How to turn fans into members through authentic marketing

By Francesca Margherita

Photo by Dajuana Jones, featuring attendees at an event hosted by a podcaster.

Entice the people who love your work most to sign up for membership with these authentic marketing strategies.

Your most engaged fans are the people most likely to join your membership — and in order to get them to sign up, you’ve got to invite them into the fold. If like many creators, you feel a little awkward bringing up a membership offering (or anything paid), don’t worry. In this guide, we’ll take you through proven marketing tactics you can use to promote your membership in an authentic way, without being “sales-y,” and we’ll show you how creators are using them to grow their memberships.

Before we jump in, remember, when you’re genuinely excited to share your Patreon with fans, chances are good that they’ll match your enthusiasm and be excited to sign up. What you're offering through your membership is valuable. Give your fans a peek into what they’re missing, and let them be allured by the content and community experiences they can be a part of when they join.

Show your fans what they’re missing

Tease your content

Start by giving your fans a taste of the exclusive content that they can get full access to by joining your membership. Sharing teasers (also known as sneak previews) is one of the most effective ways to get your fans’ attention, spark their interest in membership, and give them a clear incentive to sign-up. For example, you might share a snippet of an exclusive video you created for your members, or post a sound bite of a podcast episode or song your members are getting to hear before it debuts to the general public. And let your fans know how they can find the rest — by joining you on your Patreon.

Here’s a great example of a teaser in action: Musician Jordan Rakei shared on Instagram a short clip of an exclusive video he created just for his members, and he included some background about membership and let his fans know what other members-only cover songs await those who join. “Every month I perform and arrange an exclusive cover on my Patreon,” he wrote, and gave some examples of the musicians whose work he’s covered. Adding, “Here’s a snippet. You can watch in full if you sign up to my Patreon now!”

Musician Jordan Rakei uses a snippet to a new song on Instagram.

Creators have also found success teasing their content. For example, announcing on social media when something new is coming — like a video drop at midnight just for members on Patreon — and drum up a sense of mystery and excitement around it. Or sharing a schedule of upcoming exclusive content every week to further entice fans to stay engaged, and potentially become members in the future.

Teasing an exclusive video drop for members.

To make the most of promotions like this, be specific about the benefits of signing up in your calls to action and create a time-bound experience with a specific cut-off, such as: “If you become a member by midnight, you’ll get access to this exclusive event!”

Sharing teasers is a data backed strategy. In Patreon’s analysis of podcast creators' use of teasers, for example, we’ve seen an up to 197% lift in new sign-ups on days when creators posted a teaser compared to non-teaser days.

Another data point? Some real-life performance metrics from a Patreon creator. After mentioning their membership twice to their fans on their social channels, check out how sign-ups jumped when they included a teaser of the exclusive content available through their membership:

In this real-life example, a creator’s regular mentions of exclusive content and teasers corresponded with increased new pledges.

Give a peek behind the scenes

Another way to cultivate a little healthy, motivating FOMO? Make public references to what’s going on behind the scenes in your membership. For example, share highlights from an inspiring conversation in a members-only community chat space, shout out folks who came through for a exclusive event, or talk about a new video you're making just for your community on Patreon. When you do this, you're sharing your excitement about your membership and giving fans a peek into the experience that awaits them when they become a member.

Vocal group säje, for example, shared a short clip from the monthly livestream they hosted just for their members, giving fans a look into the type of programming that comes with membership. “We went IN for our pätrons yesterday and shared all the goodie goodies about the debut säje album,” they wrote, going on to explain what they unveiled at the gathering, including previews of new songs, glimpses of their process, and a merch giveaway from their Patreon-only shop.

On Instagram, Saje Voices gives a peek into a members-only live stream.

Once you’ve given your fans a real taste of what members have access to, it can feel much more natural to share how they can join in on that magic. By demonstrating the value of becoming a member, this approach can also help break down the wall between your fans and your members.

Invite your fans to the party at every opportunity

Have you heard of the rule of seven? It’s a nearly century-old marketing maxim that states that, on average, people need to hear a message seven times before they’ll take action to purchase whatever’s being advertised. While “advertising” and “purchases” may not be how you’re thinking about authentic marketing, the essence of the principle applies: Most people need to catch your message more than once before they take action. So, share with your fans about your membership with a steady cadence, across your different channels.

The creators behind the New Rory & Mal podcast, offer a great example of a multi-channel, “surround sound” approach to membership marketing. They promoted an exciting members-only livestream across their social platforms, taking care to ensure non-members knew how to take part in the experience. To maximize on the draw of the event, they built awareness and momentum by posting across three platforms on three consecutive days. On day one, they teased the livestream on Instagram; on day two, they talked about it on their podcast; and on day three, they mentioned it at the beginning and end of a YouTube video.

The New Rory & Mal team hyped a special event across different social media platforms over a set time period, for a “surround sound” approach to promotion.

Pro tip: Use active, direct language in your announcements. Straight forward phrases like “Get my new single here” or “Join today and get access to next week’s episode early” get right to the point and put the value up front.

Engage your community in conversation

A big way to help your marketing feel authentic is to make sure you’re talking with — not just at or to — your community. Ask questions, share ideas, and let the conversations roll, wherever you and your fans connect. And if you’ve got a members-only space for connection, like a Discord or Slack, let folks know that they can have more of this great chit-chat if they sign up.

For a great example of building community through conversation, take a cue from Senator Nina Turner, founder of the Hello Somebody podcast. She gave a shoutout in a social post to one of her Patreon members who suggested a topic for her podcast: “What gives you hope and joy right now?” She then encouraged her fans to join the conversation by sharing a post of themselves “finding their joy” — and then nominating three others to do the same. This sparked an organic conversation among her wider audience, and she was able to naturally introduce her membership and the value of exclusive community conversations.

Sparking conversation with fans, fostering connection and community.

Share the love

Expressing gratitude to your members publicly — on social media, in the credits of a video, in liner notes, during podcast episodes — is a gracious and warm thing to do. Plus, it opens the door to previewing what could be coming down the pike thanks to your members — a tactful opportunity to spark a little of that all-important FOMO, in a way that highlights that you and your fans are in this together.

Archaeology and history content makers Time Team have struck this balance especially well. In an Instagram post celebrating a major milestone — their 8,000th patron — they publicly thanked their members, and shared both what members have made possible and what will be possible thanks to their members.

Time Team thank their members as they reach an 8,000 member milestone.

For another approach, musician Alissa White-Gluz made a series of posts to her instagram stories when she released a new video paid for by her members. In them, she thanked her “beastlings” and shared the names of her members as she promoted the new video.

Alissa White-Gluz thanks her Patreon members and teases a new video series.

Pro-tip: Don’t forget to link to your Patreon membership everywhere you put out content.

Bringing it all together

When it comes to enticing your fans to become members, there’s plenty of room for creativity and experimentation. Whether you post previews of what’s on the horizon, regularly share about upcoming happenings that members can participate in, thank your members in public spaces, or otherwise gently fan the flames of FOMO in inviting ways, try out different tactics to find the ones that feel like the best fit for you and what you offer members.

For more strategies for expanding your membership base, read 7 audience-building tips for creators.

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