Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Thirteen Point Six: "Life Online" and My First Try at Crowd-Funding

The Indiegogo Funding campaign for my new documentary, "Life Online," ended on New Year's Eve.  We raised a total of $750, or 13.6% of the $5,500 goal.  We had a total of 17 donations, ranging from $2 to $150, from donors in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. .   Of course, I would have liked to have gotten closer to our stated goal, but this is only the first step in a wider effort to get the film made.  Am I disappointed?  Sure, but the experience proved to be invaluable, nevertheless.

When I began the campaign, I hadn't realized to what extent events in the world at large would play in my efforts.  I felt obligated to hold back on social media efforts for hours or even days at a time.  During the period of this campaign, there were major efforts on Indiegogo and elsewhere to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  The Presidential election occurred a week into the campaign.  I didn't tweet or post content related to the campaign in the days following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School - that simply felt unethical and disrespectful.  My campaign also occurred over the Holiday season, extending from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve.  

This campaign provided an opportunity to re-connect with many of my documentary colleagues, and presented opportunities to help the further development of this project (i.e. a feature film), once this short film is done.   I also spoke with a couple of college production classes about the project and social media in general, confirming my belief that the time is right for "Life Online."  Finally, wrote this feature story on my project and social media philosophy.  That, in itself, is incredibly valuable.

As part of this effort, I've been posting blogs related to my thoughts and ideas related to this production: inspiring films, my approaches to production, and my perspective on social media.  This hyper-focused content has increased my social media network (especially my blog readership,  but Twitter followers and YouTube channel subscribers are also trending upward). 

Why didn't the campaign reach it's full potential? There are numerous reasons, of course, ranging from topic to campaign management, but it really comes back down to the "crowd" in crowd-funding.  Final stats showed that I had only 303 visitors to the campaign page - but with a total of 1,031 views (meaning some of the same people visited several times). The page was liked on Facebook 104 times, and tweeted a total of 146 times.  For this to have been effective, those numbers should have been much higher.  Once again, this sort of campaign only works if the campaigner can actually attract a "crowd."  I'll leave the question of how I would do things differently for another blog.

Was it worth it? Definitely.  The campaign was useful in launching the project and creating some early "buzz," which will in turn prove helpful as we move forward and explore other avenues to help make this a reality It also continued my ongoing effort to build a creative "eco-system" to support my creative work across traditional and nontraditional platforms (more on that soon).  

Finally, it's important to mention that I had the choice to either create a funding arrangement that paid only if the goal was reached, or create an arrangement that paid out regardless of the final result.  I chose to the second option.   Part of my reason is motivational:  Friends and strangers have donated time and money to this effort.   Those who have chosen to contribute to the project, or help promote it in other ways, have expressed trust and belief in my abilities to follow through.  

Crowd-funding is a fantastic tool - even if it provides just 13.6 percent of the funding.
My social media efforts focus on exploring ways of using social technology as a tool to accomplish my creative goals.  It's not, however, the only tool available.  While I would have liked to have fully funded this project with this one method, many productions come together through multiple channels of funding and support - I'll continue to pursue those other channels. 

The experience of creating and running this campaign has enhanced my understanding of the mechanics of creating effective and useful social media.  Experience trumps theory every time.

And yes, I would do it again.


  1. Yes, you would do it again, but how soon? Any chance a second effort for this project could occur - either at indie-gogo or somewhere else, like kickstarter - in the spring?

    And 13.6% is significant in demonstrating interest in the project to more "traditional" funders, and in getting it started.

    Thank you for sharing what you learned (and that you need to bring a crowd to crowd funding) with us. Could be very helpful to others.

  2. That's a good question - and worth pondering. I would only be comfortable creating a second follow-up campaign if I had a reasonable expectation of throwing out a wider net. That remains the challenge.