Kickstarter, the crowdsourced funding platform, is an all-or-nothing proposition. Either your project reaches its funding goal, and you get to work developing your product, or it doesn't and you go home with nothing. So what's the best way to ensure your passion project makes it past the finish line? Pay attention to your pitch.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology culled the 20,391 most common phrases that appeared in the text of 45,000 Kickstarters to try to decipher what makes the difference between the wild success of a project like the Pebble smart watch, and an abject, nameless failure. Their results "indicate a fundamental force which drives the 'crowd' to fund crowd-projects: language." In other words, the words you use to describe your project matter, even in very subtle ways.
Some takeaways: Phrases that indicated that backers would receive something in return for their donation had a tendency to get funded. This should be pretty obvious. Gifts: We like them! So phrases like "pledged will," "also receive two" and "mention your"--all indicators of some kind of reward--tended to show up in projects that were funded. A surprisingly good predictor of funding success? The phrase "good karma and." Words like "encouragement," "given the chance" and "as people" worked, but offering to dress up as something as a reward (example: "a skype date with us dressed up as celebrities") did not. Nor did overusing phrases that hint at desperation, like "need one" or "provide us."
The researchers believe that these type of findings could be built into the design of a crowdfunding site. They suggest a help center that could guide new users:
The page lists words, phrases and language-style guides for project pitches: those which are associated with successful funding and those which are not. Moreover, perhaps while a project creator types her project pitch on the funding website, the site alerts her whenever the words and phrases shift toward negative predictors. It could perhaps also provide her with alternative language to increase the chances of success.
However, these particular results should be taken with just a pinch of salt. A few odd phrases showed up in the top predictors list, including the word "cats." The researchers write: "we had no clear explanation for the occurrence of cats—except for the commonly accepted wisdom that the Internet loves them." If you were ever in doubt, the key to success, on Kickstarter and elsewhere, is kitties. Now, it's once that funding rolls in that the real challenge starts.