when it comes to know-how but an outsider when it comes to financial innovation. Pretty much every Big Thing that’s gone down in the industry, she’s had a hand in: from producing events to driving the political discourse of the JOBS Act.

But broad knowledge aside, to me what makes her work memorable is that she’s a bridge builder who’s not afraid to be provocative. In other words, she’s interesting, and in a sea of vanilla information sometimes you get desperate to find a real voice. I know I do!

Of course the win-win here is going to be that through Dara’s column, entrepreneurs and innovators will have yet another opportunity learn, to get inside the heads of the investors and consumers, which will drive them to higher standards.

So bookmark the page! I look forward to installments that I’m sure will be as eclectic as they are edifying.

Happy learning. Happy New Year.

Adventures in Risk and Failure

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Let’s face it, everywhere you turn you’re bombarded with news about the latest startup that’s changing the world and making the founder a bazillionaire. Alongside those stories are the ones about how unhappy you are with your soulless job.

Most of you have an invention, a book, an adventure, a nonprofit, that you’ve been woolgathering for years; and it seems that the time is ripe—and the technology in place—for taking the leap.

But you worry because it’s scary! TreeFace

 

 

 

 

The flip side of success, after all, is failure. And as long as we’re facing facts, these stories are everywhere, too. So much so that the New York Times Magazine last week devoted its entire content to it called The Innovation Issue.

If you’re contemplating your life and whether you’ve got what it takes to take the Big Risk, you should really peruse it. Not only does it have great sidebar stories about some pitiable inventions of yore. But the main narrative, called In Praise of Failure, is terrific historical romp through the brambles of how and why we as a people and country have come to be more risk-taking today than we were in the past.

(Fun fact: did you know that peruse actually means “to read carefully” and not to glance at?)

Back to failure and success.

Tyler Tervooren is a guy who writes about these issues through far-ranging topics that are always entertaining and insightful, and always manage to circle back to the idea of risk-as-adventure, on his website called Riskology.co.

Check out his Tedx Talk.

Tervooren defines a Riskologist as “A practitioner of smart risks who thrives in an uncertain world.”

Are you a Riskologist? Here’s his Smart Riskologist Test you can take to find out.

Full disclosure: in order to be considered a true Riskologist, the site tells you, your score must be a 70 or higher. My score came in at 67. So I’m a work in progress.

 

 

 

Deposit a Gift, a Veteran Crowdfunding Platform You Should Know

The crowdfunding space is saturated with platforms that come in all shapes and sizes. This makes the tough game of crowdfunding even tougher: how is the new crowdfunder to choose the best site for their needs? When we can, The Crowdfundamentals likes to highlight some stand-out sites. We recently spoke with Dana Ostomel, the founder of Deposit a Gift so she could help readers get to know her platform next time they find themselves in need of cash. DAG2

Take Hurricane Sandy, for example. When it landed on Manhattan, The New York Foundling’s mother/child center was hit hard. Their team was scattered across the Tri-State area and no one could access the office because they were below 14th Street. That’s when the team of New York-based crowdunding veterans  at Deposit a Gift (DAG) came to its aid. They had them up and running with a customized site in 24 hours, helping them raise much-needed cash in a few weeks.

When did Deposit a Gift launch?

We launched at the end of 2009. We actually existed before most anyone knew about crowdfunding. It was certainly not the mainstream vehicle for raising money that it is today. At the time of our launch, people were merely looking for a polite way to ask for cash gifts, and all that existed were bridal registries. We wanted to fill that void. So when we started, we were like a mash-up of a department store registry and a wedding website.

What kind of trajectory has your business model seen?

What became apparent after a year of being in business was that what we had really built was a super-flexible platform to ask for money for anything, which is what crowdfunding is about: telling a story to show what you need money for and how you will use it, to entice people to give.

Can you talk a little more about DAG’s evolution?

