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Researchers Discover Kickstarter Phrases That Pay

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Two Georgia Tech researchers have crunched the data on over 45,000 Kickstarter projects and claim they've revealed the top 100 phrases that signal that a crowdfunding project will or will not be funded. But the possibly more useful part is their analysis of the language styles indicated by these phrases and their relationship to the psychology of potential supporters. Though the researchers are clear on their limits, they do discuss the forms of persuasive language used and raise some interesting possibilities for further research.

Georgia Tech's Assistant Professor Eric Gilbert and doctoral candidate Tanushree Mitra have gotten into some interesting territory with their study of language and Kickstarter success. They ranked phrases that are associated with successful and unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns and came up with two lists of 100 phrases each that they share on page 8 of their study:

The Language that Gets People to Give: Phrases that Predict Success on Kickstarter“ [pdf]

The phrases themselves aren't much to look at but the researchers have teased out numerous patterns, for example:

“As is perhaps to be expected, phrases which exude negativism (not been able), or lack assurance (later i, hope to get) are predictors of not funded ...phrases which signal lucrative offers to potential backers (also receive two, mention your) are positive predictors of successful funding." (p. 9)

The researchers found that various forms of persuasive language were present in successful pitches which were summarized in the news announcement:

Reciprocity or the tendency to return a favor after receiving one as evidenced by phrases such as “also receive two," “pledged will" and “good karma and."

Scarcity or attachment to something rare as shown with “option is" and “given the chance."

Social Proof, which suggests that people depend on others for social cues on how to act as shown by the phrase “has pledged."

Social Identity or the feeling of belonging to a specific social group. Phrases such as “to build this" and “accessible to the" fit this category.

Liking, which reflects the fact that people comply with people or products that appeal to them.

Authority, where people resort to expert opinions for making efficient and quick decisions as shown by phrases such as “we can afford" and “project will be."

The researchers go into a bit more detail with examples regarding each form of persuasive language in the paper.

The study includes a number of interesting points that aren't pursued but look worth exploring:

“pitching a completely new form of expression is associated with not funded projects, while drawing inspiration from something that exists seems to work better." (p. 11)

“we saw that 'Facebook Connected' is a positive predictor of funded, but we did not explore the rich space of social network predictors." (p. 12)

In addition, certain curious outliers emerged:

“Another perplexing finding was the occurrence of phrases like christina ( β = 2.51) and cats ( β = 2.64) in our top predictors. 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." (p. 11)

It would be great to have this kind of study focused on a particular area of crowdfunding such as music. However, though the role of positive persuasive language use is not surprising, the study offers a useful framework for thinking more specifically about that language use which should be relevant to music crowdfunding.

Still, in the end, maybe they've simply discovered that it's cats that will save the music industry.


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