How to Boost Your Audience
Crowdfunding (aka Cyberfunded Creativity) lives or dies based on its audience interaction. The quality depends not just on the talent of the creator, but also on the scope and liveliness of the audience. The better an audience a crowdfunded project has, the higher its chances of success. Here are some tips for improving the activity and size of your audience, useful for cyberfunded creativity and for blogging in general.
When people feel excited about a project and invested in its outcome, they participate with great enthusiam. In a lively audience, people comment on blog posts, cross-chat with each other, make suggestions and constructive criticism, respond to queries, link to posts or pages, talk about the project on their social networks -- and spend money. The more active your audience is, the easier it is to build momentum, because people respond to each other's input.
To make an audience more lively:
- Invite feedback by asking questions. You may have a blog where people can leave comments, or an art archive that allows viewer notes, or just a feedback form. Always make sure you offer your audience some way to reach you -- and that you regularly reach out to them too.
- Praise people when they comment. Everyone loves to be appreciated. Most people enjoy attention; when you respond positively to a comment, that encourages more feedback. The same person will probably comment again, and some other audience members might join in also.
- Track your main topics. Know what you write about, illustrate, or otherwise cover the most often. Some blog systems or webstat programs do this automatically. (For instance, on LiveJournal, go to your Profile page, select "Organize" and then "Manage Tags." Look under "Your Tags" and sort by "Usage." Click each tag topic to display its number of posts and other data.) Otherwise you'll need to do it yourself.
- Ask your audience how they feel about your main topics. You need to know if they like the topics you are posting about most frequently. It also helps to find out what topics they would like more (or less) of. This makes it easier for you to make decisions about your current project's direction, or to choose new projects in the future. Always aim for the "sweet spot" where your passion overlaps that of your audience.
- Post polls. People enjoy being asked for their opinion. For some reason, cyberspace users just seem to love polls -- so much that some polls just have a line that says "ticky box!" because people will checkmark anything. Use polls to find out what your audience likes best, why people did or didn't respond to a particular opportunity, which perks they want, etc. If you're not sure what to do with your project next, ask your audience!
- Watch for active people who interest you. Subscribe to their blog, friend them on a social network, or make some other kind of contact. Also grant them access to your blog, point them to your profile page, invite them to visit your website, and otherwise try to attract their attention. Remember: if you want to meet interesting people, first become an interesting person yourself. Then other interesting people will want to meet you. If you're a crowdfunding creator, chances are you're interesting!
When people notice a crowd gathering, they tend to hustle over to see what's attracting all that attention. A large audience generates more noise than a small one. In cyberspace, that means people talk about your project both on its original venue and on their social networks. The more people in your audience, the farther your signal will reach and the more new viewers they will attract.
To make an audience bigger:
- Encourage your current readers to link to your project. The more they tell their friends about it, the more likely some of those friends will drop by to take a look at what you're doing.
- Use social networking. Create a Facebook page, FriendFeed account, MyBlogLog community, Twitter account, etc. for your crowdfunding project and yourself as a creative person. Don't just jump on whatever network seems hot, though. Make sure that you choose networks you like enough to use. Dead pages do you no good. You need to create a following, which means you need a stream of fresh content. Note that some services, like FriendFeed, will pipe in material for elsewhere and/or aggregate multiple sources into a single stream. That lets you extend your reach without raising your workload: always a good thing for a busy creator.
- Post on other people's blogs. Frequent blogs that have a big, active audience and a topic related to your crowdfunding project. Always say something interesting and relevant to the blog. People who see your name and like reading your comments may follow you back to see what other cool stuff you're doing.
- If you use a WordPress blog, get the CommentLuv plugin. That way, when you comment on someone else's blog, a link appears under your name with the title of a recent post from your own blog. Use this to direct people's attention to your crowdfunding project.
- Host a contest for spreading the word about your project. For each blog post, link, tweet, or other announcement that someone makes, they get an entry. Offer at least one cool prize, such as a signed art card or a guest appearance in a webserial. Hold a drawing at the end of the contest and then announce the winner.
