This is the first post of our Creator 101 series by musician Peter Hollens.
My name is Peter Hollens. I’ve built an entire career online making music out of my garage and bedroom in Eugene, Oregon.
As a Dad in his 30’s making funny sounds into my microphone (I sing a cappella music), I’m writing to help you understand how to connect, engage and foster a community online. You should listen to what I have to say, because I know this is the best way to build a successful business as a creator.
Picture this: You’re running a brick-and-mortar store and somebody walks in. Clearly, they’re interested in what you have to offer. What would you do when you saw that they came in? Would you watch from afar? Would you ignore them? Hopefully, you’d do neither. Any good store owner would go up to them immediately, greet them and see if they needed something, or at least thank them for stopping by.
Now, take that store to the digital world where your fans are really interacting with you: social media. The same philosophy applies online, whether on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, email, Instagram… You get the picture. The “stores” (social media platforms) may look different, but find a way to interact with every fan, in every place. Period.
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On virtually every social media platform that I can monitor, I will engage with each and every person. If someone mentions me or my work by name, I know about it and I respond. I have my feelers out there, whether that is utilizing TweetDeck on Twitter or Mentions on Facebook. I do whatever I can to reach back out and say, “thank you so much for checking out my work and sharing what I create,” being as genuine and authentic as possible. By that, I mean that I work hard to never act like I’m more important than anyone else ever… Even if the person mentioning my name is tearing me apart.
As you grow your following or your brand, this kind of engagement will definitely become harder to maintain, but what an awesome problem to have! In that case, I highly encourage you to hire team members to make sure no “fan” (I recommend supporter) goes unnoticed. They can speak in your voice and respond to people as though they are you if needed. Even if you need help from your parents, your sister, or your neighbor, what matters most is that your supporters get noticed. In the end, we are in the business of making people happy. We aren’t in this world to become rich and famous and if you are, then don’t listen to a word I’m writing. This isn’t for you.
We are in this business, in my opinion, to reach out and make somebody’s day better. If somebody reaches out to me and says, “Oh my gosh, Peter, I love your work,” and I respond, a lot of the time they’ll freak out with joy. Some will go as far as say that I’ve made their day.
I find it really important to consider yourself on the same level as your fans. Do whatever you possibly can to make sure people know that you don’t consider yourself more important than they are. You are just like one of them. People want to know that you’re real.
If I know that I can take five minutes, one minute, even half a minute out of my day and it will make somebody’s day… how in the world can I not do that? So I spend hours and hours doing so every day. I have for years, and in doing that (beyond the small amount of talent that I’ve been given from God), it has really allowed me to make a living, doing what I love.
A bonus note for creators on Patreon:
I have to say, for every single interaction that has ever occurred on my Patreon feed or message I’ve received from a patron, I have responded. I have responded personally because I feel that these are my most engaged fans — why would I not want to talk to them?!
Patreon as a platform cannot be unsuccessful if you respond and engage with your patrons. That relationship is more important than anything else you are doing online. Why on earth would I go to Facebook or Twitter or any other social media site before Patreon? These are the people who are most interested in my music, that want to support me, that actually take out their credit card and say, “you know, I want to be on this journey with you, Peter.” I couldn’t ever thank them enough. They not only support me and my family, but they give me the inspiration to inspire the world to do what I do — to make a living creating art. I can’t fathom a better reason to live than to inspire creators to create and love what I get to do.
I use Patreon to fund my music. I have over 1600 patrons supporting my art, each and every video that I release, just to help me continue to make a living doing what I love. To learn more about me, check this out.