Building and maintaining a community to support a crowdfunding project is not only recommended but also essential if the intended goal is to maximize the chances of success of one’s campaign. Here are ten thoughts regarding communities and crowdfunding.
There are different types of communities
Before trying to build a community, take the time to determine the people who make it up. “In my opinion, three main groups make up a community: the fans who are interested in what you do, family and friends who support you out of love, and creators,” sustains Astrid Rosemarin, community manager for Execution Labs, a Montreal-based accelerator that specializes in video games.
Each community can have its own identity and its own needs. It all depends on the project at stake.
Communities are important in all sectors
If communities are popular in video game studio jargon, other types of cultural projects must build up their own. Jason Leaver, behind the webseries Out With Dad, did not hesitate a second in an interview given to the Canada Media Fund (CMF) to claim that “the most important thing during a funding campaign is to build a community.”
Build a community BEFORE launching a campaign
“Don’t launch your Kickstarter campaign before having built a community,” advised Gordon Walton, president of the Art Craft Entertainment video game studio, during a presentation at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2016 in San Francisco.
He believes that too many creators are wrong in believing that crowdfunding platforms enable them to instantly create communities. He instead believes that these platforms are “multipliers that make it possible to build upon existing communities.”
Similar comments were made by Alexis Kennedy, cofounder of the Failbetter Games studio. “If you’re thinking of launching a crowdfunding campaign in 2016 without discussing it with anyone first, hit your head against the wall until you forget about the idea,” stated the creator of Sunless Sea during another presentation made at GDC 2016.
How many people should make up a community before a campaign is launched? That depends on the project and the funding goal. In the case of Art Craft Entertainment, the studio had gathered a community of 50,000 people before asking for $800,000 on Kickstarter in 2015. The studio ended up raising more than US$1,766,204 in the space of one month for its Crowfall game .
“It’s important to be able to count on a lot of people seeing as only a small percentage of them are going to contribute. The big studios only make 10% of their sales of AAA games in advance orders. In our case, we ask people to give us money two years in advance. What percentage of your community is going to answer the call? 1%? One thing is for sure. It won’t be 10%”, says Gordon Walton. In short, it’s preferable to be able to count on a large community.
Building a community requires planning
“The best way to build a community is to start way ahead of time,” deems Astrid Rosemarin. It’s an opinion shared by Gordon Walton, whose studio even went so far as to plan a 60-day pre-campaign to pique video game fans’ curiosity.
“We drafted a manifest that identified the problems with the type of game that we wanted to launch and created a countdown to indicate when we’d be presenting our solution to these problems. We also published bits of information over time and gave access to beta versions of our game. Everything had been planned,” recalls the developer.
Leave your pride aside when it comes to contacting your community
“It’s hard but it’s important to ask everyone you know for money, including people that you may have only met once in the past. Forget about your pride,” estimates Gordon Walton.
The latter considers that the amount of the donation itself is not important, it’s the moment the contribution is made that counts. “Someone can donate as little as a dollar, but if it’s donated on the first day of the campaign, that’s what counts,” he adds. A good first campaign day not only leaves potential fans with a good impression but also increases the visibility of crowdfunding platforms.
“I have 50 friends who gave me a hand even though they have no interest whatsoever in video games. They helped me out because I had begged them to,” admits the developer.
Other creators can help you build your community
Other creators often prove to be important resources that can contribute to building a community. “We often promote other games through our mailing lists and other studios promote our game through theirs,” explains Gordon Walton. For Astrid Rosemarin, other developers sometimes manage to experience a good first crowdfunding campaign day on their own.
Community experts need to be taken care of
According to Gordon Walton, some community members are more important than others. “You need to locate and encourage your experts. They talk a lot and have lots of influence,” he explains.
These experts can quickly prove to be important wingers, helping you to convey messages and even answer other people’s questions. “Once you have identified them, you can ask them to give their opinion in private, offer them access to your novelties and give them attention,” adds the president of Art Craft Entertainment.
Maintain ongoing communications with your community
“During our campaign, we sent information to our community practically on a daily basis,” explains Gordon Walton. For the developer, these preplanned messages however represented only a small portion of everything that needed to be done.
“The day that we launched our Kickstarter campaign, we received 419 questions. On average, we received 303 questions per day during the entire duration of the campaign,” he states. “And we couldn’t afford to wait 24 hours before answering all these questions. Ideally, we needed to answer them within 15 minutes or a few hours at most. It’s therefore a full-time job,” he warns.
It’s important to take care of one’s community once the funding campaign is over
Communication does not stop when a funding campaign end. “It’s really important to continue communicating after the campaign to maintain its momentum,” estimates Astrid Rosemarin. Not only did your community fund your project, but it could also maximize the visibility of your project at launch time for so long as the project interests it.
For Execution Labs’ community manager, the type of community can have an influence on the type of messages and activities that should be privileged.
“For a community that enjoys video games broadcast in real time, it is for example possible to invite developers to weekly viewing sessions via Twitch. In the case of a more artistically inclined community, someone could for example organize contests on sites enabling them to showcase their portfolios,” she adds.
As for Jason Leaver, creator of the Out With Dad series, he allows the people who finance his work to follow him live as he edits his series and sometimes even sends them his scripts in advance.
A community can contribute to improving a project
Finally, a community is not only a way to raise money. “Your community can provide you with feedback on your game, your communications and your design. And this feedback is important. In fact, it’s as important as the money that the members of your community send you,” believes Alexis Kennedy.
A vibrant community can also present another unexpected advantage according to Astrid Rosemarin, by having a positive effect on the morale of the troops. “Developing a video game takes months, sometimes years. Having an enthusiastic community around the studio and its games can therefore pump creative energy into everyone.”