How to combine exclusive content and community to delight your fans
Figure out the ideal mix of benefits with real-life examples from successful creators.
Benefits are the building blocks of your membership. They’re the value that you offer your fans who join your membership in exchange for their monthly subscription. Ultimately, benefits can be almost anything that works for you and your fans. They’ll be a reflection of you, your creative work, and your community. And the most successful Patreon creators offer a combination of two types of benefits: exclusive content and unique community experiences.
Exclusive content gives your fans something that they can’t get anywhere else. It can include early access to your regular creative work (like the videos, podcast episodes, or event tickets you generally offer your fans), bonus content created just for members, merch, and even special, hard-to-access goodies resurrected from your archives.
Community experiences, by contrast, are all about engagement. They can give your fans a way to connect more with you, your work, and one another. These types of benefits include things like community forums, live stream hangs, and “Ask me anything” posts (also known as AMAs). Community experiences are a chance for you to delight your fans in new ways and connect with the people who most love your work.
Let’s explore some real examples of the different types of content and community benefits Patreon creators are offering, and then dig into pricing models and strategies to help you achieve your own success.
A closer look at exclusive content as a benefit
Exclusive content can both entice many of your fans to become members and help keep them around. In fact, bonus and exclusive content as a category of benefits has the highest member retention rate across creative mediums on Patreon. This is a diverse category of benefits with a wealth of possibilities. Check out a few sub-categories and some inspiration directly from fellow creators.
Bonus and ad-free content
Let members have more of what they love. This could include sharing in-progress work, extended cuts, ad-free shows, or digital downloads of your art. For example, podcast duo Rory & Mal offer members bonus episodes and extended cuts of their podcast, behind-the-scenes content, and more. And the Let’s Know Things news analysis podcast offers ad-free episodes, a members-only community, and fun bonuses that are always changing.
Early access content
Give members a sneak preview or advance access to your upcoming episodes, releases, and work. For example, video creator Zach Campbell offers fans early access to new videos, plus perks like behind-the-scenes videos. And successful podcasts like Kit & Krysta and The House of Halliwell offer early access to upcoming episodes, as well as special access to Q&As.
"You might not think of tactile goodies as “content” but they can be! Offer unique members-only merchandise, such as stickers, shirts, and postcards, as tangible mementos for fans."
Provide fans a special look into the past or rare access to archival content or footage — and extend the life of the work you’ve done previously. For example. comics creators Aqueerious offer access to archived comics at their entry level (and early access to their character stories too!). And Amanda Seales of The Amandaverse podcast offers access to a “vault” of archived shows, behind-the-scenes footage, and throwback interviews.
You might not think of tactile goodies as “content” but they can be! Offer unique members-only merchandise, such as stickers, shirts, and postcards, as tangible mementos for fans. For example, Jacqueline Chen, the illustrator behind Chibird, bases her entire membership around a monthly “pin club” with new exclusive designs every month that members can vote on. And video creator Glen Henry of Beleaf in Fatherhood offers different Patreon-exclusive merch (think posters, hoodies, and mugs) at each level above $10.
Pro-Tip: Check out Patreon’s merch for membership tool for an easy way to offer member-exclusive merch without the hassle of fulfillment.
A deeper dive into community benefits
Experiential and community-oriented benefits are a complement to consumable content. These can take many shapes, bringing fans closer to each other, your work, you, or any combination of those things. You’ll likely find that these kinds of experiences appeal to a wide range of your fans, including those who are less motivated by bonus content, but who want to be engaged with you and the other members in your community. The sky's the limit when it comes to cultivating and offering awesome community experiences — and exclusive meet-and-greets, virtual and live events, community platforms, groups, chats, or forums, are all options to have on your radar. Let’s take a look.
Giving members access to an online community space — such as a chat platform like Discord or Slack, a message board forum like Discourse, or a private social media group — helps fans connect more meaningfully with one another. Plus, it’s likely to keep them around and engaged. You can offer direct interaction via scheduled Q&As, live streams, and other programming.
As a community benefit, “premium dad audio content” and tabletop game creators Dungeons and Daddies grant members at their higher tiers access to a monthly hangout on Discord, where they can ask questions and “receive fatherly advice.”
Musician, artist, and writer Amanda Palmer uses Patreon's integration with Discourse to give her members access to a message board forum where they build deeper connections with one another — even finding carpools and couches to crash on when Amanda tours. She also offers exclusive community experiences, like a members-only book club.
"Taking the time to truly reflect on your audience and craft well-considered benefits will help you offer good value to your members while making the membership experience sustainable and enjoyable for you."
Access and insights
Let your members look behind the curtain a bit. This can include a behind-the-scenes look into your creative world, personalized updates, exclusive polls, or voting opportunities for your members.
To give members greater access to her work, musician Alissa White-Gluz offers members monthly virtual meet and greets. This might include personal appearances, Q&As, live music, and poetry readings — and sometimes, these occasions double as full-on parties.
Hip-hop and pop-culture podcasters The Read offer invite members to help shape their work through special opportunities, like submitting and voting on topics for future episodes.
Make members feel like they’re part of the magic through things like acknowledgements, shout-outs, and mentions in the credits. For example, at the end of all his YouTube videos, the artist behind SkaTune Network rolls credits for his members while an original thank you song plays. And Caitlin Doughty, mortician and video creator behind The Good Death, features members' names in the credits of her videos to give them public acknowledgment for helping to make the work possible.
Offer benefits and levels that suit you and your community
Ultimately, membership is about you and your community of fans. And the most successful benefits are the ones that tap into what gets both you and your fans excited. Before launching your Patreon, try finding out what your fans crave, what they value, and why they follow your work.
Running a quick public poll or asking fans for their input directly are great ways to get insight into what will work best. For example, when writer Dawn O’Porter was getting ready to start offering membership, she opened up a conversation with her fans about it on Instagram. She shared her vision for starting a membership to build community with her closest fans and provide them access to exclusive benefits.
Taking the time to truly reflect on your audience and craft well-considered benefits will help you offer good value to your members while making the membership experience sustainable and enjoyable for you.
Putting it all together
The most flourishing membership models typically combine several of these benefit types. Figuring out the perfect mix of exclusive content and community offerings for your membership takes an investment of time, but it’s well worth it. Once you’ve rounded up some compelling ideas that you’re excited to offer your members, it’s time to think about pricing them and setting up your membership. Head over to How to structure your membership to finalize your plan.
To keep the benefits banter going, chime into the Official Patreon Creator Community Discord server to swap ideas with fellow creators.