Actually, it was our users who made the mental leap for us that if you could register for your honeymoon, why couldn’t you “register” for what your school needs, to help a nonprofit, or to support a friend with cancer or funeral expenses? So that’s how we began to essentially disrupt the existing space. We became a cash gift registry service you could use to ask for money for anything.

This is a classic example of what is meant by “power of the crowd.”

It’s true. One innovator was Papa Roux restaurant in Indiana that used DAG to raise money for a restaurant expansion. They felt awkward taking straight cash from their loyal customers, so the site was a way for them to make a donation registry for the materials they needed so that people could contribute to earmark specific needs.

In 2014 how does DAG distinguish itself from all the other crowdfunding platforms?

I’d say it would have to be that we offer a micro-site versus a donation page, and every aspect of it is customizable, from the navigation items that are actual clickable URLs and not just tabs on a page, to having over 200 backgrounds to choose from. So you can really craft your site to match any mood, brand or situation.

As we evolved from the early days, we held onto what we knew people really loved about DAG and added all of the elements that are essential for online social fundraising. What that means is that we have a different look and feel from other crowdfunding sites. We aren’t a knock-off of Kickstarter.DAG1

Remember, our first customers were busy brides in the throes of planning a big event. So it’s meant to be very user friendly. As we innovated to serve under-resourced nonprofits and schools, with them in mind we’ve created a toolset that is meant to make their life easier and allow them to do more with less.

What about your ticket sales feature?

That evolution in DAG’s growth is an interesting story fueled by another early DAG user. A friend of a man with testicular cancer created a site to rally people to his friend’s aid. They used Deposit a Gift to raise money online for medical expenses. But they also used our site to sell tickets for a bar fundraising event and to take payment for the auction items. We thought this was a great idea! So we created an official ticket sales feature to fill the need our users told us they had. And the cool thing is that the ticket sales actually feed the thermometer, too.

No other crowdfunding site has this. The functionality allows you to integrate with traditional fundraising events by selling tickets on the crowdfunding site to do what we call “opening up the virtual doors on the event.” You drive everyone to your crowdfunding site for everything, and use the ticket sales as a means to ask for incremental donations. We also have a receipt-customization tool to save you time and money on separate followups.

How hands on are you?

We’ll get as hands-on as you let us. We’re invested in your success and recognize that one of the biggest disconnects with crowdfunding is the public’s understanding of what it takes to set up and market a campaign. These things don’t run themselves.

So individualized customer service has been part of our ethos from the beginning. We always ask people why they choose us, and often they tell us “I liked the way your site looked. It was warm, friendly and seemed easy to use.” And then once inside the system, they are happy to affirm that it is as easy as it looked.

One of the special qualities about Deposit a Gift is that we really participate in all of life’s biggest moments, and we don’t take that lightly. Whether it’s a death in the family or the launch of your entrepreneurial dream, we want you to feel really taken care of. You can even speak with us on the phone.

Today there is a niche platform for everything? Why wouldn’t someone choose that route instead?

The Deposit a Gift platform is more flexible and customizable. By definition a niche platform is limiting. We don’t believe that is necessary. What you want to be looking for is a tool that allows you to set up your campaign in the exact way that you want to, because the reality is that crowdfunding is really a tool for you to “work your network.” You’ve got to make the compelling case for why people should give and share.

Do you think in this way the average crowdfunder is savvier today?

It’s still a very new concept for many. But more and more people are realizing it’s not about the website that you use. So it makes sense to go with the site that is going to give you the tools and support that you need—and choosing a “brand name” site isn’t necessarily best. There are a lot of disgruntled people that learned the hard way those sites leave you to fend for yourself. We will never do that.

Can you describe the difference between DAG and a white label service?

A white label service basically refers to companies that offer the software technology to create your own crowdfunding platform. We are customizable in the sense that we provide a banner area that allows you to brand your campaign.

