The Kick in Kickstarter

What’s the difference between Pebble and Ninja Baseball? One is an Internet-linked watch that’s more advanced than anything Dick Tracy ever had. The other is a video game. But if you look at the results of their Kickstarter campaigns, the difference is more than $10 million.

Now a new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests the language used in Kickstarter campaigns has a lot to do with whether they succeed or fail. Yes, ideas count for a lot. But when researchers Tanushree Mitra and Eric Gilbert completed their detailed statistical analysis, they found that words win people over—or not. They wrote:

“We find that among 59 control variables and 20,391 phrases, the top 100 predictors of funded and not funded are solely comprised of phrases.”

Successful campaigns often used phrases that suggest some sort of reciprocity, social identity, or social reinforcement. The idea is that if you give, you will receive something—good karma, reinforcement, a reward, or whatever. Words suggesting authority, scarcity, and liking also tended to predict success.

On the other hand, phrases that seemed like groveling were likely to backfire. “Even a dollar” might help a project get closer to its goal, but the phrase was often associated with funding failures in the study. Other failing phrases suggested a lack of confidence, command, or clear planning. Examples were “hope to get,” “not been able,” or “later I.”

The researchers’ results will likely guide future fundraising campaigns. Meanwhile, the study underscores what we all know deep down: Words matter.

The words we use say something about us. And those same words trigger responses from other people.

Choose your words wisely—whether you’re on Kickstarter or not.


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