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Kickstarter: Words to use to successfully crowdsource funds

Phrases that pay on Kickstarter
As part of a study of more than 45,000 projects on Kickstarter, Georgia Tech researchers reveal dozens of phrases that pay and a few dozen more that may signal the likely failure of a crowd-sourced effort.

Researchers at Georgia Tech studying the burgeoning phenomenon of crowdfunding have learned that the language used in online fundraising hold surprisingly predictive power about the success of such campaigns.

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As part of their study of more than 45,000 projects on Kickstarter, Assistant Professor Eric Gilbert and doctoral candidate Tanushree Mitra reveal dozens of phrases that pay and a few dozen more that may signal the likely failure of a crowd-sourced effort.

"Our research revealed that the phrases used in successful Kickstarter campaigns exhibited general persuasion principles," said Gilbert, who runs the Comp. Social Lab at Georgia Tech. "For example, those campaigns that follow the concept of reciprocity -- that is, offer a gift in return for a pledge -- and the perceptions of social participation and authority, generated the greatest amount of funding."

While offering donors a gift may improve a campaign's success, the study found the language project creators used to express the reward made the difference. For example, the phrases "also receive two," "has pledged" and "project will be" strongly foretell that a project will reach funding status, while phrases such as "dressed up," "not been able" and "trusting" are attached to unfunded projects.

The researchers examined the success of Pebble, which is the most successful Kickstarter campaign to date with more than $10 million in pledges, and compared it to Ninja Baseball, a well-publicized PC game that only earned a third of its $10,000 goal.

"The discrepancy in funding success between projects like Pebble and Ninja Baseball prompted us to consider why some projects meet funding goals and others do not," Mitra said. "We found that the driving factors in crowdfunding ranged from social participation to encouragement to gifts -- all of which are distinguished by the language used in the project description."

For their research, Gilbert and Mitra assembled a list of all Kickstarter projects launched as of June 2, 2012, and had reached their last date of fund collection. Of the more than 45,000 projects, 51.53 percent were successfully funded while 48.47 percent were not.

After controlling for variables such as funding goals, video, social media connections, categories and pledge levels, the researchers focused on more than 20,000 phrases before compiling a dictionary of more than 100 phrases with predictive powers of success or failure.

The research suggested that the language used by creators to pitch their project plays a major role in driving the project's success, accounting for 58.56 percent of the variance around success. The language generally fit into the following categories:

  • Reciprocity or the tendency to return a favor after receiving one as evidenced by phrases such as "also receive two," "pledged will" and "good karma."
    • "If you grant the request, I will reward you."
    • "pledgers will have [their pick, a special credit]" 
    • "pledgers will [get, also receive, have], receive two [free, full passes, tickets, copies of]"
  • Scarcity or attachment to something rare as shown with "option is" and "given the chance."
    • People attach more value to products and opportunities which are rare, distinct, limited in supply or are available for a limited time. For example, the following excerpt from a successful project pitch emphasizes limited time availability:
      • "for anyone who comes by and was thinking of pledging, the option is still there until 5:04 pm on 17 October. if you want the lower calendar price and no shipping charges, or if any of the rewards tickle your fancy, they’re still available through Kickstarter until Monday afternoon."
  • Social Proof, Persuasive tactics use this principle by making people aware of what others are doing to increase their likelihood to follow along. We see traces of social proof in the language of funded projects, often signaling the attention the project has already received. 
    • "[name] has pledged some gas money. yay! Thank you!"
    • "you can see that i already have people willing to support my art"
    • "we’ve hit the 50% mark! huge thanks to everyone who has pledged"
    • so far. it is truly inspiring!

  • Social Identity Social identity is an individual’s knowledge that he belongs to a social group, in which individuals have common attributes and identify themselves in similar ways. They adopt the group member’s attitudes as their own and their decisions are influenced by the group’s majority opinion.
    • "a large portion of our community has come togetherto build this"
  • Liking.  People are more likely to comply with a person or product if they like them. Positive remarks about another person’s attitudes and performance increases liking.
    • "with your help, this project will be a success, and you’ll be able to enjoy our movie at a festival near you! thanks very much
    • the support from the disney fan community and everyone who has pledged so far has been amazing
  • Authority, where people resort to expert opinions for making efficient and quick decisions as shown by phrases such as "we can afford" and "project will be."
  • Additional Phrases to consider:
    • "in exchange we offer the chance to secure the extremely limited special edition of the album and other items"
    • "so pledging $10 is the only way to guarantee a copy"

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Story Source:  Materials provided by Georgia Institute of Technology. "Phrases revealed that pay on Kickstarter." ScienceDaily.


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