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.


We Know Everything Now

Hearing and reading a lot more conversations that pertain to leaving social media, or at least lessening the habitual checking-in. The magnetic pull of “likes,” as well as the “fear of missing out” on something that happened 12 seconds ago.

“Is the never-ending psychic tinnitus of social media worth suffering through in the ever-dwindling hope that you’ll be exposed to something enriching, thanks to algorithms that favor paid advertising and “growth hacking?” The answer–for me, at least–is increasingly no.”
Escaping the Social Media Morass and Rediscovering Delight,’ by Tenebrous Kate

There is still value in “getting the word out,” of course, for both projects and worthy causes, but the problem is noise. Everyone is getting the word out. Everyone knows someone who has a GoFundMe. Every town has some asshole that got caught doing horrible things.

In 1998 or so I remember this interaction with a friend. I started telling a story, and before I got too far along they said, “yeah, I know, I read your Xanga.”

Now in 2018, 20 years later, we know what our friends are eating in real time. Or we can watch a video from the show they’re at right this second. That immediacy can be overwhelming at times.

What do we do with that information? We take in the videos, the cute filters, the badly lit and even worse sounding concert footage, and then… then what?

We know so much now, and yet we know so little.

Just Keep Copying

Tweet via Austin Kleon

I’ve been telling people over the years that they better start an email list. Social media is on a collision course for the sun (or a Nazi takeover, whichever happens first), so better to get ahead of that disaster with an exit plan. To me, that’s an email list.

Everyone has an email address. If everyone has social media, they had to use an email address to sign up for the account. Every. Has. An. Email. Address.

That doesn’t mean everyone has a tidy email inbox, but that’s their own fault. They probably follow 234234 social media accounts, too. Lost souls.

When discussing email lists, after the initial “ewwww, how boring” faces, the subject turns to “well, what would I even send out?”

Well, copy somebody’s style, even if you’re not copying their emails. What do the cool brands bands and labels send out to their social media feeds? Ummm, cool photos. Some quirky copy. Probably mentions of places they’ll be, or things they have to sell. Congrats, you’re now an email marketer.

Now, the first email you send out will suck compared to the tenth, but you have to start at number one, so just get it over with. Sign up for a Mailchimp account, make some mistakes, and before you know it you’ll have your own style.

Twitter Actually Made Money

The social media sewage pool that I call Twitter actually turned a profit, its first since 2006.

It may not grow into an advertising behemoth like Facebook, but at least it’s no longer sinking. And if it can keep turning a modest profit, that’s something—except for lingering problems of abuse and hatred on the platform, and the rampant bot problem that may or may not have affected the 2016 US election and the UK Brexit vote.

If you’re trying to get noticed on Twitter, good luck. They are not in the business of sending you free traffic, and I’m guessing soon we’ll see more throttling of traffic from feeds that just send out link after link, begging for a click.