13 Jul Should I start a Patreon?
We’ve heard from several of our clients that views for their online profiles have suffered a sharp decline recently compared to previous years. Many of you are lamenting the lack of interactions, finding it increasingly more and more difficult to gain traction in the ever-evolving social media streams.
We see several reasons for this. For one thing, the last few pandemic years fostered a new stable of crafters. These crafters were stuck at home, and some found themselves with extra income when travel ceased. As a result, you may have experienced inflated stats on social media—more people crafting and spending more hours online, and that last thing to suffer is social media views and interactions! Now, with life slowly returning to some semblance of what we had before—people traveling and leaving the house more—the previously inflated number of crafters is finally leveling out.
Another reason for lower social media engagement may be recent changes to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. As the platforms have pushed for paid advertisements and favored them in feeds, organic views have plummeted. We’ve heard from several people that it’s tougher than ever to see posts from followed people and brands—that for every post you see from someone you follow, you see 3-4 more in advertisements or from people you don’t follow as suggested posts.
So: how can a new crafty business create and nurture an online community when it’s so hard to get a toehold? How can established crafty businesses continue to engage with their community on a personal level when messages get lost in the sea of a fast-flowing feed?
Start an Online Community
We’ve heard from some of our clients that starting a Patreon community has helped them create an online communal space, uninterrupted by advertisements. In the recent past we’ve discussed How to Build Content Communities using the different platforms available to creatives. Patreon is one such platform where creators can connect directly with their audience via varying levels of paid membership.
Why Start a Patreon?
The reasons for starting a Patreon community are manifold:
- Direct Relationships: You can build direct relationships with your fans, who no longer have to fight against advertisements and suggested posts to find you. Post to your Patreon, and all of your members are notified.
- Monetize Content: When you post to social media channels, your content is monetized whether you like it or not. Just by posting on Instagram and Facebook and living in the feed alongside advertisements, you are part of the platform’s monetization schemes. With Patreon, you’re taking back the ability to generate revenue on your content.
- Regular Income Stream: Patreon followers subscribe at payment tiers set by you. The minimum is $1, but there are no limits on maximum amounts. Gather enough Patreon followers and you could potentially secure an additional monthly income stream.
- Content You Customize: No more customizing images to dimensions specified by social media platforms, or creating videos of a certain length and dimension to game the feed. Create whatever content inspires you and your audience.
- Subvert All the Ads: If you already run a blog or website, you know that ads play a huge role in generating income. Navigating ads on websites has always been an annoying headache for visitors. Patreon removes the need for ads completely with the monthly subscription model. And since payment tiers are set by you, you can create a community for as little or as much as you want.
- Exclusivity: The content you post to Patreon is paywalled by default. We don’t recommend abandoning Instagram, Facebook, or other social media platforms. Rather, supplementing your channels with Patreon creates the opportunity to offer exclusive content, which can be enticing for many of your followers.
How Does Patreon’s Payment Model Work?
Patreon has three options for creators: Lite, Pro, and Premium, which subtract 5%, 8%, and 12% respectively, plus payment processing, of the monthly income you earn. The lowest model, Lite, offers the basic creator page, plus access to Patreon tools and workshops. As you move up in models you gain access to analytics, app integrations, and more.
It’s important to note that membership tiers are not available on Patreon Lite. For Patreon Lite, you set one price, and for that price followers access everything you post.
What Should I Share With My Followers?
The sky is the limit when it comes to the content you can share with your Patreon followers. Any of the following could potentially entice more followers on Patreon, and we’d suggest creating tiers under the Pro level to gatekeep more exclusive content and encourage higher tier followers.
- Video Diaries: While Patreon doesn’t offer direct video hosting, creators can upload videos to Vimeo and/or YouTube and link from there. If you’re already creating content for YouTube, this is a great way to share hidden videos on Patreon as exclusive content for followers. If you’re an indie dyer or spinner, or quilt, knit, crochet, or embroidery designer, this a great opportunity to share the inspiration behind work you’ve created.
- Blog Posts: Create a blog to share inspiration, upcoming designs, new fibers, notes on life in general—anything you might put on your blog.
- Exclusive Free Patterns: If you’re a designer, offering exclusive patterns to higher-tier followers is a nice “gift” for following you on Patreon.
- Livestream Chats: Once a month, host a livestream chat with your followers. This is essentially like hosting an Instagram Live. Patreon integrates with both YouTube and CrowdCast for live streamed events. Maybe your livestream is an opportunity for followers to sit and craft with you, maybe it’s a Q&A, maybe it’s a product or design announcement. You can also host monthly Zoom sessions and extend the link to Patreon followers only.
- Tutorage and Lessons: Are you great at drafting patterns? An expert in color theory? An amazing photographer? Consider creating opportunities for lessons or tutoring in the subjects you know best. Since this would be a one-on-one, highly exclusive offering, it’s best for the highest-tier monthly followers.
- Direct Engagement Opportunities: Let your Patreon followers vote on the name for your next yarn color, garment design, needlework design, etc. Think of ways to involve them in processes related to your business. If you host Zoom hangouts, create a poll to pick the next date and time.
- Behind The Scenes Access: While we all share much of our inner lives on Instagram and Facebook, maybe there are pictures and videos you don’t want to share to social media channels. Patreon is a great place to share that content, whether it’s an inside look at your design process or a peek into your dye vats.
- Exclusive Products: Do you have limited edition products to offer followers? If you’re an indie dyer, consider an exclusive colorway. If you’re an embroidery designer, consider one-of-a-kind kits. Make these products exclusive to your Patreon to encourage more followers. Consider offering the community access to some of your discontinued inventory at a discounted price, which liquidates the inventory for you and extends a nice offer to them.
- Early Access: Offer Patreon followers first access to limited run products. Consider this as an extension of the above. If you have limited edition products that you want to offer your entire audience, consider offering it to Patreon subscribers first. Giving Patreon followers early access could entice fans to follow you on Patreon.
- Exclusive Discounts: Offer Patreon followers discount codes on your products that they can’t get on your social channels or from your newsletter.
Is Patreon Really Worth It?
Deciding to start a Patreon is obviously a personal decision that requires taking into account exactly what kind of exclusive content you can offer followers. Consider all the points above, and determine how it fits into your business model. If you can maintain a regular stream of exclusive content for Patreon, it may be worth considering. While $1 or $5 per month seems like it won’t generate a lot of revenue, if you have a large audience already on social media channels, you may find the Patreon model will work for you.
For example, one of our clients, Sarah Schira of Imagined Landscapes, started a Patreon earlier this year. She has two tiers: $1.50 and $2.50. On her Patreon for both levels, she hosts monthly Zoom hangouts for her Year of Gnomes project. She shares photos, videos, blogs, polls, and more to her followers. At the higher tier, followers gain access to her Year of Gnomes coloring book and quarterly behind-the-scenes video diaries.
Sarah currently has 368 Patreon followers. Even if they’re all at the $1.50 level, that’s approximately $500 a month in additional revenue! She has said that some of her Patreon followers joined up simply to recognize the work she does. To an individual that loves your content, a few dollars a month on Patreon can be a means for expressing appreciation.
We hope this helps you consider the possibilities of creating an online community on a platform like Patreon. If you’d like help setting up or managing a Patreon community, contact Stitchcraft Marketing today!