Involving your fans in your creative process will not only build engagement and trust within your community, it will likely become one of your best marketing devices. The more included your fans feel in your process, the more likely they are to tell their friends about you and help grow your audience.
On the flip side, leaving your community in the dark or not listening to them can tarnish your reputation as a creator and keep you from growing your fanbase. If your existing audience doesn’t feel like part of your community, you will have an increasingly hard time welcoming newcomers into your circle.
Whether you’re a creator on Patreon looking for some cool reward ideas or simply interested in trying out new ways to engage with your audience, keep reading. Below are five fun and rewarding ways you can involve your fans in your next project that’ll help you boost engagement and deepen your relationship with your audience.
Patreon creator Happy D has perfected the art of fan-generated content. She starts by creating a high-resolution line drawing, then sends it out to her patrons to color in using whatever medium they’d like. They’ll post the final piece to her activity feed, where she’ll select a few fans to feature each month on her social media channels.
Just one of many coloring submissions on Happy’s patron feed.
A capella group Pentatonix also knows how to take advantage of fan-made creations. They regularly include Pentaholics (yes, their fans gave themselves a name!) in music videos, and a couple band members once even took it upon themselves to act out a story written by a fan on their personal Youtube channel.
Not only does this give existing patrons a fun way to interact with a creator they love, but chances are featured fans will reshare the posts to their own communities. Getting your fans to talk about you to their friends is one of the most effective ways to grow your following, as it carries with it a sense of trust and validation in your authenticity.
One of the best parts of having a community of your most loyal fans easily accessible to you is that you always have a great place to go for feedback. If you’re not asking for feedback on a regular basis, you’re missing out on a ton of valuable insight into how you can improve and continue growing your fanbase.
Whether you’re just starting a new project or knee-deep in an existing one, consider what questions have been circulating in your mind and what decisions you have to make. Now outsource them!
With Patreon’s new polling feature, it’s easier than ever to quickly ask your fans questions about your work. If you’re hoping to dig deeper into what your fans think or get a better sense of how they consume your content, what they eat for breakfast, etc., sites like Typeform provide survey templates and analytics that’ll give you a quick understanding in how your community feels about you.
Keep in mind, you don’t need thousands of fans to make feedback worth it–even just asking a few people what they think of something you did will provide you tremendous value and save you a lot of guesswork.
Your bare-bones audio track or your scribbled-in notebook may not seem very appealing to you, but chances are your fans would be stoked to get a glimpse into raw, unfinished pieces of your work.
Artist and Patreon creator Kate Fox had no formal training in art before taking up drawing and illustration as a hobby. Now, she regularly shares timelapse videos of her works in progress so interested fans can learn the methods she uses to create.
A screenshot from one of Fox‘s timelapse process videos.
You don’t need to commit a lot of time to giving your fans a glimpse into your process. If you’re a visual artist, start by taking a photo of your canvas at the beginning of a new piece. Musician? Share a rough recording of a song you’re working on. Writer? Let fans see the cover of your upcoming book a little early or share an image that inspired the story you’re working on.
Giving fans a peek into your process will help get them excited about seeing the final piece! Not only that, involving your fans early in your project can be a great motivator for you to finish it. Chances are, some superfans will be asking about the finished product later down the line. How’s that for accountability?
Whether it’s a big “patron of the week” spotlight or a little shoutout in the credits of a video, there are few better ways to show your fans you care than by publicly announcing it to the rest of your community.
Creator Joel Watson gives his patrons a special shoutout in a video posted to his Patreon page.
The team behind Kurzgesagt has a fun way of showing appreciation for their fans. At a certain pledge level, patrons receive customized bird avatars that they can then use anywhere on the internet. In addition, Kurzgesagt will feature the birds in upcoming videos, as well as add the bird to a digital “patron tree of thanks.”
Comic book artist and podcaster Joel Watson sketches avatars of some of his fans as well. He also makes sure to give regular shoutouts at the end of his videos. Musician Nate Maingard takes a portion of his earnings each month to plant trees in their names.
However you decide to do it, featuring your community is a great way to create a lasting impression on the fans who matter most and give potential fans an idea of just how amazing you are.
Invite your superfans to join you in an online video hangout where you share sneak peeks into your work and give updates about where they can find you next (this is a great place to promote any upcoming gigs you might have!)
Ask fans ahead of time what burning questions they have that they’d like to see answered during the livestream and save a section towards the end to answer them thoughtfully. Invite some other creators or superfans to join you every now and then.
We host a monthly Crowdcast (join us for our next one here) for creators on or interested in Patreon that follows this formula, but feel free to get creative and be YOU. There’s no need to create a script for your stream but you probably should have an idea about what sort of things you want to talk about or share ahead of time. This way fans have something to get excited about and saves you from awkward moments of silence.
If you already regularly make videos for your fans, a livestream is a fun and easy way to make them more interactive. If you’ve never hosted a livestream before, don’t fret! Sites like Huzza make it easy to offer the video as a special perk to a certain patron tier. Google Hangouts and Skype work well too.
What other fun ways have you involved your fans in your work? Let me know in the comments!