Why You Need Crowdsourcing to Succeed in Crowdfunding
Why You Need Crowdsourcing to Succeed in Crowdfunding
I am excited to share with you this guest post by Richard “RB” Botto, that you might already know as the CEO of Stage 32 and so much more. If you’ve been a long-time reader, you know the mixed feelings I have developed over the years about crowdfunding campaigns, this phenomenon that has become the new norm to raise money and show investors there’s an audience for your film.
I’ve stopped counting how many films I’ve backed and disappeared for years to finally send me my reward (often a link to the film) after it came out on Netflix. What?!
And that’s where crowdsourcing comes into play. It’s a fundamental concept that every artist at large should understand and integrate into their career building habit.
RB recently published Crowdsourcing for Filmmakers, that is, as the title says, all about the how, why and what behind that concept for us.
But first, his definition of crowdfunding vs. crowdsourcing:
People often ask me what the difference between crowdfunding and crowdsourcing is. I usually answer with: Crowdfunding is appealing to individuals or groups to pledge money to a project. Crowdsourcing is building an audience in support of your brand or the brand of your project by identifying, engaging and then moving those individuals to form a crowd – an army of boots on the ground, a legion of champions. As an aside, it is virtually impossible to run a successful crowdfunding campaign without crowdsourcing.
Why You Need Crowdsourcing to Succeed in Crowdfunding
A Guest Post by Richard Botto
When speaking on the subject of crowdfunding at various conferences, I always ask the following question: When do you believe a crowdfunding campaign begins? I would estimate that 90% of those who answer state that a campaign begins the second you hit the “Launch” button for your campaign page, effectively making it live for all to see. Many times I’ll hear that a campaign doesn’t begin until that first dollar is donated. At one recent event, I posed this question and a gruff gentleman barked at me that a campaign “doesn’t begin until it ends.”
Not wanting to waste the next 59 minutes and 20 seconds of the talk looking for reason within that folksy wisdom, I politely moved on. But if anyone has a clue as to what the hell that means, feel free to hit me up on Stage 32.
The experts in the field, those who run or work for crowdfunding platforms or those who have many successful campaigns under their belts all have their theories as to when a campaign really starts. John T. Trigonis, Campaign Strategist for Film at Indiegogo and author of the terrific and highly recommended Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign says:
“Realistically, I tell people that a crowdfunding campaign begins long before you click the ‘Launch’ button on a campaign and send out your first emails. There are tons of things to consider: planning out the campaign, of course, but also strategizing, delegating responsibilities, putting together a calendar, and planning ahead on how to handle the inevitable lull every campaign goes through. But really, crowdfunding begins with crowdfinding, or, in other words, crowdsourcing. For that reason alone, I recommend all my campaigners begin their relationship building and outreach months in advance, spending time on blogs, websites, social media and any other places they’ve identified as places where working their way into the community will be mutually beneficial. These efforts are intended to prove to those likely to support the project that the campaigner truly sees them as something much more than a dollar sign which, of course, will serve them well once the campaign goes live.”
Some sage advice from John. Some of what he speaks we’ve seen put into practice in the case studies we’ve highlighted thus far. But for the purposes of this section, let’s focus on one point: John suggests starting a campaign months before hitting the “Launch” button. He’s certainly not in the minority on that notion. In doing my research for this book, I never had one person who has either worked for a social media platform or run a successful campaign state that a pre-campaign should last less than 2 months before actually going live.
It might not surprise you to learn that I have my own opinion on this subject and, well, since it’s my book, I’m gonna express it.A crowdfunding campaign begins 3-6 months before you hit the “Launch” button.
A crowdfunding campaign begins 3-6 months before you hit the “Launch” button.
1 – Running a Crowdfunding Campaign is a Full-Time Job
I know it’s numbered and in bold type, but I’ll repeat it again anyway. Running a crowdfunding campaign is a full-time job.
Don’t want to take my word for it? Timon Birkhofer, producer of the first documentary ever on the crowdfunding revolution, Capital C, which itself was crowdfunded successfully to the tune of $84,298, has this to say on the subject:
“In doing our research for the film, we explored a wide number and variety of campaigns. There were common mistakes, but the number one reason for a campaign’s failure was simply that the people running the campaign would launch the project on a random crowdfunding platform (without much, if any, research) and then lean back and wait for the money to magically appear. This will not happen, not at all. Crowdfunding is full time work, a job in and about itself. It should be treated with the same respect and sincerity as you would treat any other way of raising funds”
Your pre-launch campaign is going to require a ton of research. What campaigns similar to yours have worked? What innovative perks did they offer? What media did they present to their followers? How often did they post? Is there contact information for those who have run certain successful campaigns available so you can discuss what went right and wrong during their campaign? These questions and many more will need to be researched and answered to your satisfaction before moving forward.
Additionally, there will be researching efforts regarding the crowdsourcing aspect of the campaign. Who is your audience? Where are they located? Are there bloggers or journalists working in the space? Are there entities and/or organizations (online and offline) that might have a common interest regarding the subject matter of your project you can reach out to? What social media platforms do you need to be on to reach them? Are you familiar with how these networks operate, or will there be research involved here as well?
