How to grow a following outside of Patreon?

I started my Patreon with a very small following: I started my Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook page the same month and only had 100 combined followers on Deviantart, Twitter, and my blog before that. Despite that I felt I had a pretty strong start as my earnings by the end of my first month were $50. I’ve had very good patron retention and pledge increases. The first year I averaged one new patron a month. That’s probably not phenomenal, but given my low following I was pleased.

I am about to celebrate my 2nd Patreon anniversary, but feel like everything has stalled out this second year. I’ve tried several promotions to build a following outside of Patreon. I’ve done giveaways and contests, been reading and applying marketing techniques: posting regularly at prime times, created calls to action, hashtagging everything with every relevant tag I can think of, commented on other people’s posts, participate in conversations, join groups, talked in forums, created polls, asked questions, done conventions, spoken with people offline and in person, and just anything I can think of or anyone has suggested to me to engage others. Aside from what feels like endless promotion I have been improving my art, trying new techniques, following tutorials, experimenting with different media, finding bits of spare time here and there to increase my output, etc. I am seeing good improvement on my skills, but marketing is like tryin’ to run in molasses. I’m gettin’ no where fast. I’ve averaged 100 new followers across all of my social media per year and this just seems very low when I compare to other’s numbers.

I know this is a slow process and I’m playin’ the long game, but I’m seein’ no where near the growth or engagement I would expect for the amount of research, effort, and art I am producing. I’m either doing something very wrong or there is something crucial that I’m missing.

Does anyone have any tips or advice on what’s working for you? Is anyone else having the same problem? I’m really curious to hear what’s working for you and what you might have found to be working against you.

I’ve been on Patreon for two and a half years, and I also feel stalled out. I’ve been hovering consistently at 30-35 patrons for the past year, even though my numbers on social media are steadily climbing.

I write articles, host art exchanges, post photos of my artwork, video lessons and speed throughs, and people are happy to have all that—for free, without supporting me, and generally, without even a like, or a comment, or a thank-you. I knew, going in, that I had a large number of followers and email subscribers that are only in it for the freebies I post, but there are just days when I want to send out a message that says “Jeez, throw a girl a bone already, you freaking moochers!” Of course, I don’t really feel that way, it’s just hard to put everything I’ve got into creating, and get nothing back from the overwhelming majority of the people following me.

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I hear you, I have a decent following on my FB page (over 1000 people), only a handful of which ever comment, and forget about buying anything. My best buyers are friends, former students, people I’ve built a relationship with one way or another, but with no relation to social media. (Of course, these people don’t join patreon because they aleady buy regularly from me). It’s the thing ot do now, growing a following, but I’m increasingly skeptical. Grow relationships, a following is meaningless. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be as visible online as you can (you never know where the right eyeballs are going to come from, all the major jobs I’ve done confirmed that), but it’s not about number of followers, that is not where your creative energy should go IMO.

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PS On deviantart I have 15,671 followers. Exactly 2 became patrons!

I absolutely hear you on that. When I was conventionally employed I would support every friend who asked: every girl scout cookie drive, band trip popcorn, friends trying to make extra money selling that cheap ugly jewelry, sponsor people on walkathons and 5Ks, moneyraising events for every charity of choice, charity auctions, funeral expense money, buy dinner for friends who were broke the day before payday, stayed 3 extra hours after work to help finish some project so work friends could go home, and so on. I never did any of it hoping for anything in return. I didn’t even know about Patreon then. I thought it was just being a good person, being a good friend. Some part of me thought it would be no big deal to ask for $1/month from these people when I decided to pursue a life of art. It was so much less than they’d asked of me in the past and they were my friends, right?

Not one of the friends I’ve given to in the past has become a patron and I’m not sure how to feel about that, but it’s not a good feeling.

I agree it’s not about the massive numbers following you, but the relationships you build with people. @natemaingard is really good about getting his patrons to feel connected to him and what he’s doing and overall feeling included. It’s very genuine and I want the experience with me and my art to be like that. For me trying make connections with people is as important as gaining followers. On Deviantart I have all of 63 followers and 5 of them are patrons, so I guess (?) I have a good start at that, but if you’ve got a low following you’ve got less people to try to make that connection. That’s why I think you have to build a pool of followers so you can find the ones who are willing to make that connection with you. Which is why I feel it’s important to increase my reach and was hoping for some ideas on how to go about that.