By the way, white label services are not as complication-free as you think; and frankly, it isn’t as important to keep people on your website for the transaction as some might tell you. That is kind of old thinking. People are used to clicking over to another site to give; it’s not necessary to use complicated software to keep them on your domain. Our set up is extremely simple—and it doesn’t carry the hefty upfront costs of some white label services.

How do DAG fees work?

We follow the traditional pay-as-you-go crowdfunding model, with a twist. Our base fee is already about a percentage point lower than most sites, and then we offer two plans that you can upgrade to, that can bring your fee down as low as 5.5%.

What types of categories of campaigns tend to use DAG?

A lot of our customers are people who’ve never done this before and require a lot of coaching, support and encouragement. We find that we’ve got a real sweet spot with schools and are bringing crowdfunding innovation to help them tap into audiences who care about their kids, but are never asked to give. Poinsettia Elementary school out in Carlsbad, CA has done five campaigns with us. We’ve done everything from help them save their art program to crowdfunding their jogathon.

To read more about Deposit a Gift, go here.

 

 

 

Crowdfunding Just Got Easier for Fashion Designers with BetaBrand

Tip of the Week

 

BetaBrand is a San Francisco-based Internet clothing store—with a twist. The first twist is that their clothes tend to appeal the perpetually relaxed set, the type whose idea of dressing up is wearing a T-shirt with no holes.

Working from home, I can relate to that. Though I avoid video Skype sessions—I don’t have to even discuss it with the ladies but the men are sometimes clueless that we actually don’t have to see each other to talk—when I’m forced to switch to video mode it’s a safe bet I’ve thrown a presentable shirt over my PJs (or swim suit, as the season may dictate).

So with their “pinstripe executive hoodie,” “gluttony pants,” and “dress pants sweatpants”—check them out, they look like the pants Joaquin Phoenix wore in the film “Her”—they’ve had a devout following not only because of their aesthetics but also because of their business model.

They do all their designing and prototyping onsite, and it’s no big deal for them to mock up an idea and make the finished product before lights out that same day. That means out-the-door turnaround time is under two months.

Take that, Kickstarter!

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Which relates to the second twist: Last year they added a crowdfunding component to their site. Now not only in-house designers can see their inspirations worn by BetaBrand devotees but all you aspiring fashion designers can submit your creations and if they’re successfully funded you stand to earn as much as 10% of the profits.

Another benefit similar to the current crowdfunding model, those who buy-in early stand to save big when the item goes into production. The think tank component is where new ideas are presented to the crowd for voting. If the crowd loves your sweater tuxedo idea, for example, the product is turned over to the crowd—and BetaBrand turns it into a real product that you, I, and all our slacker, comfy-clothes-wearing friends can buy!

All you arm chair fashionistas can now get up and throw your hat into the ring. But don’t delay; the word is BetaBrand is hoping their model will attract celebrity clothing lines.

Take that, Target!

Need Help Developing and Designing Your Crowdfunding Idea?

Lately I’ve been telling just about everybody I know how shocked I am that no one has yet come up with a audio version of the digital video recorder (DVR).

Think about it: You’re driving in your car with the windows down listening to [insert your favorite radio show]. At exactly the moment someone delivers the line that will keep the thread to the story going, a truck whizzes by and you’ve missed it. There’s no way to turn back! No rewind button. On TV it’s so easy to recapture a moment, or fast forward through commercials. Why has someone not taken on this challenge?

I’m a girl with an idea but no design talent. If I knew how to make a digital audio recorder (I’ve already named my homeless DAR) I’d be crowdfunding for it faster than you could say….crowdfunding.

I have to believe there are others like me: people with good ideas who would love to jump into crowdfunding but lack the expertise outside our natural skill set to get the job done. Cardboard Helicopter  may be the helping hand you need to get that great idea out of your head and into 3-D prototype. I had a recent back and forth with CEO Tim Hayes about the firm’s work. Here are the highlights.Cardboard Helicopter clear background

As a product development and industrial design firm, why did you decide to expand into the crowdfunding space?

