Could Patreon become a Facebook?

Patreon will always need to grow to keep making money, and to do that, they’ll need more people visiting their site.

I’ve been using Patreon since late 2014 for Skull Toaster (you can see it here), and it’s served me well. I am thankful beyond measure that I have the support that I do from the audience I love.

But something that Jason Kottke mentions in his recent interview with Nieman Lab really struck me:

That’s the other thing I really didn’t like about (Patreon); I wanted to keep control over my membership experience. I didn’t want to outsource it to Patreon if in three years they do some sort of Facebook-esque thing and start hosting more and more content on their site so that it becomes more about them and less about the creators. I could just see that happening, and I didn’t want to go anywhere near it.

To get people to support your work via Patreon you have to tell people to visit your Patron page. You do this via social media, in videos, your email list, in messages to friends.

Posting content on your Patreon page a good way to get people to your Patreon. If you make a public post titled “Here are my five favorite music videos from January 2018,” that will get you more clicks than “go check out my Patreon.” That’s just how the internet works.

More clicks increase the chances of getting more support. Not because your fans hate you and aren’t enticed by your pleas to “check out my Patreon,” but because your fans are busy watching Netflix, Instagram Stories, replying to FB messages, and answering texts and emails till 1:30 am.

You have to post stuff that will get noticed, and cut through the clutter of social media in 2018.

The downside, though, is that putting more of your content on Patreon gives you less control. It becomes Patreon’s content in a way, surrounded by their branding. Their colors. Their photo format (they already have the worst blogging interface, uggg).

I think Kottke could be onto something here.

Driving traffic to Patreon is good for Patreon because it can lead to more supporters which puts money into Patreon’s pockets (as it should! They do a great job). But when (not if) Patreon flips the script (which they tried in December 2017), you’ll be left with a bunch of your content sitting on their servers – just like so many of us have already done with Twitter and Instagram and Facebook.

Seriously – if you’re not sending 100s of clicks a month to Patreon, you’re not much help to Patreon.

As Derek Sivers recently wrote in ‘Use the Internet, Not Companies,’

“It’s so important and easy to have your own website. Instead of sending your fans to some company’s site, send them to yours. Get everyone’s direct contact information, so you don’t have to go through any one company to reach them.”

Jason Kottke mentions Memberful, which allows you to set up subscriptions right on his own website. “If you go to my site and sign up for a membership, you never actually go to Memberful’s site,” said Jason, “it’s all done with JavaScript overlays and stuff on”

Driving traffic to your own website should be an artists number one priority. Your website is where people get the latest, most accurate information about what you’re doing (or where you’re playing). Or buy merch, or join your email list.

As we should have learned from the MySpace days, directing your fans to a 3rd party site (like Facebook, etc.) for something as sacred as your original content can be a risky move when that 3rd party site makes big changes, disappears, or starts charging you to reach your fans.