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Launching a Crowdfunding Campaign? Choose Your Words Closely

Launching a Crowdfunding Campaign? Choose Your Words Closely
Credit: Garagestock/Shutterstock

It's not what you say, but how you say it that could determine how successful your crowdfunding campaign is, new research finds.

A study from researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago revealed that linguistic style, which is how one speaks, is critically important in crowdfunding campaigns, especially for social entrepreneurs.

The study's authors found that how a pitch is voiced and worded is much more important for social entrepreneurs than it is for their commercial counterparts.

"Here, we show that the persuasiveness of entrepreneurs' stylistic expressions is dependent on their category membership – that is, whether they are social or commercial entrepreneurs," said Annaleena Parhankangas, the study's lead author and an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Chicago in a statement.

For the study, researchers analyzed 656 Kickstarter campaigns between 2013 and 2014. They discovered that linguistic styles that made the campaigns and their founders more understandable and relatable to potential funders boosted the exposure and success of social campaigns. However, linguistic style made little impact for commercial endeavors. [Raising moneyv ia crowdfunding? 15 way to increase your chances for success]

"Early-stage entrepreneurs are increasingly involved in the theatrical pitching of their projects to various audiences at forums, such as accelerator demo days, pitch mixers, competitions and online crowdfunding sites," Parhankangas said. "How they deliver the message matters – and, as a result, it is important to study how entrepreneurs' language use affects their chances of raising funding."

The study was co-authored by Maija Renko, a UIC associate professor of entrepreneurship.

The researchers said style doesn't matter as much for commercial entrepreneurs. Instead, content is likely to be enough to persuade their audience to invest.

While what's being pitched is more important for commercial entrepreneurs, there are some phrases they can use in their pitches to increase their chances of success.

A previous study from researchers at Georgia Tech looked at more than 45,000 Kickstarter campaigns and found that certain phrases used on the campaign's webpage could predict whether it was going to fail or succeed.

Based on the 100 most popular phrases used in the project descriptions they studied, the researchers found that the top phrases found in successful campaigns were:

  • "Also receive two"
  • "Pledged will"
  • "Good karma and"
  • "Option is"
  • "Given the chance"
  • "Has pledged"
  • "To build this"
  • "Accessible to the"
  • "We can afford"
  • "Project will be"
  • "Mention your"
  • "Your continued"

The researchers noted that successful projects, which made up slightly more than 50 percent of the campaigns they analyzed, used the above phrases to express concepts such as reciprocity, scarcity, social proof and identity (belonging to a community) and authority.

On the flip side, five phrases that the Georgia Tech researchers said indicated crowdfunding failure were:

  • "Not been able"
  • "Even a dollar"
  • "Later I"
  • "A blank"
  • "Hope to get"

"Our research revealed that the phrases used in successful Kickstarter campaigns exhibited general persuasion principles," said Eric Gilbert, the study's author who runs Georgia Tech's computer social lab. "Campaigns that follow the concept of reciprocity – that is, offer a gift in return for a pledge – and the perceptions of social participation and authority generated the greatest amount of funding, [but] the language used to express the reward made the difference."

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.