Ahhh, fans. Those magical beings who love your work and want to engage with you on your artistic journey. But what is the difference between a fan and a patron? In Patreon lingo, fans are people that follow your work (and like what you do) but have not yet become your patron.
❗ Important: Remember that you, and your work, inspire people to become passionate fans (and loyal followers). Patreon is a platform that makes it easy for those fans and followers to become your paying patrons. Meaning, your job is to get them to your Patreon page, and our job is to make it easy for them to join your membership business. Take a look at this chart for a clearer idea.
As you can see in the chart above, before someone becomes your patron, they need to be your fan, first.
Patreon isn’t a discovery platform — we are here to help you foster and manage the connection between you and your community, once you bring that community here.
We wrote this blog post to help you build that community of fans, which in turn can become a community of patrons. But how do you build a fanbase? How do you get your work into the hands of people who’d enjoy it?
Here are a few tips to get you started in building an engaged community of fans around your work:
Shouting into voids will not get you very far. The truth is, people are more likely to respond if you personally reach out to them. Even creators with large fan bases understand the importance of creating a personal interaction with their fans. Just ask a capella musician Peter Hollens, who has amassed over 3,000 patrons through simple engagement strategies involving treating his fans like friends, not ATMs.
You build a business one person at a time.
Another great way to get closer to would-be fans is through live streaming, which allows you to broadcast yourself in real time across various platforms. You can live stream your creative process, a finished piece/project, or even just your everyday life. Since live streams often have a shelf life, you don’t have to worry too much about the production value of them; and as an added benefit, social media platforms tend to surface live streams more readily than any other types of posts.
Find a mentor
Have you come across anyone who has achieved something that you’ve only aspired to? A creator who has found success in the type of work you produce? Chances are, there is somebody out there that you look up to, and maybe could provide you with some helpful, creative guidance.
I know, I know: the thought of reaching out to someone you idolize can seem daunting. What if they think your work sucks? Or aren’t interested in helping you? Or simply don’t respond? However, on the flip side, maybe they’d love your work and would be excited about the idea of helping you succeed.
Believe it or not, the latter is more often true.
As a creator, you know firsthand how important it is for you to connect with people who love your work. Well, the same is true for your idols.
When contacting a mentor, just make sure that you are clear with what you are hoping to get out of them. They have limited time and will respond a lot faster to “I’d love to get your thoughts on the project I’m working on” than “Will you be my mentor?”
Once you’ve established a good working relationship, don’t be afraid to ask your mentor to share your work with their fanbase. If you are authentic, and they love your work, they’ll want to help you succeed. And when they do, don’t forget to return the favor by sharing their content on your social channels.
Commit to at least one social media channel
News flash: you don’t have to join every new social network as a way to gain more reach. A much better way to find and build a following is by choosing one or two platforms where your target audience hangs out and then committing to keeping them regularly updated.
If you’re a visual artist, you may find that Instagram and Deviant Art are the way to go; for bloggers and journalists, Twitter might be your top pick; Snapchat is a favorite among video-loving creators, while crafty creators might choose Pinterest.
Whatever channel you choose, just make sure that you keep it updated and consistantly promote your work. We can’t say it enough – consistency really is the key. Set up a schedule you can stick to, and then put yourself out there.
If you’re worried about overpromoting your work, remember — not everyone sees everything you do on social media (thanks, algorithms!). And, if you feel like your promoting too much, ask your audience. Soliciting feedback is a great way to know if you’re on the right path. You can always ask your patrons if your social messages helped them decide to make the jump from fan-from-afar to VIP(atron).
Pro tip: Be wary of sites that ask you to pay them money to get you a lot of fans in a short amount of time. This usually involves a bot that automatically follows a large number of users (or spams your network), under your name. Even if it does give you a quick jump in followers, they will likely not be very engaged fans and may churn shortly after.