Study: These 100 phrases yield success on Kickstarter

When it comes down to it, running a campaign on a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter comes down to persuasion. Think about it: the success of any project is predicated on people (sometimes friends, but often total strangers) believing in a products months, even years before it’s destined to be finished. On a time limit.

But researchers at Georgia Tech published a report yesterday indicating that that persuasion could be hedged in the form of a few carefully chosen words. The group also put together a phrase dictionary, showing a hundred words that proved effective for funded campaigns and 100 clunkers in ones that failed to meet their goal.

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In order to narrow down the study to focus on the text, Georgia Tech associate professor Eric Gilbert and PhD candidate Tanushree Mitra isolated the variables in more than 45,000 projects on Kickstarter. After weeding out the influence of factors like the project goal amount and video, they picked out more than 9 million phrase structures and filtered those down to roughly 25,000 words before picking the most pertinent ones. The result was a list of 200 words seen most commonly in funded and unfunded projects.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the big winner for funded projects were phrases that insinuated reciprocity. Words like “also received two,” “got you” and “guaranteed” — often centered around the products backers get as a result of the pledge — have significant prevalence and influence in successful fundraisers. Another important factor is authority, which is inherent in words like “future,” “secure” and “we can afford.” In short, the text of the campaign proved most successful when the words used projected confidence, expertise, and plenty of incentive for backers.

On the other side, unsuccessful campaigns had more chancy language, and focused on the desire for funding rather than turning out a product. Phrases like “provide us,” “need one” and “help support” all made the not funded list, ostensibly for their desire for pledges. Oddly enough, words like “definitely,” “surely,” and “trust” also made the not-funded list — perhaps indicating that words don’t mean much under the scrutiny of backers.

Of course, it’s difficult to separate the language of a campaign from the actual product or project to be created with the money, or the influence of those raising the funds. But it stands to reason that confident language will be more persuasive than desperate pleas for money.