Well we’re a boutique-style design firm so we don’t have a lot of overhead to deal with. This allows us to be able to assist smaller businesses and inventors who might not be able to afford what the large product development firms charge. So it made sense to open up our services to inventors and the crowdfunding universe.

What are some of the pitfalls facing project creators does Cardboard Helicopter address?

There are many great ideas being developing through crowdfunding platforms, but the key is being able to communicate the concept in a simple, yet visually-appealing manner. We see a lot of failed projects that never really had a chance due to their unclear campaign pages or crude prototypes. We help provide the “wow” factor and give suggestions regarding ergonomics and usability, while being attentive to manufacturing requirements.

Besides working with folks who have a great idea for a product but no expertise, how do you see yourselves fitting into the pre-launch phase of a campaign?

One of our areas of expertise is taking an initial idea and transforming it into aesthetically-pleasing, user-focused designs. The industrial design process is very thoughtful and meticulous, and requires many iterations before the product is ready to be unveiled to the world. We’ve assisted many individuals that wish to use crowdfunding to help launch their product. We work closely with them every step of the way, from concept sketching to full 3D CAD (computer-aided design) and prototyping.

Do you work with project creators beyond pre-launch?

Presently, most of our time and energy goes into the development of products, as well as marketing our own in-house creations, so we currently don’t offer anything post-launch.

How does your company differ from other similar firms?

Our limitless imagination allows us to create amazing, innovative products. I think the older we get, a lot of us lose the ability to think without boundaries, much like a child would. Our entire company is based off of this idea. Also, as I stated earlier, our business model is built on efficiency and allows us to accommodate budgets that most other professional design firms can’t match. Instead of getting your project placed in a queue, and having one designer work on your idea over the course of months, we tackle each project as a team. Several designers and a marketing team work in unison to make sure all our client’s needs are met within a reasonable time frame.

Can we see a sample of your work?

This is a rendering of Latch, the clip-on speaker allows you to attach device to virtually any object, providing sound and backup power source where ever you go.Latch
What’s next for Cardboard Helicopter?

We are just a few weeks away from launching our first crowdfunding campaign, through Kickstarter. It is healthy-living device that will be made here in the US, and promotes the importance of using water and other natural ingredients. We’re very excited about it and are confident it will be successful! Once we go through the entire process, we’d love to share our experiences and provide advice for your followers.

 

 

Crowdfunding RSS: Search and Find Campaigns By Category

Tip of the Week

After all this time there’s no one good place to search and find crowdfunding campaigns by category. The platforms don’t even do a good job on their own sites. Yet these searches can be extremely useful.

For project creators it’s important to be able to find other campaigns similar to yours—check out the competition, see what they’re doing well and not so well.

For backers, especially those who may be in search of a particular type of campaign to support, this could ease their burden, maybe make it more likely they’d pull out their wallet were the process to be streamlined for them.

Crowdfunding RSS is a new site I stumbled upon that aggregates and sends to your in-box via RSS feed, in a daily or weekly digest, “the best of” crowdfunding campaigns. fb-logo

Crowdfunding RSS certainly isn’t the answer, yet. But it might be going in the right direction. It’s still in beta mode, and is currently only supporting a handful of platforms—Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoGetFunding, FundAnything, Pubslush, and Fundrazr. But I’ve been subscribing for over a week now and so far, by tweaking and editing my category choices, I’ve found it to be pretty useful and targeted. (Though they tend to mostly be campaigns from Kickstarter and Indiegogo.)

The site is pretty minimalist, which is part of the appeal for me. Setting up your feed is a simple four-step process:

1. Choose the platform(s) you’d like to follow

2. Select from an extensive category (and sub-category) list

3. Limit the quantity and quality of your projects, ranging from “all” to “best.” The rating is based on content quality, social reach, and campaign progress. Why rate projects, you ask? Here’s why.

