• Ian

Kickstarter reflections: The Spam Spectrum

I didn't manage to get a blog out last week as I've been fully immersed in the current KS campaign for Ukiyo (live now! Go and click on it! It's already funded! Tell the world!)

...and a cheesy promotion like that is a natural segue into this blog, which is a stroll through the many people that approach you via email and messaging the very moment your campaign goes live. I blogged on something very similar a couple of years ago following my first, unsuccessful campaign, when, frankly, I didn't know what was real and what was a scam. Check out the original post here. But now, older, wiser and more cynical, I can of course spot a time-waster a mile off... can't I?

This time round, the messages I've got so far seem to fall into one of five categories:

  1. Genuine help with no expectation of payment or reciprocation, sharing advice or offering to share your campaign in groups they're part of (turns out there are some really nice, helpful people out there that genuinely just want to help you succeed)

  2. Genuine help, but wanting something in return (like reciprocal promotion, or a free site posting where you give the backers an extra benefit). The latter sounds like a no-brainer but there's a risk that you inadvertently create 'tiers' of backers, some of whom benefit and others of whom don't. It's a similar dilemma with Early Birds and so far I've not done this, but it may suit your campaign.

  3. A business that may help boost your campaign, for a fee. There's a lot of services that offer to get the word out there, and who will generally make grand claims about how much money they can raise for you. If you're considering this (and some of the fees are modest so it's tempting to give it a try), it's important to understand where their strengths lie. For example, if you're creating a game, there's no point in paying someone to bombard thousands of people that have no apparent interest in games. Yes, I see that you helped this person raise a million dollars, but that was for a hover-fridge. This is a card game.

  4. A business that wants your money but isn’t necessarily going to benefit your campaign. May be indistinguishable from category 3, if you're not sufficiently clear about who you are trying to market your game to (and you are trying to market it, even if it doesn't feel like that)

  5. A fake approach, in order to do something nefarious - perhaps harvest your contact details, perhaps steal your money, or worse.

It can be really tempting to get involved - after all, your first Kickstarter is a learning experience, and you want to make sure you're making the most of it. Conversely, you might find yourself just consigning everything to the bin before checking it out - there's masses of this stuff, and you're busy. And that's fine too. But ideally you're looking for a way to quickly identify and develop the genuine offers of help, while slamming a firm door on the toes of the timewasters and scammers.

So here's a few tips from me on how to sort the wheat from the chaff. I should emphasise, I'm no expert, but these are the questions I ask myself when I get a new email off the back of my campaign. I'm not necessarily looking for ten out of ten right answers, but any less than about seven 'Yes'es will have me reaching for the delete key...

  1. Did you use my name? It's not a hard rule, but emails starting with 'Hey', or with no greeting at all, are more likely to be a bother.

  2. Have you got a real name and real email address? Watch out for suspiciously-generic email names (johnsmith75@gmail, etc...)

  3. Are you going to reply to my email that I may send you with some very sensible questions in it?

  4. Have you got a website? Like, a real one that you didn't just knock up in HTML yesterday..

  5. Does your website contain any details about you and your skills? Or is it in fact filled with stock photos of attractive people that may or not be you, with very little in the way of contact details?

  6. Have you shown signs of reading my actual campaign page? If so, you'll know that I'm not about to toss $500 your way for promotion when my funding goal is $1000.. And don't talk about 'projects like yours' unless you're going to make a specific reference to me actual project.

  7. Did your Kickstarter profile get created earlier than this very week? I was approached on launch day by two apparent Goliaths of crowdfunding promotion, who claimed to have years of experience and to have raised literally zillions of dollars in campaign funding - yet their KS account was two days old and hadn't backed any projects. Now obviously, you don't have to have backed projects with that account, or at all, to be a marketing expert, but it looks shifty to me.

  8. Have you sent me what seems to be an original email, with text that you wrote for me, or have you sent me literally the same generic email nine days running (Backercity, I'm looking at you)?

  9. Are your claims of success credible? Or are you claiming credit for some of the world's most successful crowdfunding projects ever, without really explaining exactly what you, personally, did?. I'm amazed at just how many marketing companies the makers of the Pebble Watch and Coolest Cooler used for their campaigns, because almost everyone seems to claim a piece of the credit...

  10. Are you asking me for money before giving my any indication what you do or what I can expect for my hard-earned?

Now what I haven't included in there as a warning sign is bad English - it's often cited as a way to spot a scam, and it's a good rule of thumb if an email is claiming to be from a Government agency, for example, or your doctor. But in my view, there's no reason why a legitimate company would necessarily have a perfect grasp of English. Goodness knows my Mandarin is terrible. Gaming is a global business - incredibly, my first 100 backers were from 21 different countries. So I'd rather cut people a bit of slack in that regard.

I do have a threshold for exclamation marks and capital letters though. One or two is fine, but my suspicions may be raised if “We can BOOST YOUR PROJECT and get you THOUSANDS of hungry backers!!!!!”

So be alert, but don't forget there's a lot of lovely people out there too.

What other warning signs have you seen in your Inbox?

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