Kickstarter Advice: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth. Issue 3: the Vocal Fan.

Kickstarter inspires people to become fans of a dream on its way to come true. Being involved in a project from day one makes people more involved in the process of making your game – for better, and for worse. How to deal with vocal fans so that they become a boon?

If you’re tuning in for the first time, this is the third instalment in a series of articles (inspired by this blog post), in which I try to look at different types of advice offered to Kickstarter creators to show you what might aid them – and what might end them (as buddying designers/publishers). So whether you’re a newbie creator hungry for knowledge, or a backer looking to peek behind the curtain, this article is definitely for you.

Having loyal fans is important for any publisher who uses Kickstarter to publish a significant number of their games. Fans follow creators that they had previously backed, gladly communicate with both the designer/publisher, as well as with other backers. It seems that there isn’t and cannot be a way this could turn against the creator, especially one that keeps his or her fan base happy.

It’s very easy to talk about everything that is good about having a loyal fan base. Fans make projects more dynamic, ensuring a better and faster start. Their love for the product and their involvement in the crowdfuding process often makes the truly vocal fans ambassadors of your game. A vocal fan will often go out of their way to share your project on different forums and social media platforms.

Loyal fans are also always ready to help, to get involved with and (again, in line with what Kickstarter allows you to do) make your game better for everyone, themselves included. If your fans are also seasoned gamers, they can come up with brilliant ideas that genuinely make your game better – and by being open and ready to communicate with others, they can also make others excited about new developments in your crowdfunding campaign.

Hell has no fury as a fan scorned. While when treated well, a loyal fan is one of the greatest assets you might wish for, one that has been neglected or (even worse) publicly belittled might become an enemy for life. The same energy that went into helping you out will now turn against you, and if the fan is truly a vocal one, their experience will be widely known within hours.

While most creators are not foolish enough to alienate their greatest fans on purpose, sometimes this happens by accident, or by following the wishes of other fans. Especially when making a controversial decision, a creator risks splitting their fan base into opposing camps. The more vocal fans will become the most visible, often actively working to make their version the one and only, and clearly stating that the condition for their further support is doing everything their way.

You can probably see a bit of the Ugly Truth seeping into the Bad: vocal fans are often the ones that feel the most entitled to make straight up demands. Based on their involvement in the current project (and possibly past ones as well), those vocal fans will often stop at nothing to have everything their way. So, even without actually spiting anyone, a creator may have a bit of a problem on their head.

Similarly problematic are vocal fans who are not really fans. They are people who saw your game, liked it at first glance, and upon further research concluded that what you’re offering is not what they want to pledge for. They want something else, and they will (again) stop and nothing to make it happen, even though simply cancelling their pledge and looking for something more in line with their interests would save them (and you, the creator) a bit of grief.

Still, it is also true that the discussion of the project brought on by the people who want to change it (often a discussion that conquers new land like Board Game Geek and Facebook), draws more attention to the project. Every share is still a share, and every comment fuels the discussion on the project page, making people interested in what is all that fuss about.

Just like with communication (dealt with previously), I can advise being prepared and flexible. A project creator has to learn to take a bit of a beating from their backers. Sometimes, the beating is well deserved, and sometimes a frustrated backer will simply want to vent their frustration – and that you have to be ready for more than for anything else.

In general, backers are well-meaning, and I could repeat here what I’ve already written (in the previous post of the series): be clear in what you say, be polite in how you say it, and be truthful. There is no way to make everybody happy, but we subscribe to the idea of being professional and simply nice to our backers, because backers are our allies.

Now, to wrap this up, I will address the elephant in the room: what happens when one of your backers is simply a troll? In that situation you do what you pretty much should always do when encountering this type of user: ignore the remarks designed to irritate, answer politely and informatively to anything else. Treat that backer (and any other backers) the way you’d like to be treated by other creators, and remember that at the end of the day it may turn out you were in error, and the troll is not really a troll, but merely a vocal fan… having a bad day.

Do you have questions? Would you like to know more about a specific facet of Kickstarter project creation? Shoot us a question in the comments, or visit our Strawberry Kickstarter services website to get the insight and help you need with launching your own successful campaign.

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