4. Then add your email address, choose frequency of feed to your in-box, and you’re good to go. (It took me a few days to get my feed to give me the types of campaigns that appealed, so keep at it.)

There’s a button to click to see the campaigns that are trending well in the past 24 hours and another button for project creators to input their campaign URL and see how it stacks up against other in the same category and listed on the site.

And from a list generated from new projects in the past seven days users can find project rated from the top 50 😉 to bottom 🙁 50.

 

 

 

How BNN Funding is Cracking the Code on Crowdfunding Marketing

As some of you may recall, I’ve written about BNN Funding previously. It’s a crowdfunding service created by founder Patrick Kitano, which he  says “acts like an investment bank.” BNN Funding helps set up the campaign, exposes it, markets it, and  builds advocates for it. In return they take a fee— comparable to other portals— only if the campaign is successful. And the value add is the leveraged social capital.

It’s a concept that sounds great but one that I felt needed a little test drive.

So after reading a LinkedIn post by The Breaking News Network (“BNN”) ‘s Patrick Kitano, in which he discusses the concept behind virality and how to activate it by leveraging his 400-city network’s Twitter feeds, I asked to be a guinea pig. The network sent out the following tweet across 300+ cities in the US and Canada promoting my LinkedIn post, So You want the Media to Notice You, soon afterwards, my Twitter handle @TCFrose was trending in the US, according to @TrendsmapUSA.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 8.46.16 AM
To help readers get a clearer idea of how his viral marketing concept works, I posed these questions to Kitano.

Our little experiment was fun! Within the briefest period of time, my iPhone was going nuts with retweets of my article. Before I knew it I was a Trending Topic, according to @TrendingMapsUSA. When I checked back to my article, which previously had 350 “eyeballs” on it, the number had jumped to over 1700. What happened there?

This 1,400 increase is average for our blasts. It’s simply leveraging the power of 300 tweets from 300 of the BNN’s powerful city feeds (many of them are over 5 years old) broadcasting your excellent article about how to get media to notice you. The effect is comparable to other massive Twitter campaign systems like Thunderclap.it, which unleashes one tweet at one time across specific Twitter feeds.

What makes your system more efficient than Thunderclap?

The difference is with Thunderclap, you need to wait a few weeks and badger others to register to participate in the campaign. And badgering others is simply using up social capital. No matter what people say, it’s best to save your social capital for better things. The BNN can unleash a campaign instantly with a social reach of over 600,000, more than the average Thunderclap without expending any personal social capital. And it can do it daily if needed.

Most agree that marketing, as it’s done currently in the crowdfunding space, is lacking. Why?

In today’s crowdfunding environment, there is no marketing help for the entrepreneur. They must use all their social capital and plead with their contact list to support them. That’s the reason crowdfunding is so difficult. Once you use up your social capital, you can’t go back and ask again and again.

Can you describe a new way to crowdfund without using up that valuable personal social capital?

We fulfill two crowdfunding needs. One, crowdfunders need access to media to expose the campaign, and two, we provide access to advocate networks that can sell the campaign directly to their constituents. If you’re lucky, like the potato salad or the ice bucket campaign, you’ll get CNN to talk about you, but that’s relying on chance.

Back to our experiment. We all know it’s easy to tweet out articles—and there are data showing that most people who retweet don’t actually read the article. Though your experiment (gratefully) belied that stat in my case, if BNN tweeted out my crowdfunding campaign instead of just my article, do you think they would convert to backers?

Massive Twitter exposure certainly does not guarantee conversions. But massive exposure does bring advocates to the table because they are exposed to the campaign and share its values.

Can you explain how?

Everybody who reads your column, Rose, knows that getting advocates on board, people who will promote your campaign, is critical. Really, we’re talking about leveraging other people’s social capital. So how do we get advocates on board without constantly pinging them like most crowdfunders do? We create a quid pro quo relationship by offering advocates a way to publicize their message.

