Carol Benovic is the Senior Community Education Manager at Kickstarter, and she spends her time there creating resources and sharing best practices to help creators make their ideas come to life. Today, she shares an insider’s guide on how to run your own successful campaign.
No two photographs are exactly alike, and neither are two photography projects. On Kickstarter, we’ve seen close-ups on parts of the world that often remain unseen, intimate looks into family life, pet portraits, trips to food trucks, and much more. But each of the over 9,000 projects that have launched in the Photography category have at least one thing in common, they each have an incredible and compelling story and photographer behind it. The key to a good campaign is just letting that shine through.
Here’s how you can make sure your campaign is ready to launch and to be well-received by your community:
1. First impressions matter; wow them with one of your best photos.
Whether someone comes across your project on Facebook, Twitter, or while browsing on Kickstarter, the first thing they’ll see is your main project image. Make sure to get their attention by putting your best photo forward. Your project image should be crisp, high-quality, and text-free. It should also capture the subject of your project and leave people wanting more. Looking at your own social media accounts, think about which posts make you stop and click. Go for the same effect.
The Singh Project had an A+ project image
If you want to increase the wow-factor or you’re having trouble settling on one picture, change your image every few days or once a week throughout your campaign. If you go with this strategy, don’t forget to announce the new image on your social media channels and provide some back-story on the photo in a project update.
• Cosmic Surgery by Alma Haser
• The Singh Project by Amit and Naroop
• 99 x 99s by Luke Stephenson
2. Pair that stunning project image with a descriptive caption.
Time for a crash course in search engine optimization: your title and blurb should give people a general idea of what your project is about. As you’re writing it, think about the keywords that people could use to find your project on the internet and include some of those! People probably won’t search for terms like “help fund” or “support me,” so try words that describe what you’re making, like “photobook,” “fine art photography,” “portraits,” or “Polaroids.”
“A 4-year-old’s Portrait of the American West,” the title here says it all!
3. If a picture is worth one thousand words… what are your thousand words?
A good title and project image go a long way, but having a thorough description of your project is equally important. Put your story front and center. Your description (and your project video) should explain the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your project. Think of your project page as a reflection of your portfolio. Communicate the basis of your project, how you became connected to the subject, and why people should be excited to support you.
Your project page is really an extension of your work, so make yourself proud and spend time writing a description that is clear and captivating, and don’t forget to include photos!
The Lams of Ludlow Street shares an intimate look into the life of a Chinese family in NYC’s Chinatown.
4. Think about a different way to share your photography for each day of your campaign.
A different way each day might be a little bit ambitious, but planning out your communications strategy and a few different approaches is a must. Think about how you normally share your work and then amplify and diversify that strategy. If you have a strong following on Facebook, definitely share your project there, but don’t forget about other platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Flickr.
And get creative! Talking about your project or creative work might feel daunting at first, but it can also be fun. For example, you could post a different image on Instagram for each day of your campaign (don’t forget to include a link to your campaign in your bio), host an AMA on Twitter, or even do a local meet-up on the subject of photography. Our biggest piece of advice: If your promotion strategy feels spammy to you, it probably feels spammy to others, too. Try some of the suggestions on this list to get comfortable sharing your work before you launch a campaign.
5. Focus on your audience.
When you’re setting your goal and thinking through the scope of your project, it’s important to think about how your audience aligns with it. Have you funded a project with the help of your community before? Do you have the tools (time!) and channels you need to share the news about your project with them? How much can you rely on them to contribute? Thinking through these questions thoroughly and honestly will not only help you set a realistic goal, but it will also be an indicator of what you need to work on.
6. What rewards would you want from your favorite photographer?
Your rewards should be as unique, compelling, and focused as your best photographs. Offer between five and seven options that are closely connected to your project. Treat rewards as unique items that people can only receive if they back your project. If you’re offering something like a photograph, postcard, or poster, make sure that the image you choose is one that will resonate with your audience and will also make them feel closer to your work.
Chris Anthony’s Seas without a Seashore campaign offered some magical and mysterious prints as rewards.
It might be tempting to offer things like keychains or stickers, but if they’re not closely connected to what you’re making and they don’t showcase your photography, it’s not worth your time or effort. Your main focus should always be your project, not making one-off rewards. Brainstorm interesting and one-of-a-kind items and experiences that backers will enjoy and that you will enjoy making and delivering.
7. Use updates as a window into your photography process and progress.
Each update that you post should be as exciting as your project itself, and each post should encourage backers to share the news within their circles. Think of the unique lense that you as a photographer can offer to people that might not be regularly exposed to your craft. Your updates can focus on everything from what brought you to your subject, guest posts from people that you have photographed, process posts that share what equipment you use, to recaps of gallery shows that you participate in.
Scout’s updates for The Armenian Diaspora Project consistently shared her progress and her great photos.
Use updates as a mechanism to bring backers along on your entire project journey, from start to finish and beyond. Before you launch your campaign, plan out a few that can highlight key milestones – like making it halfway to your goal, getting 50 backers, 100 backers, etc. and decide on a cadence for how often you’ll update (and stick to it).
If you need more inspiration, these updates are a few of our favorites:
• The Wonderland Book by Kirsty Mitchell
• The Inge Morath Truck Project by Danube Revisited
• 99 x 99s by Luke Stephenson
• The Lams of Ludlow Street by Thomas Holton
8. And most importantly, do you!
A campaign can require a lot of planning, but it’s also an opportunity to put your best photography forward, show your community how serious you are about your idea, and how excited you are to get them involved. Take the time to build a project page, plan, and team that you’re confident in.