One Big Reason You Should Start Using Twitter Before You Crowdfund

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The announcement came last month that Google and Twitter have partnered up. Twitter has given Google access to its data stream to index tweets, which will allow the search engine to display your tweets in its results in real time. That’s quite a boon for crowdfunders, in my opinion.

This is actually a rekindling of an old relationship between the two behemoths, which expired in 2011.

The effects of the implementation will likely not be in full evidence for up to six month, the time it will take for both companies to figure out how to prep and utilize the data.

During that time Twitter users should be prepping, too, so that your tweets will start showing up in Google’s results pages right away. How do you prove your tweet value to Google? By maximizing engagement, which is the first step in alerting Google that you’re producing high-value tweets. (Spammers need not apply.)

For active Twitter users this means your presence is going to be more felt. For those who wonder why they should be using Twitter, this is a good enough reason to start on the right foot.

Stone Temple Consulting Inc. recently did a study in which they analyzed over 4 million tweets. (I also recommend you read Stone Temple’s analysis on how the new deal will affect SEO.)

For the time-challenged or visually inclined, here’s their four-minute explainer video:

From that study here’s a summary of the factors they find most important:

  1. Inclusion of media (images or video) – also broken out by number of pieces of media
  2. Character count
  3. Inclusion of Hashtags – also broken out by number of hashtags
  4. Hashtag length
  5. Inclusion of Links – also broken out by number of links
  6. The Domain Authority of the shared link
  7. Time of Day
  8. Inclusion of Mentions – also broke out by number of mentions

So if Twitter is not yet a social media platform of choice for you, consider making it a priority within the next six months. If you plan to crowdfund, it might help you amplify your campaign.

 

 

Media Misinformation is Crippling Crowdfunding: Know the Facts

Dear Readers,

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn Pulse blog site. I thought the information was worth sharing if you’re not a big user of LinkedIn. Please feel free to share with your friends who may be considering crowdfunding, especially if they’re not as far along in their crowdfunding education as you are. Education is power, after all.

One more thing before you settle in to read about media misinformation: I wanted to let you all know I am in the process of strategizing on not only a new site redesign but also repositioning myself in the crowdfunding space so that I can better serve you and also personally experience maximum reward in my daily work. Because work happiness is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Any comments, suggestions, complaints, requests from you, I’m all ears. Really. Whether it’s technical issues on the current site—a possibility—or what you would like to receive more from me by way of helping you achieve your goals. I do this work for you, so it only makes sense that your feedback on how best to get it right would be invaluable to me!

Now to the article.

Several weeks ago I got an email from a local woman in her upper 60s with a spinal problem who wanted to run a crowdfunding campaign to raise several thousand dollars for at least a single round of stem-cell replacement therapy, maybe two—she’d learned that the second is often required. She told me her condition made it difficult for her to use a computer and wondered if we could talk by phone to discuss working together.

My heart sank. Again.

I know, and many of you know, that because crowdfunding is an online tool, if you can’t even use a computer you’re starting out at a major disadvantage. But not enough people know that crowdfunding isn’t the slam-dunk the media stories would have you believe, and that’s a big problem.

Like most of us I’m a busy person and was unable to take the time to have what I knew would be a lengthy conversation just to get the basic facts of her situation out of her. So as a test of sorts to see how serious she was I told her I would send her the usual questionnaire I ask people to fill out and she should find someone to help her. I’d read it, and give her my response afterwards.

About a month later I received the questionnaire filled with long responses to each of my questions. I knew immediately a) she was serious and b) my instincts were correct that crowdfunding would not work for her.This was one woman in a sea of people who needs money yet she lacked all the basic ingredients that would even put her on the map: She didn’t use social media, she had no understanding of PR or how it works, and she didn’t have a team to help her run her campaign. I decided the only decent thing to do was to phone her to break the news.

What Level Playing Field?

She was incredulous. But I see so many stupid campaigns that make money. I have a real need. Why wouldn’t people give to me?

I went through my spiel about needing to engage via social media, bloggers and media professionals, in order to spread the word. Ah but this is what she wanted me to do for her, she said. She offered to pay me $600, clearly a lot of money to her, because she heard that I was good at this sort of thing.