The BNN not only can expose campaigns massively but it “gives back” social capital to the community by giving a media voice to over 7,000 community newsmakers across 400 cities. These newsmakers are civic groups, nonprofits, foundations and arts organizations that serve their communities. For any crowdfunding campaign, we can give voice to any advocates aligned with the campaign mission to support the campaign. When done across 400 cities, it builds an advocate network that drops the campaign message down to the community level where word of mouth, and conversions, happen.

I watched the Infinity Boxes campaign that BNN Funding produced. What makes Infinity Box a break-out campaign for BNN?

The Infinity Boxes is a unique social art exhibit that is like a carnival hall of mirrors in a box. The campaign creator launched on the zero-fee Open Tilt platform and we reached our goal of over $20,000 to support the Boxes’ national 2014 tour, and more than half of the backing came from museums.

Why is this significant?

What makes this campaign unique is the artist and the museums collaboratively crowdfunded to bring the exhibit to the museums. Why? Both the artist and museums want to make the exhibition successful, and crowdfunding markets the exhibition and fundraises the curatorial costs at the same time. The artist leverages the social capital of the museums.

Can this campaign be used as a model for future projects with which BNN partners?

The master plan is to continue to crowdfund with different museums every 3-6 months to continue the tour through 2015-2016. Over 300 museums across America use the BNN city feeds for their community news and events—that’s our advocate network for artists. Developing serial campaigns that leverage different partners’ social capital is going to be a game changer, and it requires fundraisers to see crowdfunding as a long-term embedded strategy as opposed to a “one and done” deal.

Is it a template others can use?

As far as I know, The Breaking News Network is unique among news media networks to support crowdfunding campaigns for social good across 400 cities nationally or globally. One reason is all news networks are tied down to an advertising revenue model and can’t afford to support campaigns for social good without compensation. On the day we launched in 2009, I stated BNN will never have an ad model.

What kind of campaigns are appropriate for BNN Funding?

There are two criteria that we look for in a campaign:

1) The product or service has social impact or serves the community good. It can be local or national.
2) The project creator can bring advocates to support the campaign. For example, a campaign funding the investigative reporting of GMO and pesticides is naturally supported by environmental and civic groups who need this word to get out. We provide advocates social capital to get their word out and leverage our existing advocate network of over 7,000 organizations.

National nonprofits and social enterprises with a network of local chapters or affiliates work well across our 400-city marketing system. We simply amplify every local chapter and their advocates so they can market the campaign at the community level where conversion can happen. We can also develop localized campaigns to start up new chapters.

Our system is pretty unique and customized to the campaign. We always discover new ways of leveraging the media network and advocacy, so it’s best to talk with us to see if we can apply our marketing methodology.

What’s next for BNN Funding?

We’re now in scale-up mode and working with project creators to support their campaigns.

I think one of the unique opportunities for any organization or entrepreneur with a cause is timing campaigns to breaking news events. Sudden events like the Napa Earthquake or the turmoil in Ferguson can spur a nation of backers to act. Millions of dollars can potentially be raised through crowdfunding. BNN Funding has the national marketing infrastructure to expose campaigns instantly so we can launch a campaign in a matter of hours after an event happens. For example, a foundation researching the ebola virus should crowdfund now to expose their efforts to a world that’s getting anxious about a possible pandemic. I don’t see these campaigns happening instantly yet, but it will happen. The Wall Street analogy to this kind of timed campaign is program trading in which traders instantly trade based on breaking business news.

To learn more about BNN Funding, contact Kitano at pkitano@gmail.com

Try Response Campaigning to Get Media Attention

Getting media to notice you and give you some precious column space isn’t a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey enterprise. It takes laser targeting, focus, and dedicated commitment of your time.

“Response campaigning” is something every project creator should include as part of their pre-launch strategy. Just like it sounds, it involves putting the object of your attention (the niche blogger, like-minded influencer, or journalist of a big fancy magazine that covers your topic) on your reading list. Then:

1) Read them religiously, analytically, thoughtfully.

