7 ways to better communicate and interact with your members

By Brian Keller

Photo by Jeremy Cohen, featuring musicians Ingrid Elizabeth and Ty Greenstein of Mouths of Babes

With these communication strategies proven to increase new member retention, you’ll be well-equipped to foster a strong, engaged community of fans.

Communication is key in any relationship, and the same holds true for your interactions with fans. Whether you're responding to discussion threads on your posts, writing a thank-you note, or hosting a live stream, the ways you show up can speak volumes and build bonds. And each touchpoint is an opportunity to meaningfully connect and model the reasons why being a member is worthwhile.

Here, as part of our series on member retention, we dive into seven strategies for communicating and interacting with your fan community, each designed to underscore the value you offer fans through membership.

1) Set clear expectations about membership benefits

No matter how often you post, which methods you choose to interact with your members, or what benefits you offer, it's important to clearly convey the content and benefits that your members can expect — and your Patreon page and tier descriptions are especially helpful spots to communicate this. That way, fans who are considering taking the plunge and becoming members know exactly what they're signing up for.

As you build up your membership business on Patreon, you'll figure out which processes work for you for sharing new work and interacting with your members. But if it's been awhile since you first wrote your page and tier descriptions, take a moment to look at your page from the perspective of someone seeing it for the first time. Even better, tap a friend to review your Patreon with fresh eyes and give you unbiased feedback.

When reviewing your Patreon page and benefits descriptions, consider these questions:

  • Accuracy: Does your page description still do a good job conveying your work and your journey as a creator? Do the tier descriptions accurately reflect what you currently provide to members each month? For example, you may be providing more benefits on a tier than you initially envisioned, or maybe you've phased some out over time.

  • Timeliness: Are there any details that are out of date? Any news, milestones, or updates you might want to add?

  • Wording: Is the language clear and inviting? Are you highlighting the things that make your work shine? Look out for spots where you're underselling your work and give the phrasing a refresh, if needed.

For step-by-step instructions on how to set up your tiers and benefits, how to edit your tiers, and how to write an eye-catching about section, check out Patreon's Help Center.

2) Send friendly welcome notes

When someone joins your membership, you have the chance to help them feel welcome, excited, and included right from the start. An easy way to do this? Set up an automated welcome note on Patreon to send your members a personal message when they join. The new member will see the welcome note on the membership page after they sign up, and they'll also get a copy through email. You can set up one universal welcome note that goes to all new members, or set up custom welcome notes based on membership levels.

The welcome note doesn't need to be elaborate, but it should touch on a few key topics:

  • Gratitude: Thank your new members for joining. What does their membership mean to you?

  • Excitement: Share your enthusiasm about having their support. What are some highlights and benefits that the new member can get amped about?

  • Orientation: Include details on what the new member can expect with this membership. Point out ways they can start participating, like joining a members-only chat or exploring your archive or back catalog.

For example, visual artist Tina Yu sends an informative and inspiring welcome note to all of her members, with one universal message for all tiers. With an embedded video with a short, direct thank-you message, links to her most popular courses and tutorials from previous Patreon posts, and information about when she ships out the physical rewards, Tina sets an inviting tone and helps new members get oriented right away.

Even if you've written a welcome note in the past, it's worth reviewing your message periodically and refreshing it if any details are out-of-date — or tweaking the language, imagery, or videos you use to keep it fresh and compelling for new members. (To create or edit the message on Patreon, to your page settings > Welcome notes.)

For step-by-step instructions on how to set up welcome notes, check out Patreon's Help Center.

Photo by Jeremy Cohen, featuring artist Tina Yu

3) Answer messages from members

Membership is a special way for your biggest fans to have a closer connection with you. For one line of communication, Patreon allows you to directly message your members and for them to message you. Responding to your messages on Patreon can have an impact on how well you retain new members. So if a member is reaching out to you with a message, make sure they feel seen and heard, whether you have a team member who handles communication with members or if you do it directly.

Creators who make an investment in engaging with their member messages often say that this really pays off and helps with building a close-knit community. For example, Wade Nixon, the video creator behind DankPods, has one of the largest memberships on Patreon with over 30,000 members. He’ll often get dozens of messages each week, and he makes it a priority to respond to each one. Getting a response is a special experience for the member, and it pays off for Wade, resulting in a very high new member retention rate.

If you have a lot of messages to reply to, saving templates with responses on common topics can make this task a lot more manageable. You can store these replies in a document or use more advanced tool like TextExpander that allows you to instantly insert snippets of text from your repository of messages.

For the ins and outs of messaging on Patreon, check out Patreon’s Help Center.