I told her I could not take her money because I did not believe I could succeed, especially since I could not commit to taking the time and resources I knew I would need to even make a dent. And even then it would be an up-stream swim unless we got very, very lucky.

She persisted, practically begged. It felt so awful I wished I could be anywhere than on that call. But I also knew I couldn’t be that good of a Samaritan while I watched my own business flounder.

Frustrated, she said she would try anyway. I offered to give her my online course for free. She bristled—again, she couldn’t sit in front of the computer, she fretted, plus time was short and she needed help now. I sympathized and gave her a coupon code for the course. She never redeemed it.

Crowdfunding as the Great Equalizer

I find myself not only thinking about this woman, wondering how her health is doing, and if she found some help. I have also have spent a lot of time considering the future of crowdfunding and its ability to truly level the playing field for all.

No doubt it’s truly a democratizer for entrepreneurs who have a promising new device or a fun gadget. But what about those people who don’t have anything to pre-sell? All they have is a need for you, dear public, to care enough about them to give them a leg up at a donation level of your choosing.

And even if you have a most compelling story it will be nothing more than the sound of one hand clapping unless it can be shared again and again by people for whom that story struck a chord.

Hey Media, Get a clue

I’ve been sitting on an article I read that was published in the Washington Post not long after my discomfiting conversation with one of the “needy nobodies.” It really hit a nerve with me.

Here’s the article in full but using the Detroit-based James Robertson as her baseline—remember he was the guy that a virtual stranger raised $350K for when he learned that every day Robertson walked 21 miles as part of his commute to get to his job—she itemizes why she was “not a fan” of the outcome of Robertson’s crowdfunding success story.

There are so many things wrong with the points made in the article I don’t know where to start. But I will, so let’s break it down.

  • The gist of this writer’s thesis is that the public shouldn’t give just because Robertson’s story was raised to “celebrity” status through social media.

But wait! Crowdfunding is nothing if not the perfect online vehicle that, fueled by social media amplification, can touch us as individuals and strike that emotional chord that tells us we want to give.

  • The writer also posits that the money would have been better spent to raise awareness about lack of access to affordable transportation for the poor. The solution, she says, is that we should give regularly to our favorite charities and call it a day.

Um yes, sure. But that’s not crowdfunding. Isn’t it possible that there is room for both of these mechanisms to support good causes? One is the traditional means; the other is a new, 21st century, technology-fueled method. The writer’s point is about as accurate as those who insist that money raised in crowdfunding “takes away” from money raised in traditional fundraising. It’s not one or the other. Didn’t we clear that up ages ago?

  • The writer laments that though Robertson’s story is “heartwarming” what about all the other people who don’t have such a good story?

That these words come from a writer—a purveyor of stories—for a major publication truly strains the imagination. Enough said on that point.

There are a lot inaccuracies about crowdfunding flooding the internet that can infuriate those who are working hard to clarify what crowdfunding really is and how to use it. That this person clearly has no idea what crowdfunding is yet has been allowed the bully pulpit to spread yet more misinformation about it rankles me. The sooner she’s gagged the less likely I am going to have to deal with people like that nice woman who needs money to get her health back on track.

I’d love to hear your comments.

Photo credit: Morguefile

Is Your Dream Worth Realizing? A Checklist

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Like most of us whose minds tend to dream up ideas for products and services, or have alternate points of view that we believe will make the world in some way a better place, we also have to beware not to run too far with our brilliant idea before we make sure it’s as original as it appears to have been when we thought it up in the shower or in the middle of the night as we groped for our bedside pad of paper and pencil in the dark. (Phew, that was a long sentence!)

I  came across a campaign today called Quell. It’s a pain-relief wearable device.

I thought it was worth highlighting it because to dissect it is to understand why it’s doing so well. It reads like a due diligence checklist. In other words, these people did their homework but more than that they have a great idea. So I invite you to check out the campaign and look at the video, which I’ve embedded below.

Based on their campaign, I’ve assembled a checklist. Here are some questions to ask yourself before your brilliant mind carries you away into the crowdfunding space. These guys will help you understand where and what makes your concept work and how.

