When you’re first building a creative community, your close network of friends and family are probably your core supporters. That’s a great way to start gaining momentum. But once you’re ready to take off with a sustainable creative business, establishing a larger audience can really help you spread your wings.
The sky’s the limit to engage potential new fans, but there are some tried and true tactics that can help you out. Here, we’re sharing successful Patreon creators’ strategies for expanding their reach while staying true to themselves, their work, and their community.
Tip #1: To go beyond your network… leverage your network
It’s no secret that social media can be an effective way to get your name and work out there. Yes, we know — social media can be full of unwanted trolls and more, but you can cut through the noise to make it work for you and your business.
Ty Christian (AKA Fang VonWrathenstein) and metal band Lords of the Trident have quite a few strategies for connecting with new fans, including both livestream and in-person concerts where community requests make up their setlist. That’s a pretty dang good motivator to be part of their community, in our opinion. But it was social that really helped them grow their audience. Ty shares that they’d tap into social media recognition by tagging members in “fantastical stories” that were entertaining and engaging. As a result, these posts would organically extend to their members’ feeds and beyond. Each story earned them new patrons from those extended networks.
TL;DR, You have countless patrons out in the world that just need to see your work and what you’re all about. Friends of friends are your prospective patrons, too, and strategic social media initiatives can be an effective and fun way to connect with them.
Tip #2: Make time to meaningfully engage
Let’s stick with social media for a minute. Queuing up batches of posts can be an efficient and somewhat hands-off strategy to keep your channels engaging. You’ll probably see traction and growth, even if you set it and forget it. But carving out time to personally engage with your social audience can take you to a whole other level.
Foxfeather Ženková, an artist who does wildlife rehabilitation and conservation, says, “I try to interact with my [social] audience as much as possible, answering people’s questions and thanking them for their comments whenever I can. This has led to slow but steady, organic growth. It took me a few years to get to the first 5,000 followers, but now I have over 35,000 people watching my social media across various platforms, and really great engagement and activity on my posts.” By tailoring content to each platform and its audience, they’re able to share relevant content that helps their community continually grow.
Dedicating some time to thoughtful, personal community engagement may or may not get you a zillion followers overnight, but the quality connections you build will be well worth it in the long run.
Tip #3: There’s nothing new under the sun, so join the conversation
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to build your credibility or audience. In fact, to grow your community, your mission can be the opposite: find the people who already care about what you care about, then add to the conversation by filling in the gaps and adding your unique POV.
Justine Kay of 2 Black Girls, 1 Rose, a podcast fosters conversation around representation and inclusion on all things “Bachelor” franchise, recounts that “[co-creator Natasha Scott and I] have worked with podcasts that were much bigger than ours and that shared our values, but they couldn’t necessarily express opinions or call out injustices in the way that we could, or they didn’t have the right vocabulary to [do so].” By doing the proper research, you can find a “community already having the conversation, seeing who else is speaking to them, and seeing what’s missing,” Justine, Natasha, and the folks they’ve partnered with have been able to connect with each other’s audiences and validate mutually important conversations.
“Thinking you’re the only one who cares about something is the opposite of building community.”
Doing that research to find out where and how you can contribute to the conversation is “the real work,” Justine says. But it can also provide a real pay off, helping you find collaborators and introducing you and your work to new audiences in an authentic way.
Tip #4: Turn 15 minutes of fame into forever (with taste, of course)
Maybe you’ve had a tweet go viral or a video you’ve made is breaking the internet. Maybe you’ve had a recent appearance on a TV show or someone amazing celebrated your work publicly. It can be exhilarating to see the likes and shares add up — but what happens when that splashy moment fades away?
When Astrologer Laurie A. Rivers of The Awake Space found herself in that very position, she saw it as an opportunity to accelerate her community building before the virality burned out. She created her Patreon page, inviting new and existing fans to stick with her. “I had a sudden success on TikTok in 2020 and quickly built my Patreon to support my wider vision,” she shares. “TikTok accounts for 90% of my [Patreon] traffic, and my podcast and YouTube, which launched in 2021, are quickly becoming sources [too].” In less than two years, she grew her community to nearly 300 patrons.
If all eyes are on you for a good reason, give the people a little more of what they want: your work! Sharing in a way that feels true to you can invite interested passers-by to stay awhile and help turn fleeting intrigue into lasting engagement.
Tip #5: Put your archives to good use
Make sure your work is discoverable to turn it into a reliable tool for engagement and audience growth. With some good SEO, you could attract new members on a regular basis. And if you don’t want to rely on the search engine gods, you can even repost evergreen content to introduce a new audience to your brand.
Gamer Mukluk creates streams and videos, including guides for gameplay so that others can learn from what he’s mastered. “Those guides continue to bring in new followers and subscribers,” he says. To go one step further, he cross-pollinates across his key channels: “Any time during a show that I’m asked about something I’ve already made a guide for, I hand them the link for the appropriate video,” which means introducing his fans on Twitch to his YouTube channel. He goes a step further, wrapping up his videos to let viewers know that they can drop a comment on YouTube to ask questions or ask him live every night on Twitch.
Resurfacing content from the archives and introducing your work to audiences on different platforms can create a consistent cycle of engagement and traffic. So use your older content in your favor to help bring new folks into the mix. (For some more tips on creating evergreen content, we’ve got you covered.)
Tip #6: Creator community is key
If you want to go beyond these audience-building strategies, why not look to other creators?
Piano teacher Izzie Chea, who aims to expand access to high-quality music education through donation-based piano lessons and tutorials, sought advice from other Patreon creators on how to communicate regularly and effectively with her patrons. The advice led her to start using Patreon as the source for a weekly public newsletter, which includes patron updates, interactive questions, as well as studio information. Soon, she saw engagement from both patrons and other community members spike, and after less than six months of implementing this strategy, she saw a 30% increase in pledges. If that’s not success, we don’t know what is.
There are lots of places to network and gather different perspectives on your process or strategies. But the best part? Creators are often well-positioned and excited to help each other. (The Patreon Creator Community Discord has quite an active #marketing-and-social channel!) If a smaller, dedicated group is more your style, you could also consider starting a marketing or audience-building mastermind group — or as Zaedryn Rook wrote in 2019, “a peer support group for leveling up.”
Tip #7: Start where you are
No matter what approach you take to grow your community, be honest with yourself about where you are today and where you’d like to go. Then set goals and build a creative marketing plan to take you there.
But the most powerful way to grow your network? Create meaningful connections with your community in ways that honor your work, their time and investment, and your common creative values. Now, go get ‘em!
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What tips do you have for growing an audience? What advice do you need? Join the Patreon Creator Community Discord to discuss.
P.S. If you’re looking for more resources on this topic, here’s a growth checklist that can help you out.