Have this all under control? Ready to get a couple of hours of rest? Fugghedaboutit! You haven’t even begun to think about what media you’re going to produce to entice and attract your potential supporters. Is it going to be photos? Video files? Audio files? How many? How often are you going to post?
But wait, there’s more…There will be posts and comments from your supporters to answer and address – a constant stream of information to be provided for a hungry, motivated and passionate crowd. Remember, the internet doesn’t sleep! The doors are open 24-7. And, wait, is that someone bashing you, your talents and your project? He or she needs to be dealt with too.
Hey, stay awake. You still need to set perks. Giving away various promotional products with the movie logo? Gotta get those designed and printed. And wait a second, are those your only perks? You better brew yourself another cup of coffee. It’s time to dig down and get more creative and innovative.
What’s that you say? I’m sorry, you sound dazed. It’s a lot of work for one person? Very true. Listen, filmmaking is hard work. So is running a crowdfunding campaign. Filmmaking is also a collaborative process. So is (or certainly should be) running a crowdfunding campaign. To that end…
2 – You Need a Team
If you do your research on successful film crowdfunding campaign, no matter what the subject matter, whether it’s a short, a documentary or a feature, there is almost always one common denominator: the campaign was run by an organized team who rotated responsibilities. Even only a two-person team cuts the workload and time responsibility in half. Imagine if you could find four people to buy in? Six? Ten?
Building a team should be fun and exciting. It should create a bigger groundswell for what you’re doing and enhance the crowdsourcing aspect of the campaign simply by virtue of having more voices singing the sweet tune of the project reaching a greater potential audience in the process.
But remember, the bigger the team, the more organization that’s required. You don’t necessarily want too many “voices” on the actual campaign page posting and commenting. In the instance of having too many people, split up the responsibilities. On an eight-person team for example, maybe two people handle the communication on the actual campaign page, two handle the social media outreach, two people handle the bloggers and reporters, and two people handle the producing of all media to be shared with potential supporters.
But the key word is “communication”. Make sure, no matter how the responsibilities are divvied up, that the team still communicates on a daily basis. A crowdfunding campaign is a living, breathing thing with ebbs and flows and a personality unto itself. That means the entire team needs to talk to one another and stay flexible if a change in strategy is needed mid stream.
A team united for the common good of the project will bring to your campaign energy and a diversity of ideas. It will almost guarantee that things never get stale. But remember, a poorly picked team can cause dissension and sabotage the campaign from within. Choose your campaign brethren wisely.
3- Building an Audience Takes Time and Can Evolve Over Time
As we’ve discussed a few times in this book, the “Build it and they will come” crowdfunding strategy rarely, if ever, is successful. And as you’ve seen in the various case studies which had a crowdfunding component throughout this book, building an audience was paramount to not only the success of the campaign but to the overall success of the project upon being distributed. But building an audience, one which is fully engaged and compelled to act on behalf of either you or the subject/mission of the project (or both), takes a huge investment of time and creativity.
Significant social media followings do not happen overnight (unless you purchase followers/Likes, which we’ve already identified as an “empty calorie” approach). Researching and identifying bloggers, journalists, organizations and the like which can help your cause takes time. And, once you’ve identified them, contacting, communicating and convincing them to take the journey with you (or not) can take weeks or months. Crowdsourcing is more about groundswell than viral. And a groundswell happens over time.
Further still, you may discover as you move along that your targets shift ever so slightly either based on audience response or due to new elements within the project – script changes, new locales, and the like. Or you may find yourself targeting a new audience entirely. These discoveries can be as easily made in the pre-launch campaign as they might be during the campaign or post-campaign initiatives.
Award-winning director, producer and media strategist, Jon Reiss (who you might also remember from being on my crowdsourcing panel at AFM) says: “I think it’s obviously very helpful to have a sense of your audience at inception. But I also think that often there are many underserved niche communities that filmmakers who want to get a jump on having a successfully engaged project before moving forward should consider. This requires drilling down a bit more. For projects that are not targeted to a specific niche, often a filmmaker will discover that their knowledge and conception of their audience might change over time and they should embrace this need to be flexible. Filmmakers should be open to discovering more audiences and getting specific about their audience as the process of the film evolves. This even and, in certain instances, especially includes after they start to screen the project in various stages.
I would caution filmmakers against starting engagement if they have not thought through how they are going to sustain that engagement through the end of distribution. I would recommend starting when you are sure you will be able to sustain that engagement.”
So you see, it’s vitally important that you build in the time to truly identify as many audiences as possible, plan how you are going to approach these audiences so that they will remain engaged for the long term, and have a collective team mindset of flexibility and open-mindedness.
We’ve talked many, many times already about finding ways to set yourself apart from the competition and rise above the noise. Allowing yourself a 3-6 month window to plan, perfect and execute a pre-launch strategy will give you an enormous advantage, I promise you.
About the author
A much sought-after speaker, Botto has keynoted, mentored and taught all over the world on the subjects of film finance, producing, screenwriting, independent film, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, networking and social media. His book Crowdsourcing for Filmmakers is the first book on the subject of crowdsourcing as it relates to the film space. The book was published by Focal Press/Routledge under the American Film Market Presents banner in October of 2017.