Facebook and Patreon Both Illustrate One Weird Rule of Viral Marketing

Looking to hit it big on Facebook, possibly the biggest media company ever? Or maybe you’d just like to become a successful Patreon creator, pulling in five figures a month for doing whatever your creative heart desires? Good luck with both — the two accomplishments are significantly easier said than done.

But though the platforms are fairly different, one little misunderstanding about what it takes to get viral fame plagues both services. Here’s how it works.

The Rule: You Need to Build a Fan Base Off-Platform First

You can’t get on Facebook or on Patreon in order to become successful. The reverse is true: You need to become successful in order to become known on Facebook or Patreon.

Here’s where I saw this rule detailed most recently, in an article Coelevate recently ran about Patreon’s efforts to double the number of creators it on-boarded.

“‘We were attracting people who saw Creators getting paid and succeeding on Patreon, and they would misunderstand this and attribute a reverse causality. They would think that launching a Patreon page before building a fan base would start sending them money,’ says [Tal Raviv, Growth Product Manager at Patreon].

The misconception is a side effect of Patreon’s viral acquisition model — artists and creators not yet on Patreon would get pulled in by publicly successful Creators on the platform thinking that the platform had originated a significant chunk of that success.”

It’s a natural mistake: People saw others having success on Patreon and forgot that correlation doesn’t equate to causality. But in order to become a success, you need to put in the hard work off-platform that will allow your supporters to find you.

The Solution: Find Engaged Third-Party Communities to Interact With

Facebook is the largest example of this backwards viral marketing thinking: Pages very very rarely grow by posting constantly unless they already have a network of people interested in them. Growing on other social platforms, from Instagram to Twitter, is an easier way to build an audience, likely due to Facebook’s increasingly picky algorithm. Once you have the audience on another platform, you can point them to your Facebook.

But engaged internet communities are everywhere: You can trawl for fan pages, dedicated forums, subreddits, or hashtags. The platform doesn’t matter as much as the social groups it hosts. Get involved with as many as you’re comfortable with, and point them to your page if it comes up organically. Since the internet’s shifting away from search and towards the closed silos of social media, you’ll need to provide the funnel that aims those silos at your Facebook or Patreon page. Don’t expect the existence of your page to do the trick by itself.

Read more on Facebook news and tips here at Tech.Co

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Written by:
Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for more than a decade. He was a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry, for which he was named a Digital Book World 2018 award finalist. His work has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect, and his art history book on 1970s sci-fi, 'Worlds Beyond Time,' is out from Abrams Books in July 2023. In the meantime, he's hunting down the latest news on VPNs, POS systems, and the future of tech.
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