Feeling Overwhelmed - too many messages!

Hi all! My community has been growing a lot over the past year and I have been focusing even more on building a sense of community through bonus interactive content during the pandemic, but I’ve run into a problem: I just can’t keep up!! Between my instagram messages, facebook messages, patreon messages, and emails (in addition to monitoring comments on all of these platforms and hosting a group on facebook), I just can’t keep my head above water. I’ve reached the point in my growth that I just literally do not have the time to respond to every message that comes my way. It’s been causing me tons of stress and I’ve been putting in ridiculous hours just trying to stay on top of it.

I’ve been thinking about ways to funnel everything into one place and after the Discord workshop, I’m thinking that might be a good home base? If I could shut down my messaging systems on facebook and ig and move the group over to discord, I think it would be easier to keep track of everything. Still toying with ideas.

Patreon users with larger followings: got any tips to dealing with overwhelming amounts of interaction? Got any gatekeeping systems that help you filter out the important stuff? (And before you suggest it - I’m not at a point where I could hire a communications manager or assistant just yet, but may do so eventually!)

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Hey @the_wondersmith,

I’d like to bump this thread as I have a similar issue! My current (not good) system is a hierarchy-- patreon messages first, patreon comments second, and then “liking” most comments on social media, without being able to respond to much of anything. This accidentally means that my fans are most likely to get a response from me through a pay gate, which doesn’t feel great, but it possibly has brought more business to my page?

I wonder if starting a discord server would cause more interaction between my fans rather than always looking towards me for a response? I haven’t tried this yet, however, because I don’t want to add another thing to my overflowing plate.

In any case, I feel solidarity with you! Hopefully others with more insight will offer it.

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Hey there,

First off, congrats on having an excellent problem.

But seriously, I feel you. It sounds like you are needing to set some boundaries. Making yourself accessible 24/7 isn’t in your long-term interest and that means it’s not in the interest of those that are invested in your well-being. Keep that in mind when you choose to push people away. Here’s where I come down on things.

1. Comments sections aren’t worth it. Communities are born in places where communication can be mutual. Any format that doesn’t encourage people to talk among themselves isn’t a place where you should be fostering interaction. SOLUTION: Don’t commit to reading to replying to social media posts on any platform unless there is something actionable (ie customer service needs).

2. Promote specific times and locations for social interaction. Livestreams and Discord hangouts are excellent. Make it easy for people to be notified when these things are happening and schedule them in advance. That gives you clear air to exist as a creator rather than a community moderator.

3. Hire moderators! Promote your trusted super fans to clear out bad actors from Facebook groups, Subreddits and Discord channels. This should never ever be your job. That being said, stay in contact with the people who do this work for you and cherish them whenever possible.

4. Schedule and/or delegate social media posts. Posting in real-time benefits no one. You should be banking your content and releasing it using automation tools in order to release the burden of posting from your daily schedule. It should be a weekly or monthly chore rather than an hourly one.

5. Reduce your number of inboxes. You can use a combination of automation and good messaging to ensure that the vast majority of communication only hits a couple of possible inboxes. That will make it much easier to batch the important messages and respond to them with the time they deserve. I counted up mind once and discovered I had over 30. Email is good. Manage it well and make sure that all communication that requires a reply references places where people can email you.

6. Respect is a two-way street. It’s a sad truth, but some people’s primary goal is to waste your time. They don’t love you, they aren’t valuable to you and they don’t wish you well. Ignore or delete 100% of messages that seek to bother, or steal from you. Is a needy stranger asking you about something you are only half interested in? Just delete the message without response. Leaving people on read is no a crime and you will not be arrested.

The main point is that it’s necessary to control when, who, and how you communicate with a fanbase online. Without rules and restrictions, you are forced to either sacrifice your work, your health, and the healthiest relationships you have online.

Hope this helps!

-Pete

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Yes, that’s exactly how I’m feeling! Wondering/hoping that Discord can become sort of a catch-all and simplify my life, rather than becoming one more thing to manage. I like the idea of having a community that is more self-sufficient.

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Wow, thank you so much Pete, that is super helpful! I think the specific times and locations for social interaction is a fantastic first step. I DEFINITELY want to reduce my number of inboxes… way too much chaos there.

It’s funny how it seems obvious, but yet I really did need that reminder that it’s okay not to respond to everything. I get a lot of long, detailed requests and questions that take a good chunk of time to answer but aren’t always super relevant. I like to be helpful, so I keep doing that, but like you said - those boundaries are important.

Thanks again for your detailed reply and awesome tips, this is helping me a lot in figuring out how to set things up to take some of my load off!