FYI, I have no investment of any kind in them except my kindred hatred of pain.

Is your idea itself in considerable demand?

Who wouldn’t honestly do just about anything to avoid physical pain? Pain sucks. Pain debilitates. Pain is eating up an enormous percentage of the population 24/7, at least in part due to our stressed-out lifestyles, our unhealthy relationships to work, and the physical, mental, and emotional fallout from all our shiny technology. Oh, and our terrible eating habits.

Excuse the expression but this campaign touches on a vital pain points that pretty much all of us made of flesh and blood have some negative relationship with. That’s not to say that everyone will jump on the idea of this device but enough will because of personal experiences with pain.

(Okay, I just broke ankle so I know from pain. I will speak more on THAT topic once I’ve wrapped my head around the fact that the break is real; it’s not going to go away for a few months no matter how much I wish for it to, or search for some sort of supranatural rewind button.)

Does your idea or product cause no harm and does it really put the benefits to the audience front and center?

That may seem like a no-brainer yet many campaigns lack that crucial selling point. It’s not enough that you think your idea is so amazing; show us why we will think your idea is so amazing. And I mean really show–and tell. Don’t kid yourself with I’m-center-of-the-universe attitude—an unfortunate side effect of just how easy it is to get your name out there via social media. I see too many campaigns that think this is an effective tactic. Go figure.

One of the great selling points Quell provides is that the delivery system is 100% drug free. This is important because people care about staying healthy—and they care about getting healthy without the use of nasties like Oxycontin. Don’t get me wrong, right now Oxycontin is my friend but the drawbacks are severe, and if you’ve got a chronic pain problem it should not be an option…And yet there are not many better options, so this makes Quell sound extremely attractive.

Do you just want to take the money and run?

Lots of campaigns do. But Quell is not only ready to provide its first-generation device; they are also looking to you to help them improve the product. Yes, this is a smart move for them, and it’s hopefully not at your expense if the product proves ineffective, but I think it’s an attractive risk worth taking when you weigh it in the balance of all the work they’ve done so far.

Additionally, and just as importantly, Quell is using crowdfunding in beneficial ways that you should consider when you toss your idea around, thinking about throwing your own hat in the ring: by getting user feedback they will be able to produce a next-generation product that’s even better. Add that to the fact that their success will be enough proof of concept to attract other types of investment, and this diminishes what I just now thought of as “crowdfunding welfare.” It’s not meant to be that.

So make sure your campaign provides a larger service beyond grabbing the dough and leaving us to hope for the best. It will be different for every campaign but please make it a part of your thought process.

Can you support your idea with compelling statistics?

Those that really find success, in crowdfunding and on the internet in general, are those that can exert their expertise by providing quantifiable evidence of a need and then backing it up with an idea or product that effectively suggests it can address those needs. Quell weaves those into the video and narrative and punctuates it with all the media support they’ve already garnered, which is a kind of statistic in itself:  “Wired,” “Entrepreneur,” and “Bloomberg” and many more publications thought enough of it to write it up.

Does your idea have any type of standard against which it can be held up in order to support viability?

Considering all the concern over fraud, the fact that Quell is able to say the FDA cleared it for takeoff is great. As crowdfunding backers become more and more savvy, and perhaps experienced a burn or two, some sort of credentialing is going to be important. Again, this will be different is all cases.

Here’s an example, of how a filmmaker might gain credibility if they are a newbie and have no past films as evidence of their talent:

  • Former students can get their professors to vouch for them with a testimonial
  • You can ask a mentor who has a good reputation in the film industry
  • If you’ve worked for a highly successful filmmaker, as a gaffer or second AD, see if they wouldn’t give you the thumbs up to burnish your campaign.

Above doesn’t come close to itemizing all that you should be asking yourself before you launch what you think is your good idea. And if you do the exercise honestly and fail to live up to your newly developed high standards, so be it! That’s good information. There’s still hot water in the shower and keep that notepad on the night stand and you’ll get there in time.

Digital Advertising, Bad Bet? Bad Bot!

Tip of the Week

 

Last year, White Ops, the self-proclaimed “global pioneer in deterministic botnet detection and sophisticated digital fraud” issued the results of a study. Here’s a highlight of their results.

