Monday, March 31, 2014

Kickstarter Post Mortem

The Kickstarter campaign is over and it failed to reach its goal. The last shovelful of dirt has been laid down upon its resting place. It was an interesting experiment despite the disappointing result.
I did get a good surge in pledges at the beginning.  Better than I expected, not quite as good as I had hoped. But then it went silent. Based on what other reported about their Kickstarter campaigns, this was not unexpected.
I pushed during the second week on several social networks. Then I pushed much harder during the following weeks. To no avail. Beyond the initial surge, there were maybe two or three more pledges. Then nothing.
I knew at that point the campaign was over.
Better luck next time.
So– What went wrong?
Poorly structured promotion. Plus, some policy changes made on one social network that effectively silenced my promotion efforts.
In retrospect, I should have started pushing the fundraising campaign at least two months before I had started it. By informing people of what I was about to do and how things worked, I would have had many more people warmed up and ready to pledge support. Instead, I chose to “surprise” everyone and dropped it on everyone with only two days of notice it was coming. A larger surge in the early days of the campaign would have convinced some potential pledges on the fence to jump in.
Another error was putting Facebook at the center of my promotion efforts.
Four years ago, Facebook would have been the place to go. Today, it is a mistake to focus on Facebook. The reason being, Facebook has quietly put in place a policy and a system to restrict postings from professionals that promote their products or services.
In some ways, this is a good thing. It helps reduce and avoid the spam that could inevitably clog everyone’s wall. The flip side to this is celebrities and entertainers can no longer reach their audience via Facebook.
Gabbie Rae is a young singer with a fabulous voice. She also happens to be the cousin of a friend of mine, so I follow her career quietly and enjoy a lot of her songs. She has a voice that allows her a range from projecting the peppy energy of pop, lighting the fire and rocking it hard, to delivering a soft and laid back blues. At some point, you are going to hear the name, “Gabbie Rae.”
Rae’s promotions were very active on Facebook. As it should be since her career is growing. But I began to notice that I wasn’t hearing much. The flow had slowed to a trickle, and then her feed disappeared altogether. If anything, those promotions should have at least gotten bigger as her career was taking off. The posts were still going up on her wall, I just was not seeing them.
Facebook finally revealed—and I discovered just a couple of days after I began my Kickstarter campaign—that they were throttling back promotional posts from professionals. If a professional wanted to promote their activities or products, they had to pay. If they didn’t pay, then their posts wouldn’t reach more than a handful of people.
Suddenly it made sense to me why I was hearing nothing from celebrities and colleagues on Facebook.
It also explains why almost no one outside a small handful of people were seeing my announcements about my Kickstarter campaign. In theory, I should have been able to reach just over 300,000 people through my friends.
Keep in mind, Facebook is being neither greedy nor evil with this move. It will reduce junk and spam, and it closes a loophole where they were missing out on revenue. Facebook is a free service to users where they can connect with friends, family, and people with shared interests. But it costs money to run an operation like that, so somebody has to pay somewhere. And if you want to make money through Facebook, you should be expected to pay the toll.
It’s just that a policy like that has a profound effect on starting professionals such as myself who are operating on a shoestring budget (well, used dental floss in my case). Like others, I'm pretty much out in the cold and will have to look for a new way to get the word out about my books. The days when a new writer in the market could leverage Facebook to reach potential new readers are over. The next Amanda Hocking will have to find another channel to work for promotion.
I always tell people, for your Plan-A, you shouldn’t just have a Plan-B but a Plan-C as well. Always have a backup!
For this particular case, I didn’t. The error falls squarely on myself. I should have been building up more of a presence on Google+ and Twitter (@W_D_Richards) in preparation for the campaign than I did. I neglected those channels and didn’t pay enough attention to the warning signs  I was seeing.
My return on investment (ROI) for my time promoting in Facebook was terrible. It is my fault for ignoring what I was seeing and trying to forge ahead. It makes sense that I should be putting more time into G+ and Twitter. The amount of response I got from those channels was completely disproportionate to the time I put into them when compared to other channels. I’m not out of Facebook completely. But I probably won’t be around it as much as I spread more of my time to other networking opportunities.
And of course, I have my Plan-B just about ready to launch.
Aggadeh Chronicles Book 1: Nobody will be available as a paperback via Createspace shortly. As soon as I finish the new cover art…