- Join some networking communities. Most blog services have some kind of "add me," "add a writer," or "add an artist" community. You should already belong to one for cyberfunded creatvitity, such as Crowdfunding on LiveJournal or on Dreamwidth. Other social networks besides blogs may have similar friending or crowdfunding opportunities. Check whatever services you use.
- Join communities related to your topic. These typically contain members who might like your crowdfunding project. Post frequently on these communities and talk about things relevant to its theme. If your project happens to be a close match, you can mention it periodically, but don't spam them.
- Scan the membership lists of your communities for possible contacts. Visit other members' journals to see what they have to say. Connect with the people who appeal to you. They may follow you back to your crowdfunding project if they get to know you.
- Watch for people whose interests match yours, and reach out to them. Potential fans are everywhere on the Web. Respond to their posts, comments, or other messages. Add them to your Friends list or the local equivalent on your services. Do they have crowdfunding or other projects? Boost the signal for those; people often return the favor.
- Announce that you will release new material when a target number of new Friends join. (This idea is courtesy of Ave Pasifika.) This generalizes well to other participation-based perks that reward people with extra content. Frex, the Poetry Fishbowl posts a second freebie poem if there is at least one new prompter or donor that month.
The content and quality of your cyberfunded creativity will have a significant impact on the liveliness and size of your audience. The more skillful and engrossing a project, the better an audience it tends to attract. So when people pay attention to your work, make sure that they get what they pay for.
More and better content helps both the activity and scope of your audience:
- Post frequently. Once a week is the minimum for an effective blog, several times a week is better, and daily is best. Webfic and webcomic serials typically post either once a week, three days a week, or daily. Think about what new things happen that your audience might enjoy knowing, in addition to your core content. Remember that cyberfunded creativity relies heavily on audience interaction: those folks want to know you, not just your content.
- Post regularly. Pick a day of the week or several days in the month when your project always updates, and tell people when. If your project is high-traffic, with daily or near-daily updates, this is less crucial. If it's a weekly or monthly project, be there on that day.
- Make sure people know where to watch for updates. You might use a blog, RSS feed, email list, social networking, etc. Some projects, such as webcomics or art archives, have an automatic feature that takes visitors to the newest content first. An independent website might have a front page with a "NEW" box highlighted the most recent additions.
- Post good material. If it is dull, ugly, or difficult to decipher then people will probably not pay much attention to it. Accept constructive criticism. Always continue to hone your craft, try new things, and develop skills.
- It's okay to post worthwhile goofs, too. Sharing your experiments, failures, and/or works-in-progress can draw attention if you discuss your goals and what is going right or wrong. It's especially helpful to post a comparative batch of "almost" and "just right" examples, such as colortests for a painting or a batch of photos with different framing. This attracts other people who are trying to learn similar skills. Besides, sometimes mishaps are funny. Once in a rare while, an audience will go nuts over them: see Cakewrecks for a prime example.
- Produce original material. Distinguish your work from the stuff that everybody else is doing, in topic, style, and/or presentation. Strive to create a "brand name" effect so that your audience will recognize and value your work as a collective mass, because it is yours and contains your unique aesthetic expression. If they can't get it anywhere else, people are more likely to hang around your crowdfunded project to get the goodies.
- Relay interesting material. Watch communities and newsfeeds related to the topic of your cyberfunded creativity. Do the same for other crowdfunded projects that have or could have strong audience overlap. If you spot relevant news, post an excerpt and link to the original article, then add some personal comments. When people find a good source for news that interests them, they tend to check it often.
In conclusion, cyberfunded creativity necessarily entails a substantial amount of audience maintenance. You need to think about who your fans are, what they want, and how to tell them you've got it. A successful project needs to retain its current fans while attracting new ones, so you also have to consider outreach. Plan time for those things when laying out your crowdfunding schedule.
Do you have more tips for achieving these goals? Use the contact form below for suggestions.