We expected to find bogus websites with nothing but a bot audience,
but out of nearly 3 million websites covered in the study, mere thousands were completely bogus.
Most of the bots visited real websites run by real companies with real human visitors.
Those bots inflated the monetized audiences at those sites by 5-50 percent.

The results, they stated, were that:

  • Advertisers will lose $6.2B globally this year
  • Ad fraud gets home users hacked
  • Ad bots defeats user targeting

I’m sometimes asked my opinion about buying digital ads to promote one’s crowdfunding campaign. I usually beg off the question because I’ve never used the tactic myself, and because I’m personally very unfazed by digital ads, so I never saw the benefits of them. A more recent report not only strongly suggests you should save your money, but the bot frauds hit closer to home in this one.

It was a study that was released almost two weeks ago, one which I expected would catch like wildfire on blogs, groups, and forums I read. The results, though not altogether surprising were still to my mind offensive and kind of scandalous. Rather than writing about it I thought I’d wait to read what others had to say. But instead of outrage so far I’ve heard crickets.

So here’s the bad news.

It turns out that from 88% to 98% of digital ads we pay for are clicked by bots, not thinking, discerning humans. And the fraudsters aren’t fringe offenders; they are companies we rely on and respect like—this one broke my heart—LinkedIn. They came in at 88% fake, with the worst offender being Google, at 98%. Good old Facebook and Yahoo tied at 94%.

Oxford InfographicClick to enlarge

The data were revealed by a Luxembourg-based company that works in human-recognition technology called Oxford BioChronometrics, a startup from Oxford University, which last year spun out into the private sector in order to continue to further commercialize their technology. According to their site, Biochronometrics calculates changes in our biological behavior.

Good news or more bad news?

The bot fraud is part of a bigger study the team has been working on. Last July’s unveiling informed us that we each leave an imprint through our common behaviors, such as mouse movements or typing speed. Put it all together and it’s called eDNA (electronically Defined Natural Attributes). Over time, the technology allows tracking and identifying up to 500 behaviors— such as drug use, sexual activity, and even whether you’re prone to heart attacks—of users whenever they log onto their computers or smartphone.

The benefit, they say, is that it will immediately confirm identity and reduce the rate of hacking. Whether it’s worth giving up our privacy remains to be seen, though we all know the truth is that ship probably sailed long ago.

To read the full report, go here.

 

Can Krowdster Capture and Promote Campaign with More Efficiency?

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Krowdster blew onto the scene appropriately around the time that the calendar ticked to 2015. My amateur prediction (read: arrived at completely without benefit of psychic abilities) says that this will be the year we begin to address some of the deeply entrenched issues that are causing crowdfunding successes to plummet: the need to build a crowd that cares enough to contribute to your campaign. Because it’s a problem of enormous proportions.

You can’t keep a serial entrepreneur down, I guess, because it looks like founder Joseph Holm has tossed his hat in the ring in the hopes of turning this around.

You probably know Holm for his crowdfunding networking site called crowdfund.biz, and as the founder of the crowdfunding platform for filmmakers called Tubestart that incorporates content and audience development solutions, tools for rewards fulfillment, and more, into its value proposition. Krowdster is his most recent endeavor.

“I have created Krowdster to help more entrepreneurs become more successful at crowdfunding and launch more shining startups. Krowdster provides evidence-based, big data-powered analytics and campaign optimization as well as the world’s largest database of crowdfunding supporters that can be filtered by category, location or keyword to build an engaged crowd.”

krowdster artwork1

So how does Krowdster work? I The process is simple once you sign up:

  • Analytics provide data from 500,000+ campaigns
  • Optimizes campaign page and rewards setup based on metrics so it’s not a crapshoot
  • Promotes to 300,000+ crowdfunding supporters

Here’s a blog post that dives deeper.

So why Krowdster? Speaking from personal experience in my work with clients, when it comes time create a launch-ready strategy, building the crowd is the weak link for most aspiring crowdfunders because it’s a clunky, fragmented and time-consuming task. A tool that would take that heavy lifting away and allows users to search similar effortlessly would be a relief.

