Jan.13

Do you need social media to be successful on Kickstarter? Case Study on the Auroma Coffee Brewer – Kickstarter’s Latest Funding Success Story

TL DR – No because a good product funds itself but you’d be stupid not to have any social presence. 

Kickstarter success is a fascinating topic, one that cannot be answered in a single blog post. To really go in-depth, I would need more data from Kickstarter themselves. Unfortunately I do not have that treasure trove of data, nor do I have the video analytics of their video platform.

Based on general observations, Kickstarter success largely depends on luck and timing… more than we give it credit. For example, VR’s timing was perfect and helped launch Oculus Rift through their Kickstarter campaign. However, this isn’t to say that marketing plays a major role and in some cases, the product sells it self which is the best marketing strategy. I don’t think there is one clear marketing strategy; on the whole, each success is case by case and with a few common themes that results in potential Kickstarter success (later in the post).

However, I really don’t think you need to focus on marketing with Facebook or Twitter pages to ensure that your campaign is a success.

Auroma is the latest project to be funded on Kickstarter. They created a coffee machine that resembles an automated french press, but with the precision of a chemist through their app which also learns personal preferences. They are a Canadian startup based in Vancouver, Canada’s coffee Mecca. This might be the only machine I would trust to make black coffee. Aside from that, they funded! A grand total of 638 backers supported teh campaign, resulting in $231k raised from the Kickstarter community. That is about 160% above their target. So this is a success and then some. Everyone at our office loves coffee, which made this story even more appealing.

Auroma Coffee Kickstarter Case Study Analytics

So therefore, is their success directly tied to social media? Yes and no. It’s complicated.

But using Crowdbabble, I am going to illustrate my point of how little marketing they did compared to other campaigns, despite the fact they were funded through Kickstarter, impressive on it’s own right. I analyzed their public Facebook page to get a sense of how they did.

Engagement Was Low – Both on Facebook and YouTube
Where I was staggered was that I imagined that engagement would be fairly high. However, it seems that engagement dropped towards the end of their funding period, but they still managed to secure funding. How? Truth is there is not enough data to fully analyze everything but I an able to pull a few numbers.

  • 66 comments were left on the page 
  • Their video on YouTube, launched after starting their campaign on Kickstarter only has 42 views

Now let’s take a look at their Facebook page. Notice the pattern, towards the end of the funding period (January 10th), their engagement and social posts were few in number. In fact, they didn’t even get 10 likes a few times in January. I would imagine that when they announced their success, they would’ve got more engagement. This was not the case.

Crowdbabble Auroma Coffee Analytics Facebook Social Media Engagement

Their engagement was extremely high at the beginning but many Kickstarter success stories see their momentum change exponentially towards the end of their funding campaign. Again, this is puzzling but it demonstrates that they didn’t seek after social media marketing as their top priority.

Success is Relative But Still Important 
638 passionate coffee lovers is a very niche population of tech driven coffee enthusiasts. That actually doesn’t sound like a lot but it was enough to get funded, which is the most important thing. Kickstarter will still list this project as a success and would therefore be privy to more exposure in the long-run. For example, Cards Against Humanity has an incredibly large social following, but all their press campaigns are leveraged by the fact they were a Kickstarter hit.

Most Kickstarter campaigns fail and don’t get noticed at all. In Auroma’s case, they tapped into a niche of coffee enthusiasts who are purists at heart but don’t want the hassle of making it. Which for some, is understandable.

Considering their social media following has about 1098 users, a large portion of those fans were likely backers. There is no data to correlate the two but it’s reasonably to assume since some backers want updates on a routine basis in the form of social. Again, what’s interesting is the lack of engagement from followers and even the lack of stories. Auroma may need to look at their outreach strategy because they were able to get funded without much effort on their part. Imagine if they tried to make an effort on social media using analytics to drive up virality.

Dark Social 
Auroma tapped into dark social or I think a better alternative, conventional social. Auroma had the opportunity to attend many trade shows and do on site demos. They may have got many backers directly there.

I was able to find a decent amount of activity on Facebook that was not tracked by Crowdbabble, but much less than I expected for a successful Kickstarter campaign to have. However, I noticed that most of the content shared about Auroma was related to their press coverage articles, something that if not accounted for, can construe your view of how much influence you have (especially when not tracked).