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Hi! It sounds like you have an awesome problem on your hands! I say that because if our issue is that we’re getting too much engagement and interaction, that’s basically what many creators dream of. My first suggestion would be to sit back a second and then smile knowing that you did it! You created something so amazing that people are striving to get your time and attention.

I think Pete gave some great suggestions and I’d love to add on.

1. Comment sections are 100% worth it. This is the one suggestion of Pete’s that I do strongly disagree with. A solid number of my paying patrons actually originated from me answering and responding to them in comment sections mainly on Youtube. Why? Because the mindset of “ignore the comment section” is exactly what they’re used to. That may be the only way they know of to communicate with you! I don’t suggest you respond to the trolls and hater comments though. We all get them, just ignore them and don’t stress them.

2. Hiring Staff and Moderators This is something Pete suggested and honestly it is a must. What I wanted to add here is that if you’re doing this level of interaction/engagement then financially this project must be doing pretty well too? Allocate some of your financial resources to hire/contract out some of the work you are doing. If you need ideas on what to contract out, contact me.

4. Schedule and/or delegate social media posts Adding onto this one as well because this is huge. You should not be doing all of your social posts each day or doing them all in real-time. They should be scheduled out. Spend some time building up a week to a month’s worth of posts. You can always add some social posts here and there about time-sensitive information later since now you’ll have time. Look into the Twitter ad account and something like Hootsuite. You can also schedule Patreon page posts =]

5. Lay the ground rules for expectations Let your followers know that their messages to you may incur long wait times. I have a large community, and it takes me sometimes 12 hours to respond, but my followers and members know that. So they support it! They know why I’m taking time, and why it’s important to me to respond to each member with my best effort.

6. Follow your instinct and move the discussion to Discord Stop emailing. Stop Facebook dm’ing. Stop doing all of the communication that takes a lot of time to do. Sending an email may seem quick but by now you’ve realized that sending 50 isn’t short, especially if they’re personalized (which they should be!) Redirect your community into Discord where you can very quickly respond to multiple messages at once and easily manage what you have and have not answered yet.

Key things here: Communicate to your community that you need more time to respond. Move them to 1 central hub where you can quickly and more easily respond (Discord). Schedule out your posts and content. Be happy you’re doing well and have reached an awesome point in your journey!

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+1 to the comments that this is a great problem to have!
@PeteMohrbacher-Angelarium and @ManateeGaming both provided some incredible suggestions, so I just want to jump in and reiterate that it’s okay to give yourself a break. Especially with the state of the world right now, everyone deserves time to rest.

I’m also so glad you were able to join the Discord workshop the other day! If you are leaning towards adding a Discord to your tiers, you can find some helpful info on that here!

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I have totally been there. It feels so wrong to ignore messages. In normal situations it is just good manners to answer someone if they sent us a message. But when you grow to a certain level (for me it hit about 3 years ago) you start to realize you just can’t answer everything. It caused me a ton of guilt and stress while I worked out what to do, so I feel your pain. It still pains me to not reply to everything but I have had to let go of that and realize for my own mental health I just can’t do it.

The suggestions above are awesome. I just wanted to add my kudos to you. It is hard to have these growing pains (I guess that is a common phrase for a reason) but it is a sign that you are doing something right.

I had to do an evaluation of my brand when I hit this wall. I had to figure out what I wanted to do myself and what was essential for me to be involved in. For me that was creative planning, painting and interacting with close fans and patrons. It took me almost 2 years to find a competent social media manager who now does all my posting, emails and website stuff - things I didn’t want to do. And that has freed me to be able to do the parts of my business I am passionate about (so important to avoid burnout).

The other thing I did was reduce my commenting on social media posts to once or twice a week and that is all. It is so hard to cut back when you are used to checking in multiple times a day like I was. But it organized my time and made it so that I could focus just on commenting for a short amount of time (one or 2 hours) and then be done. Set aside time and do as many comments as you can and then move on and know that any you missed will still be there next time and maybe you will have time for them then. It can also help to go back to the last comment you made and work from older to newer posts if you do have time to hit most of them one day. It made replys less of a chore for me. Something about the psychology of setting a limit on it gave me permission to walk away and do other things and even though it still bothers me I am able to function better overall.

One exception to that commenting rule is my patrons. I answer every comment that is asking for help. Every time. I check my emails multiple times a day so that I can be quick with my replies. I think eventually this will be something I hand off to someone else since most of the replies are about site issues but for now I make that a priority. I feel like patrons are paying for better access to my time (within reason) so I try to make time for them. If they are needing personalized help or something out of the norm I refer them to my upper patreon levels where I have group access and more resources available.