Does Krowdster work? Besides noodling around myself I’ve asked some of my crowdfunding colleagues their opinion of Krowdster’s effectiveness and the word “solid” has come up more than once. And as more people try it out we’ll be able to find out from the source how well it works.

Currently, the site draws its data from only four platforms:

  • Indiegogo
  • Kickstarter
  • RocketHub
  • Pozible
  • Tubestart

Holm is seeking other high-yielding rewards-based sites to further boost data results. Got a site you’d like included? Make suggestions!

Currently Holm is supplying his user-hopefuls with lots of tutorials, graphs, and even early-bird free trial offers. Here’s one video that provides a nice overview.

**Full disclosure: I will be signing on to Krowdster’s Affiliate Program

 

Perfecting the Art of Storytelling for Your Crowdfunding Campaign

Last Saturday Yvonne Brown, host of Blog Talk Radio podcast “Find Yourself, Live Your Dreams, and Be Happy,” invited my on her show. What a blast!

My contribution—no surprises here—was about perfecting the art of storytelling to kick butt on your crowdfunding campaign. Because you all know I think framing and telling your story effectively is beyond important. I’ve seen campaigns that were great crash and burn because their story did not shine through the clutter. With such a crowded playing field you can’t afford that to happen to you.

If you want to have a listen you can either go here, which will also allow you to check out Yvonne’s entire library of podcasts. Or you can stay right on the page and have a listen. It’s a quick 30-minute listen with what I hope will be some helpful tips you can take to your campaign.

Just scroll down.Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 1.32.37 PM

If you have questions or want to continue the conversation, don’t hesitate to ask.

How Facebook Can Support Crowdfunding Efforts

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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
 

 

How To Use Crowdfunding to Raise Your Brand Awareness

You know the way people have learned what a great tool crowdfunding can be to build brand awareness?

What if you are your brand?

This crowdfunding campaign actually made the local Chicago news this morning. Noboru Bitoy is a Visual Communications student at The School of the Art Institute here in Chicago. Students, especially those in the arts, have a tough time getting recognition. How do you elevate and make a name for yourself in the Art community—a tough nut to crack for young and old? Bitoy decided he’d give a shot to running a Kickstarter campaign.

Boy, did he hit the jackpot. Click on the image to enlarge.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 8.29.05 AM

Why did people respond like crazy? I don’t know that anyone can claim to have a definitive answer to that. It’s as unknowable as virality (if there is such a word)  itself. But I have a feeling this guy has officially launched his artistic career.

Will Chipotle come knocking? Will they somehow style it into a branded entertainment piece for their own brand?

Stay tuned.Great job, Norobu Bitoy!

 

The Golden Circle Concept Aids Veterans to Crowdfund

There’s been a distinct uptick in crowdfunding advice requests I’ve received of late from people considering a crowdfunding campaign to help US veterans and their families return to civilian life after the traumas of war.

military

Unfortunately, none of them have been close to being campaign-ready. I’ve also seen several war and veteran-themed crowdfunding campaigns whither and fail.

The news reports about painfully inadequate psychological services, access to jobs, and medical benefits bear out that there is a great need to be filled. It seems like crowdfunding could be the perfect avenue through which we could all easily and efficiently step up on behalf of the soldiers who risked all to serve us.

Why aren’t they working? Why are these projects failing to inspire?

To continue reading go to my Tip of the Week column at crowdsourcing.org

How to Use Soft Skills to Boost Audience Support

 Tip of the Week

Have you seen this video making the rounds? It’s called ExFEARiential and it’s a parody on making memorable branding.

Pretty great, right? It got me thinking how high the stakes have gotten when it comes to capturing the attention of an audience in the crowded space of online fundraising. Most of us have the inclination to go the earnest route. This is probably because we hear over and over again how important it is to gain an audience’s trust.

But trust encompasses many things, and you can gain trust through well-developed soft skills—those personality traits that can include qualities like friendliness, optimism, and being comfortable in your own skin. Feeling a little awkward? Use that in a positive way.

Humor is a great soft skill to nurture. So if you have a product or idea that lends itself to some well-placed humor, I say go for it.  Here are some examples to aspire to.

To Continue reading please go to my Tip of the Week column on Crowdsourcing.org.