7 audience-building tips for creators

By Francesca Margherita

Photo by Jeremy Cohen, featuring Chelsea Devantez

From TikTok to Twitter and beyond, creators share tips and tricks on how to engage and expand your community.

Once you’re ready to take off with a sustainable creative business, establishing a larger audience can really help you spread your wings. Here, we’re sharing successful Patreon creators’ strategies for expanding their reach while staying true to themselves, their work, and their community.

1) Leverage your network, to go beyond 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 (also known as Fang VonWrathenstein) and metal band Lords of the Trident have quite a few strategies for connecting with new fans, including at 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 media 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 members from those extended networks.

In a nutshell: You have countless patrons out in the world that just need to see your work and what you’re all about. Friends of friends (and friends of friends of friends) could be your prospective members, too, and strategic social media initiatives can be an effective and fun way to connect with them.

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 audiences on social media can take you to a whole other level.

Foxfeather Ženková, an artist who does wildlife rehabilitation and conservation, knows the value of building connections with fans. “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,” she says. “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.

3) Join the broader cultural conversations

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 point of view.

Justine Kay of 2 Black Girls, 1 Rose, a podcast fostering conversation around representation and inclusion on all things related to The Bachelor franchise, recounts that she and co-creator Natasha Scott “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, she says, you might end up finding a community already having a relevant conversation, and you can see who else is speaking to them, and see 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. Justine underscores, “Thinking you’re the only one who cares about something is the opposite of building community.”

Doing research to find out where and how you can contribute to an existing conversation is “the real work,” Justine says. And 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.

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. Or 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. “I had a sudden success on TikTok in 2020 and quickly built my Patreon to support my wider vision,” she says. She invited her new and existing fans to stick with her, and join her and become members. “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.

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 Douglas Bartholomew Reginald Esquire the 4th, known as 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.” That 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, you can use your older content in your favor to help bring new folks into the mix.

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, founder of Izzie Chea Music Studio, which 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 members. The advice she gleaned led her to start using Patreon as the source for a weekly public newsletter, which includes member updates and 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 processes or strategies. But the best part? Creators are often well-positioned and excited to help each other. For example, the Patreon Creator Community Discord server 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 A. Club, or peer accountability group. And we invite creators of color to join Pull Up for the community you need to build a business around your creative genius.

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!

What tips do you have for growing an audience? What advice do you need? Join the Patreon Creator Community Discord server, an A. Club, or Pull Up to discuss and connect with fellow creators.

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