4) Publish a monthly content calendar

In any membership or subscription business, you have to win the customer’s business again each cycle. If members don’t believe that they’ll get good value for their money, during the next renewal period, they might feel inclined to cancel. To avoid this cyclical drop-off, remind your members what’s happening in the month ahead. This approach is one of the most effective tactics for Patreon creators. By drumming up excitement and giving a sneak preview, you’re also reinforcing why it’s worth renewing each month. Plus, Patreon’s research shows that members who view at least one new post per month are significantly more likely to stay on board.

The video creators behind Watcher, for example, map out their monthly publishing schedule with a clearly organized list of recurring, weekly happenings, as well as dates for special events, so that fans can plan ahead and get excited for what’s around the corner.

Try this out for your own membership business: One week before the end of the month, publish a post that lets members know the types of creative work you’ll be making in the coming month and when they can expect it to drop. It’s okay if you have a few spots where the topic isn’t finalized or the dates are flexible; that can still be a nice teaser. Once you’ve made this post on Patreon, you can share the same info on social media with a note about your membership. A post like this might encourage some on-the-fence members to stick around and get everyone excited about being in the community for another month.

5) Poll your members

Inviting members to actively give input isn’t just an enticing benefit. It’s an effective way to engage your community as well as collect insights that can help you find ways to better serve your fans and improve member retention.

Here are a few example topics you might survey your members about:

  • Get feedback on works in progress
  • Test out new benefit ideas
  • Let your members vote on topics for new projects or episodes
  • Collect input on designs for new merch
  • Get a gut check on a new idea

Author and educator Blair Imani, for example, surveyed her community to decide which benefits to retire and which new ones to add, as well as reimagining the branding and naming of her membership on Patreon.

Even simple or mundane topics can turn into an interactive and more fun experience for your community. And you might learn something in the process, too. Just make sure you’re following up in an appropriate way on what your community votes for. If you posted an opinion poll, reference the winning option in a future post or episode. If you surveyed fans about potentially changing the benefits you offer, make the change and acknowledge that it was influenced by member input. Plus, mentioning these members-only opportunities for input on social media can give fans another reason to become (and remain) members.

Find out how to set up a poll on Patreon in Patreon’s Help Center.

6) Foster community among fans

Most members join for a combination of enjoying your creative work and wanting to be a part of your community. It can be easier to establish bonus content you provide members than to plan and follow through on building a formal community of fans. But authentic and intimate community experiences that can be deeply meaningful — and hold a key to getting members to stick around for the long term.

Running a members-only Discord server (essentially a collection of online chatrooms for you and your fans), or a section of a public server, can be a great way to foster an online community. Members can use a Discord server to communicate directly with one another, and you can pop in as often as you’d like; the more engaged you are, the more value you offer. Some creative ways to use Discord include hosting “parties” where members stream songs, adding channels dedicated to conversation on particular topics, and making it easy for members to connect to each other. For example, the team behind the role-playing games network Glass Cannon run an active Discord server and include access just for members on their $5 and up tiers. With Patreon’s integration with Discord, members can be automatically approved to enter your server upon joining your Patreon (and automatically deleted when they cancel membership).

But Discord isn’t the best match for all creators and communities, and there are plenty of other ways to host shared community experiences, like offering a livestream or Q&A just for members. These don’t need to be highly produced sessions; they can have more of a behind-the-scenes feel of getting to know you in a casual environment.

Photo by Jeremy Cohen, featuring Drew Ackerman, host of the podcast Sleep With Me

7) Make personalized video messages

A direct and personal acknowledgement can mean the world to a new member. And thank yous can take many forms. Take a cue from video creators and podcasters, for example, and include a verbal or visual callout of the names of new members who have joined since your last episode. This is an easy way to make special shoutouts part of your regular production habit, and provide individual recognition without much extra work.

Some savvy creators record short, personalized welcome videos to send to each new member to make the welcome experience extra special. Patreon's integration with Bonjoro makes it easy to queue up your new members, record videos on your phone wherever you are, and distribute them with one click. According to Patreon's data, creators who use the Patreon and Bonjoro integration have monthly earnings about four times higher than creators using other integrations.

Drew Ackerman, host of the Sleep With Me podcast, uses this custom thank-you video method to perfection. Every month, he fires up Bonjoro and records a set of one-minute welcome videos. He has his script memorized and just needs to customize it with the name of each new member. Then, the app automatically sends each video to the respective new member. Getting a custom video like this feels special and personal, while underscoring what this new member's pledge means to you, the creator. Plus, a thoughtful gesture like this signals to a new member the sorts of exciting surprises that make it worthwhile to remain a member going forward.

For more about member-retention techniques, read 4 strategies for reducing turnover and getting members to stick around and Top benefit types proven to keep members engaged — and how to use them, here on the Creator Hub.

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