Researchers reveal the language of Kickstarter success

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have conducted a study analysing the top phrases of successful Kickstarters.

Michelle Starr Science editor
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Michelle Starr
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Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have conducted a study analysing the top phrases of successful — and unsuccessful — Kickstarters.

Referencing cats is one indicator of a successful campaign. (Credit: GatosVestidos image by Daniela Acosta, CC BY-SA 3.0)

If you want your Kickstarter to succeed, it appears that there are some definite dos and don'ts when it comes to phrasing. According to a new study by Tanushree Mitra and Eric Gilbert of Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing, the language you use can be pretty indicative of whether or not you'll get your funding.

The pair analysed over 45,000 Kickstarter campaigns launched since June 2012, 51.53 per cent of which were successful. Controlling for categories (some of which are more successful than others; you're more likely to have a successful campaign in Design than Fashion, for example), the presence of video, funding goals, social media and pledge levels, they were able to compile a dictionary of over 100 phrases that can more or less accurately predict success or failure.

The results suggested that language accounts for 58.56 per cent of the variance around success.

For successful campaigns, top phrases indicate confidence, reciprocity (indicating a return on your investment), scarcity, and social participation; that is, the creator is confident in their campaign, as are other people.

Conversely, unsuccessful campaigns use language that indicates a lack of confidence and an attitude that comes across as grovelling.

The table on the left shows the top phrases from successful campaigns, on the right, unsuccessful. (Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology)

Most of the top phrases have something to do with persuasion — for better or worse — but there are some words and phrases that fall outside of that framework. For example, "December" could have something to do with taxation, Kickstarter culture or people looking for unique Christmas gifts.

And then there's cats.

"Another perplexing finding was the occurrence of phrases like Christina (β = 2.51) and cats (β = 2.64) in our top predictors," the study reads. "While Christina (β = 2.33) mostly referred to famous celebrity (i.e., Christina Aguilera), we had no clear explanation for the occurrence of cats — except for the commonly accepted wisdom that the internet loves them."

The research will be presented at the 17th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing on 15-19 February. You can, however, read the full paper online (PDF).