Patron Hunt is probably best described as a social network. But it's also like a marketplace, consisting of creators on one side ("merchants") and patrons on the other ("customers"). Of course, there's crossover in those two groups. But I need to get a certain amount of traction on one of those sides in order to make it interesting to the other. I've focused on building the creator side first because I have a strategy that provides me optimal control over my progress, and creators are much easier to find and contact than amorphous patrons.
I use a phased approach to building Patron Hunt. Each phase has to answer a single question with "Yes" before moving to the next. Phase 1's question was, "Will creators amplify and engage with Patron Hunt if I create profiles of them on the site and promote those profiles on social media?"
The answer to Phase 1 has been a solid "Yes." Twitter engagement, in particular, is quite high. Though, I need to accelerate the growth of my followers.
Now I'm in Phase 2. Its original question was, "Once I have enough creator profiles on the site, will people be interested in being 'patrons'?" The answer to that question was, "No." Not yet, at least.
To ask that question I contacted an email list of nearly 50 people who'd signed up to be notified when Patron Profiles were launching. No one responded. One person eventually responded, but she's a friend of mine ;-) And, it turns out, she's more interested in having a creator profile.
When I get a "No" it doesn't necessarily mean I need to keep finding ways to get a "Yes" during the current phase. It can mean that it's too early to ask that question. I took this "No" to be "No, you haven't got enough creators on the site," and as a signal that I need to keep my focus on growing the creator side of the equation.
So my next question was: "Will creators ask to be profiled on the site if I invite them to do so?" As soon as I tweeted an invitation and added that info to Patron Hunt's Twitter and Instagram bios, I got two requests from creators. I'll take that as a "Yes." (Patron Hunt only has 109 Twitter followers, so two responses from one tweet ain't bad.)
Time to move to Phase 3 and a new question. I need to find out if creators are interested in creating and managing their profiles, themselves. Patron Hunt's model depends on creators doing just that. The first question for Phase 3 is then, "Will creators claim their Patron Hunt profiles if invited to do so?" Claiming your profile means you take control of it.
Getting a "Yes" to Phase 3's first question will also help change the perception that Patron Hunt is a curation site, that it's about my judgement of who "deserves" to be profiled.
I've added a CTA on every creator profile that says, "Is this you? Click here to claim your profile." Today I'll notify the two creators who requested profiles that their profiles are published, and a good sign will be if either of those two creators click the CTA. I'll also continue to post on Twitter and IG about the creators who are already on the site to see if they begin to respond to that CTA. Also, I'll start promoting "Claim your profile" as a message on social media.
If I get a clear "Yes," then I'll need to rapidly deploy a solution on the site to allow creators to manage their own profiles as easily as possible, and I'll need to identify what the next question should be for Phase 4.
For Phase 4's question, I'm currently leaning towards, "Will creators link to their Patron Hunt profile from their social media bios if I invite them to do so?" Patron Hunt still needs a lot more creators before it can become a valuable network, and if creators will use their profile as a link from their social media bio, that will potentially create a growth flywheel on the creator side. It would also be a good signal that creators like their Patron Hunt profile, period.
If the answer to Phase 3's first question is "No," I probably need to focus on getting more traction on Twitter and traffic to the site. If I think in traditional terms, a 2-5% conversion rate would be a reasonable expectation from an engaged audience. With 140 creators that would only be 3-7 responses, and that would be if I successfully got the attention of all 140. So not getting at least three could likely indicate I just don't have enough reach yet to accurately measure. In that case, I'll probably ask the question, "Will the current creators on the site link to their Patron Hunt profiles from their social media bios if I invite them to do so?" So, yeah, same question as the one I'll ask if the answer to the Phase 3's first question is, "No!"
If you've gotten this far, you're probably seeing the same thing I'm seeing. These questions could be getting asked in a different order. For example, when I realize that I want to ask the same question regardless of the answer to Phase 3's first question, I do wonder if I should just ask it now (make it Phase 3's first question). Another option is to ask both questions at the same time, since one doesn't rule out the other. It's the work of plotting out this plan that in fact helps me surface these questions and potentially make better decisions about what to do next.
Someone with a very large platform recommended Patron Hunt just about four weeks ago. It was a great week because the newsletter went from a few subscribers to over 100 literally over night.
While getting someone with that big of a platform to recommend the site and the newsletter isn't exactly a repeatable acquisition process, it's a reminder that recommendations by people who influence your target audience are a powerful and free way to get some initial traction.
Since recommendation, the weekly rate of new subscribers has remained higher than before the mention. It's a trickle compared to the week OF the mention, but I wouldn't expect to sustain that rate. What's great is that the momentum has continued and is something that I can take advantage of.
After conducting research interviews with 20 creators on Patreon, I was inspired to launch Patron Hunt. While a lot of startups are focusing on facilitating transactions between creators and their supporters, what I heard from those 20 creators is that they need help building their audience and supporters.
Most creators aren't also marketers, social media experts and the like. They don't want to have to become marketing experts. The platforms , who mostly facilitate financial transactions between creators and their supporters, don't do anything to help creators who aren't actively trying to become "influencers" grow their base of supporters.
How can creators get found by the people who are likely to become supporters and patrons? As a tech veteran, I couldn't help but think about Product Hunt when asking myself this question. And can you believe it? The domain name, PatronHunt.com, was available! Who needs more of a sign than that? ;-)
My dream is that soon everyone with some disposable income will be supporting a handful of creators that they love, on a recurring basis. I'd like to help build the "patron economy" as much as the "creator economy." Here's to our future culture of patronage!
Most "creator economy" startups facilitate transactions, extracting value from the creator. I'm interested in helping creators with distribution—getting more supporters. Recurring patronage > one-off patronage.