There is always a lot of hesitation buying online so this may have appealed to the crowd because they were able to try the coffee, try the machine and verify it’s marketed reputation. Imagine this at a trade show? People were talking about it and it wasn’t tracked. Welcome to the world of dark social. Sharing done in person with fellow trade show attendees and over social channels  that are not tracked like text or Snapchat probably occurred, albeit this is a good thing that we can’t explain. It’s a tough nut to crack but I believe Auroma’s dark social ROI was massive, more than they probably even realize.

Auroma’s success is exhibit A on how dark social affects product. In their case, dark social was about  the overall coffee experience, the experience of tasting your product, how individuals interact in a physical space. This approach is something they might want to cultivate for future campaigns because no technology or social media marketing campaign can replicate.

Much like the iPods, Auroma had a product that sold itself. But this isn’t to say that a company shouldn’t have social. Social accounts are needed from the get out and even a basic social media marketing strategy would work. I recommend our Social Intelligence Feedback Loop for Small Businesses to start off with because it outlines 3 core steps to start being an effective social marketer with limited resources, like many companies on Kickstarter encounter.

If you looking to replicate Auroma’s success on Kickstarter, I came up with several themes that might be of interest to you. I still think that any Kickstarter requires social, but you need to think differently about it. Here are of my approaches.

Assume Kickstarter is a Social Network
A simple assumption that you might need to make is that Kickstarter is like Facebook, a social network. People have their own profiles, there is a newsfeed, trends, and ways to communicate with others. What this means is that every social network has its subtle quirks, unwritten rules and culture that you need to tap into. I haven’t been on Kickstarter long enough to figure that one out but spend a lot of time on Kickstarter to see how you can use Kickstarter’s user culture to your advantage. If only we had those analytics!

Press Coverage & Sentiment 
Even from my own experience, I didn’t even bother paying attention to Pebble’s social accounts. I learned about Pebble through several tech blogs and decided to visit their Kickstarter page where they had more information and a video. I backed the product back in 2011, and enthusiastically discussed it with my friends, but I didn’t pay special attention to them on social media. In fact, email was how I kept tabs on them. They had great email updates that I was happy to receive as the product moved towards launch.

In this situation, the press channeled my interest. In fact, I don’t even think I visited their website until I got the watch to install apps. The point is, the press and blogosphere has an incredible amount of power to predict Kickstarter success.

What got my special attention was sentiment. They were a group of Canadians trying to start a company. I’m always eager to support Canadians being that I am part of a Canadian startup myself. That was really the nudge I needed to back starter, that didn’t require social media or any press to convince me. This is a natural and more organic aspect of Kickstarter. I didn’t discover Pebble through my social media, I visit a blog everyday and that’s where I discovered the product.

With Auroma, there is a specific media bias towards coffee. We love talking about it, good or bad, but especially the former. For a product that is environmentally friendly, efficient and very “millennial”, it’s clear how it got attention. Coffee has a renewed sentiment in the world today, and they took advantage of that.

Kickstarter Success Needs Social Velocity Not Accounts (The Most Important)
I think the appeal of their coffee machine was that it was created for the coffee aficionados who need more precision without using plastic cips. I also think that Auroma has a truly clever product that can easily win over any coffee lover (even if you are a purist like me).

Nescafe and their idiotic (and they’re not ecofriendly) Nespresso machine has more Facebook engagement but relatively, their social velocity among purists looking for that cup of coffee with freshly roasted beans was mostly likely lower. The fact I shun them should tell you how most coffee snobs feel about it.

Like all good things, social velocity is the hardest to build. You need a marketing strategy, great design, influencers, timing and finally luck. I think the best way to understand social velocity is to study how Reddit works because their algorithms are based on the momentum and velocity of how a particular topic or link is propagating through social media and their forums. To get the velocity just rights requires everything I mentioned above. There are really fantastic products out there that don’t get funded, but in hindsight they should have.

Yet there are some that are “interesting”, like Potato Salad, that raised way too much money for what it was. In this case, the individual didn’t even have a social campaign, he relied on the network of Kickstarter, the press and the social velocity that it created to bring awareness about his potato salad.

So overall, having a strong social presence and marketing strategy doesn’t necessarily correlate to Kickstarter success. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use analytics or ignore making a Facebook page. Rather, Kickstarter works differently and you need to be aware of it. HOWEVER, on the chance you are funded, you are definitely going to need social accounts and a decent presence to start your business and begin growing. If social media analytics doesn’t come during your Kickstarter phase, it certainly will when you are on your own.