The Power of the Follow: Reviving the Magic of Creator-Fan Connections

Video Creator: SXSW

Kevin Kelly famously wrote:

“To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.”

1000 true fans is all you need.

It’s a powerful idea.

So why do so many creators only focus on chasing views and gaining new followers, as opposed to nurturing the ones they already have?

Probably because that’s what the algorithms on our platforms currently reward.

And that is what Jack Conte, CEO of Patreon, says needs to change.

In this passionate (but cautionary) presentation, Jack shares his personal journey as a creator, and the transformative impact of the internet on the creator-fan dynamic.

The evolution—from the static web to the interactive Web 2.0—where the simple “subscribe” button became a game-changer… enabling creators to build dedicated followings and monetize their work directly from fans.

But the rise of ranking algorithms and personalized feeds in the 2010s disrupted this direct connection.

The question:

How should you navigate the future of the creator economy?

Watch the video and find out.

Key Actionable Items from the video:

  • Invest in cultivating your true fans—the small but dedicated portion that drives your success.
  • Stay true to your creative vision and make beautiful, meaningful work that resonates with your audience.
  • Understand your core motivations as a creator and don’t lose sight of what truly matters to you.
  • Explore emerging platforms that prioritize direct fan connections and community strength.
  • Leverage tools like email lists, Discord servers, and platforms like Patreon to build energized fan communities that don’t rely on an algorithm.

Our Takeaway

This is a must watch for creative people in the modern age.

It addresses some of the biggest issues facing creators today when it comes to social media and content distribution.

Now, it would be easy to take this talk a certain way… considering Jack is now the CEO of Patreon, a rival to the platforms he feel has lost their way.

But he’s also a creator who worked hard for initial success by finding and cultivating his true fans.

And now he envisions a world where future creators can do the same—without succumbing to an algorithm heavy, attention chasing game that only rewards the extreme.

Your Turn

It’s simple when you think about it:

Your true fan is the one who will be the reason for your success.

Not a passive consumer of your content…

So while the masses struggle to try and game the algorithms on the platforms we have…

It might be time for a new approach entirely.

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