Guest Post 4: Working with Partners and Social Media Engagement

The following is a guest blog post by my friend Anthony Paglino who will contribute every Wednesday leading to the March 27th release of the iCurious Travel: A Cultural Guide to China, available exclusively on iTunes. Follow Anthony on Twitter @iCuriousTravel  or on Google + for updates.

There are many social media tools, but the best tools are the right ones for the job.

There are many social media tools, but the best tools are the right ones for the job.

In my last post I explained how having a small team of advisers is a great way to gain valuable feedback on your product idea and helps you better articulate your vision and project features. In the long run this better prepares you for when the campaign goes live and you need to be more clear about your project to people you’ve never met. We then explored a handful of different platforms for crowdfunding, and what to keep in mind when deciding which one to use.

Let’s proceed with the next crucial step, where all of these pieces come together: Figuring out the campaign’s logistics.

There’s a lot to consider.

How long will you run your campaign for? How much money you need to raise? Which social media platforms you are going to leverage? What are you going to post on these platforms? What perks are you going to offer to gain financial donations?  And last, how are you going to manage all of these moving parts while connecting with your supporters in a meaningful way?

It’s a heavy to do list, and something I was foolish enough to take on my own.

As Indiegogo says, “Campaigns run by a team raise 80% more money than campaigns that run solo.”

That’s an enormous gap. Looking back, it would have been more prudent to bring on a partner or partners. My remoteness in the rice paddies of China made working with a bigger team more difficult, but not impossible.

After making that first round of feedback from your inner circle of advisers, take a look at who in your network has a special skill set they can contribute to your project. You may not be able to pay them, but the reason why they are in your inner circle is because they believe in you and want you to succeed.

If they’re willing to help out, be upfront with them about the vision, about the product, and what they will help you with.

Creating a team adds to the complexity of the project since you are now operating a small organization, however the risk of expanding your team brings a better chance of raising more money and getting your project more exposure.

Look at your workflow, including the separate phases of how your plan will play out over time, and how the different parts of the project need to be set up. Once you have a stronger timeline in focus with multiple responsibilities from logo design work to social media management, see which tasks you can and should do, and what you should delegate.

For example, I could have saved time delegating emails and press releases about my project to a publicist instead of doing it all myself in addition to what I was already doing.

The challenges you will face in working within a team will teach you invaluable communication skills including listening, leadership, and management.

During several brief stints, I had a Chinese intern. This proved more troublesome than I first thought because I couldn’t offer a stipend, and the tourist town I was in had such a high turnover rate. Sometimes couchsurfers would come through, and I would have them help with simple tasks such as translation into Chinese and some on-site research. But onboarding and training takes time, getting them up to speed with the entire project sapped my energy and distracted focus. Even though this was not the best use of my time, I did learn how to better manage my expectations in both my personal and professional life.

One success story I have had is working with Lance Fuller, a friend from college and someone I share a lot in common with. We are both passionate about the current economic and social problems young people face in the US. I have this great crowdfunding experience that I want to share, Lance has a platform and a degree in professional journalism. When we work together, we produce a better product to more people than if we worked independently.

So my advice to you would be to find people who share similar passions, and are hungry for change. When you work with those who are motivated by goodwill and passion instead of just money, you’ll be more satisfied with your team and how your product will come out.

Engaging your audience

I spent a lot of time conceptualizing and mapping out a complicated social media strategy that included Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Social Cam, SoundCloudBlurb, and three different Chinese language social media sites.

I dabbled in too many sites and it left me exhausted and drained. It was too much, too fast and I found myself overwhelmed by the social media spiderweb of not just content but interactivity between them all.

But I wanted to test out all the platforms because this entire travel guide project is one big experiment.

If I’ve learned anything about social media, you have to focus your content.

When I worked for an online education startup, I learned how to write curriculums over the course of a semester and you can organize your content strategy like a class curriculum.

Create a source of content that tells a narrative, and then spread the posts out over time teaching the audience just like how a book would introduce and unfold simple concepts that build up to more advanced material over time.

So here is my narrowed down social media strategy from time in the laboratory: Keep it simple and limit yourself to maybe a couple of sites. I would recommend Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

All these platforms tell the same story, just from different perspectives from posting short statuses to engaging your family and friends to finding common communities. The goal is to enlighten more people on your back story, motivations for doing your project, the ins and outs of the project/product, and perks. 

Finally, all of your social media platforms should funnel your audience to sign up for your online newsletter where all the major updates get pushed, so on get in the habit of giving weekly updates.

And this is where the magic happens. Through all of these social media and email platforms, people who share your passion will find and follow you.

Everytime I send a newsletter, it stirs the pot and people from all over the world reach out to me expressing interest in the book or even suggest other people I should get in touch with regarding travel in China. Most often it is well wishes which is a great motivational boost.

In part 5 we’ll discuss what makes great perks, the incentives you can give to entice people to donate to your campaign, and how I got in over my head with a T-shirt debacle.

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