Doing a weekly live chat with fans is something I would highly recommend. I have been doing it for the last 4 or 5 years and it has been an invaluable way to keep in close contact with fans, let them know what to expect in future posts, talk about life and easily answer the most common questions, etc. It takes about 30 min to an hour out of your week but it will pay back your time in so many ways. My patreon success has a direct link to those chats. You can save up your favorite comments and talk about those and it will also help you get to know your top fans. It is awesome.

Sorry for the long reply. I could totally relate to your question and feel your stress. Do not let the business side of things steal your joy. It is easy to have that happen when you have so many people coming at you all the time 24/7 with comments and questions. It is good to have resources like this forum so that we can help support and encourage eachother. Also I checked out your patreon page and your stuff looks amazing!
I can see why you are having so much growth! :slight_smile:

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Thank you so much Angela! It’s comforting to know that other people have struggled with this stage of growth too. I love the idea of doing a live chat once a week, especially hosted on Discord. I’m doing okay financially, but not yet at a place where I can hire help… though I’m definitely working towards that! Thank you for your suggestions and kind words!

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Thank you, I definitely needed to hear that. And I’ll make use of that info for sure! I’m planning out how I want to structure my Discord, then I’ll get into building it and linking it with Patreon! I’m excited!

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Thank you so much for your suggestions! Yes, catching up on email can take a full 8 hours these days and it just kind of feels like I’m drowning in it. I definitely want to move everything to one central hub. That said, the one suggestion listed that hasn’t worked great for me is scheduling posts. I’ve been using hootsuite for years, but I find that I’m not as engaged with my audience when I post a scheduled post. (And I agree with you that comment sections are important, within reason!) I have to be in the mindset of whatever I’m posting to remember to check comments so that’s what I’ve stuck to doing. It may change in the future, but for now I feel like it’s important to keep things fresh for me so they’re fresh for my community too!

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I also want to say that I do think the comments section is 100% worth it, for me anyway. I still reply to every comment on instagram (i do miss the odd one) especially if it is an actual comment and not just a smiley or something. I get a lot of patrons via instagram.
I also still post in real time but I don’t post a lot and the reason I do this is so that I can reply within the first 10 mins of creating that post when it’s most likely to get action. That’s just instagram though since it is a fast paced, short attention span type place.

I have been doing an excellent art business course lately and one of the things that is talked about is training your audience/customers. If you reply to every super long email with a super long email then you will feed that. My other half doesn’t reply to anything at all (pretty much!) and still has a big following. I think that people tend to react to the vibe you create and if you’re used to bending over backwards to be there for people (guilty… not so much these days though!), then that can become super tricky with running the biz on the internet. I love your content btw, it’s gorgeous!

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I am struggling myself. Some users want Facebook, some want discord (and refuse to use either or ) and then some only want to use patreon…

The problem is, everything we are doing externally could be done on patreon itself, all in one spot if we only had the tools to do it. For example - we have no gallery option for potential patreons. Everything’s locked unless you unlock it and considering there are SO many creators who focus on design and would use a gallery both for members and for potential members… Or how about if the post navigation/search system worked well, as after a few years even I can barely find a post i’m looking for let alone my patrons - so much of my communication time is spent finding posts for people they cant find.

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It’s important to reply to comments, and it’s important to engage with your audience in places that they want to interact with you.

But it’s even more important to keep on working on your art.

My solution is to just timebox it. I set aside 30 minutes a day to answer as many comments as I can on YouTube, etc. Sometime I get through all of them, sometimes just a fraction.

Keep doing it, just limit it so you can spend time on your art.

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Thank you for the feedback @Geoff. Rest assured, we hear you. Updating messaging functionality is on our list!

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This is a great tip! Thanks for sharing @frasercain :slight_smile:

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I love the idea of the weekly live chat, do you go live on cam? Or is it just a discord or slack type of chat? And do a lot of patrons show up? I love bonding with my patrons and I’m wondering if this is something I should consider doing. I have around 1400 patrons now and I have no idea how many I would be talking to during a live chat.

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I am on camera for the live chats sometimes. When I am not painting I just chat and answer questions onscreen. But when I paint it is just my hands showing. Out of my 2700 patrons only 500 or so have access to the weekly livestream. Out of those about 20 or so will watch with me live and another 150 will watch the replay. When I do live events with all my patrons (like bingo) we had 500 watching with us live and I was onscreen. When I do the public chats on facebook live (onscreen Q&A) that group has about 15k members and about 75 or so will watch live and another 1500 will watch the replay. So there is good interaction overall. My core patrons love them.

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That sounds great! I’m working on a creating a livestream setup, but it’s really hard to get a good webcam these days and I would love to record my face and iPad at the same time.
I think it can be fun :slight_smile: Thanks so much for the info!

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I would recommend OBS. It lets you use the Webcam and other cameras and switch between them when you livestream. It can be hard to set up but there are tutorials for it.