2) On a regular basis—but in a way that will not appear as spamming, which it won’t because you will have followed the advice noted in #1 carefully—comment on their posts or articles.

3) Rinse and repeat for at least one-to-two months.

4) Don’t’ take the casual language I used in #3 as a sign you can call this in. Challenge yourself to be as memorable as possible.

  • Here’s how you don’t want to be memorable: by sounding like a know-it-all, or being snarky, or offensive.

 

  • Here’s how you do want to be memorable: cite a stat, fact, or a point of view that may not have appeared in the article.

5. It is perfectly acceptable if your comment is in disagreement with the author’s thesis, as long as you’re presenting it in a way that telegraphs your deep insights into the topic at hand.

6. Continue this process and soon you will probably get a response comment from the author to your comment. Now your response campaign is in full swing. The author knows who you are and appreciates the value you add. You are now considered a “source.”

7. Begin to add other blogs or publications to your hit list, following the above steps. (The good news is that bloggers and journalists that cover the same topic usually read other bloggers and journalists in the same beat.)

8. In the meantime, I bet your confidence will have taken a nice upward trajectory, too, which may inspire you to begin creating your own content! When that happens you’re going to start being known as somewhat of an expert, slowly making headway into thought leadership territory.

Trade secret that shouldn’t be a secret at all: Journalists and bloggers get their story ideas from people like you; interesting stories don’t magically flutter freely in their psyche like confetti.

9. Now that you’ve got the credibility, the tables will turn and, having read something of import they found that you wrote, these reporters will start knocking on your door asking you for an interview or a key quote. It really does happen. I’ve been interviewed by three publications just in the past couple of weeks.

10. With your diligence, quality content, and patience, your response campaigning is now a success!

Shameless plug: I’m going to be participating in a panel discussion on this topic with other PR luminaries at Kickercon, on Friday, August 29 from 10:40am to 11:10 am. It’s under Public Relations Training and we’d all love to see you there.

This article originally appeared on my LinkedIn blog.

How Facebook Can Support Crowdfunding Efforts

Tips of the Week

Different social networks require unique messaging techniques designed, timed, crafted, and suited to that particular platform. If you want to maximize response and conversion rates you can’t just throw some stuff up. Like everything related to marketing, a strategy is in order to do it right.

Since Facebook often seems like a big messy room I’m reluctant to enter, I found this infographic by TrackMaven, a site dedicated to making you a more competitive digital marketer, extremely helpful.

After analyzing exactly 5,804 Facebook brand pages and 1,578,006 posts and then putting the information into their data grinder —that’s the my informal term for doing math that’s beyond my comprehension and pay grade—these guys really managed to clear the clutter and explain Facebook’s needs that’s not only simple and concise—something I’ve never said about Facebook before—but also seems very doable.

Try incorporating these simple-to-follow—and very surprising—data points and see if you don’t lure your users one  very important click closer to your crowdfunding campaign. (Highlights below and infographic follows.)

Character count: a good Facebook post is around 60,000 characters and if your post is over 80 words your response rate improves by 80%.

Visuals: images garner 37% more engagement

Best hours: posts published between 5pm – 1am Eastern time get 11% more interaction, than those published during the work day (8am – 5pm) and 29% more than those published before work, 1am – 8am.

Weekends: Less than 18% of content is posted on weekends, but weekend content sees the most engagement

 How-to of engagement:  “likes” are the most common way to socially engage, accounting for 87%, 5% accounts for comments and 8% for shares

Time and days matter: Thursday is the big day on Facebook, weighing it at 16.82% posts, and lunchtime is the favorite time

The hashtag: these posts see 60% more interaction

The exclamation point: as much as I hate to report this, it seems the exclamation point is seen as being positive. Use them and see 2.7% more interaction

The big question: ask a question and see your interaction increase by 23% on average

The Nuts and Bolts of a Perfect Facebook Post – An infographic by the team at TrackMaven