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What Not To Say In Your Kickstarter Campaign

New research finds that just a few words can make the difference between funding and failure.

What Not To Say In Your Kickstarter Campaign

[Image: Flickr user Vinoth Chandar]

Kickstarter generated $480 million in pledges in 2013, but that doesn't mean your project is guaranteed a piece of the cash flow.

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers studied hundreds of thousands of Kickstarters for hints of what made successful projects. They focused on the copy-writing inside the projects. Using data-mining software, researchers studied 45,000 Kickstarter projects and analyzed 9 million phrases, according to New Scientist. What they found: Language that evoked gift-giving was a big donation-getter, just like the word "green," as in "sustainable." Turnoffs: a lack of confidence.

Researcher Tanushree Mitra says Kickstarter phrases that offer a strong "reciprocity" led to successful funding. Offering a gift to backers generated the most funding, regardless of the value of the gift. Consider the price jump for backer incentives. You could be missing out on a lot of collective dollars from middle-ground backers by jumping from $50 to $100.

Mitra also says confidence is key. Researchers found that even the slightest hint of desperation is backer repellent. Don’t use these three words: "even a dollar." Researchers found that phrases "even a dollar short" and "even a dollar can" resulted in a failed project. They team said it reads as "groveling" for money, which is a big turnoff.

Critics also say there's a big missed opportunity in the word "green." Failing to acknowledge or include a sustainable feature could be a game changer. Any chance to get the word "green" in there will score extra points with Kickstarter’s eco-friendly crowd.

The researchers studied Pebble Smartwatch's wildly successful Kickstarter campaign against failed campaigns. Pebble made history last April when it became the most backed project on Kickstarter to date. Originally seeking $100,000, the company received more than $10 million—$2.6 million of which came in the last few days. (Statistically, technology and gaming projects have the highest amount of successfully funded campaigns in the $20,000 to $1 million range, but fall to the bottom of the barrel at any price under that.)

Aside from words, numbers obviously play a key role in any crowdfunding campaigns. Kickstarter whisperer Vincent Etter says founders need to be realistic about their asking prices. "Campaigns that fail usually ask for more money, over a longer time period—with the exception of video games, for which successful campaigns have a higher goal on average." Still not sure if you're under or over-pricing yourself?—Bring in the experts. Companies like Dragon Innovation have helped Kickstarter projects including Pebble’s campaign.

"Crowd funding at present is a bit like the internet in 1995," Tom Walkinshaw, founder of successfully funded nano satellite startup PocketQube, told New Scientist. "Everyone agrees it could be really game-changing, but there is a real lack of in-depth knowledge on why some campaigns work while others just fizzle out. This could undoubtedly be beneficial to both crowd funding hopefuls and new crowd funding platforms."