Office Hours: I’m Head of Creator Community at Patreon. I’m Emily Lakin. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Emily Lakin, Head of Creator Community at Patreon.

Before Patreon, I spent over a decade at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) building relationships at the nexus of contemporary art, culture, and social impact. I made the transition from nonprofits to tech starting in 2019, first as a consultant, then running community programs at Patreon, and now leading our award-winning Community team.

Currently, I also serve on the founding team at The Space Program San Francisco, a Bay Area arts residency program, and the Visiting Committee for the Smith College Museum of Art, my alma mater.

During my downtime, I enjoy the many arts experiences the Bay Area has to offer, hiking, cooking a big meal after visiting the farmer's market or a local U-PICK, and spending time with my rescue cat Bug.

Ask me anything about community building, the community industry, working with (and for) creators, program management, business development, marketing, purpose-driven storytelling, career transitions, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @EmilyLakin!Elphas – please ask @EmilyLakin your questions before Friday, June 16th. @EmilyLakin may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hello Emily!I hope this message finds you well. I'm reaching out to seek your advice on transitioning (back!) into Community roles within the tech industry.In the early stages of my career, I had the opportunity to work on Yelp's Community team, where I supported Community Managers across the Bay Area in various aspects such as marketing partnerships, community events, and social presence. Since then, I established a professional path in account management, accumulating nearly a decade of experience in client relationship building and project management on go-to-market teams in both B2B and B2B2C tech spaces. Throughout my journey, I have been fortunate to work in creator-led spaces, witnessing firsthand the profound impact that companies can make when they prioritize and invest in creativity, culture, and community. This understanding, combined with my extensive experience in cultivating trusted relationships with strategic partners has further solidified my passion for and commitment to Community.Given the current job market landscape, I am eager to find ways to differentiate myself and make a meaningful reentry back into Community-focused roles. I appreciate any guidance or advice you can provide on positioning myself effectively in today's competitive job market. I'm also curious and interested in any resources, readings or podcasts you might recommend! Thank you, Shirene
Hi Shirene. Sounds like you have a lot of applicable experience! And I agree, right now, the job market is tough. Though lots of companies have Community roles, they’re not generally the first to get approved headcount to open roles, and there are a lot of folks looking for work who had the benefit of having community titles over the years. But that doesn’t mean your career transition is impossible! First, based on your background, perhaps it would be good to position your skillset for a success-based community. (See this article about defining the community business model through the SPACES acronym). If you’ve done work with clients and other businesses to increase their use of whatever your previous companies have produced and generated positive sentiment and lifetime value, you can easily translate those examples to how you can empower a community to drive business impact.Second, I have LOTS of recommendations for Community knowledge and network building. Carrie Melissa Jones does a lot of thought leadership (including a book she co-wrote called “Building Brand Communities”) and offers some great online trainings. Same goes for Rosie Sherry’s Rosieland, and Danielle Maveal whose Community Feelings Support Groups I’ve participated in previously and very much enjoyed the peer support and connections. If you’re looking for something a little more bite-sized, Evan Hamilton’s Community Manager Breakfast newsletter is short and full of great links. There are also active groups of community folks around CMX, Commsor’s Community Club and Community Hacked, most of whom also produce articles and workshops too.Lastly, I hear a lot about In Before The Lock, a podcast by Erica Kuhl and Brian Oblinger (shhhh though I have to admit I’ve only listened to a few episodes. My pod list is overwhelming!)Hope that’s helpful!Links:SPACES model: Melissa Jones: Sherry: https://rosie.landDanielle Maveal: https://daniellexo.substack.comCommunity Feelings Support group: Manger Breakfast: https://www.cmxhub.comCommsor: Club: Hacked: https://www.communityhacked.comBefore the Lock:
Hi Emily! I have been considering using Patreon to generate additional income for my podcast & coaching & to build a community but have been reluctant because it doesn’t seem like my audience and looks like a lot of maintenance work. I’d love to chat & figure out how to manage a community efficiently and automate as much of it as possible.
Hi Joan. Patreon produces a lot of resources to help creators start, grow and maintain their Patreon and community. Our Creator Community Discord server is also a great place to talk with current creators about their favorite automations. This is all accessible on the same Creator Hub I mentioned earlier. Something you might want to check out is a new class we launched this week in partnership with Skillshare called Membership Mastery. It’s full of Patreon best practices with inspiration shared from over 25 Patreon creators who have succeeded in growing and sustaining their business. We’re offering 2 months free on Skillshare for anyone who wants to take the course and access all the other classes on the platform.Skillshare offer:
Thanks, Emily! I’ll be on busienss travel for a couple of weeks & can check it out when I get back. Much appreciated!
I've managed online communities for quite some time, something I've consistently struggled with is increasing engagement. What do you to ignite or increase engagement among communities you've work with, current or previous? For background: we do lots of surveys and I take in lots of qualitative data as far as attendance and digital engagement to figure out programming but ultimately nothing has correlated to an increase. The goal is moreso participation.
Hi Dominique. I’ll answer this question with a few of my own. What’s the purpose of your community, and is the level of participation you’re seeking truly a meaningful metric for reporting on community health? For example, if I have a support-oriented community, I might look at the overall message volume in my space as an indicator that people are finding value there - and the more important number I’d want to surface is how many of those messages were questions answered by community members to represent the number of support tickets deflected. If you’ve got a learning-based community and you want to increase participation in workshops, I’d be curious to dig in deeper around whether the platform you’re using is a barrier to entry, or if the geographic distribution of your members make live participation difficult and perhaps videos-on-demand would be a solution to increased watchtime. More broadly, Feverbee's article details various points in the community journey that can be optimized to increase engagement. For Patreon, our online community manager and I have been focused on 1) onboarding new members to ensure we’ve got people coming in who match the intention of the space, 2) cross-pollinating between our introductions channel and our topic-based channels so that creators are activated in spaces with like-minded members and 3) testing in-server events that drive activity in the server. Link:
Hello hello,I missed out on your session for the Community Hacked audience a while back. I planned to ask you about the eight week accelerator program you designed for your community. I'm currently managing a community of Creators who have publishing contracts on our platform and I could see an accelerator as a great way to help them get the most out of their partnership with us.Is your program designed to run as an 8 week course that has pre-recorded content? Is it live online events that happen regularly? Curious what you all have found success with?Thank you for giving us a chance to learn from you!
Hi Saidah. The accelerator was a pilot program I created when I first started working with Patreon. It was a cohort program that used live facilitators and online & offline discussion, along with worksheets and peer accountability groups as we covered topics like productivity, annual planning, finances, taxes, hiring and managing teams, etc. While the program doesn’t exist in the same way now, it was the seed from which our community and education strategy grew. Out of this program, we learned that our community wanted more resources to learn how to run their business and also wanted to be in community with other creators who could be cheerleaders, coaches, and peers. As our internal team grew, so did the offerings we could provide. I created the A. Club program for creator-led peer accountability groups. We executed a drumbeat of workshops based on the needs of our community, covering personal and professional development. We launched a Creator Hub with articles, videos and a podcast offering targeted content. Ultimately, what has worked for us is to offer these supports to our community at scale in as many formats as possible so that we meet creators where they are and in the ways they want to engage.A. Club: Hub:
Hi Emily! What are some first principles you'd like to impart on anyone looking to retain and engage a shared community? For context, I'm building out a free community with some friends to support product managers and product leaders improve their mental + physical wellbeing, effectiveness in their professional lives, and sense of fulfillment in life, so I would love to hear your lessons learned on retaining, engaging, and supporting community members. Thanks for taking time out of your day to answer our questions!
Hi Tiffany! Thanks for asking. There are a few things that are fundamental to creating a thriving community:- It has to be built around a shared purpose and offer the opportunity for members to give and get value. That common desire is what motivates people to join and seek out connections. - Community guidelines are very important. They create a safe space for members to interact, and communities need some kind of leader(s) or moderators to model the behavior and at times, enforce the guidelines. - Communities by definition practice some sort of purposeful inclusion (and also exclusion). For example, I’m part of my neighborhood Buy Nothing Facebook group. If I left my neighborhood, I would not be able to be part of this community. It’s not a malicious act to tell me I have to leave - it’s solely to ensure the group’s purpose can be fulfilled. That’s why it's so important to welcome new members, make sure they know the community guidelines or rituals, and offer some sort of status that creates the boundary of being inside the community. That status can be as a named member, or pins, titles, awards etc. Lastly, in regards to engagement, start with those folks who are consistently adding value. Have 1:1 calls. Ask them what they like/don’t like about the space, and what they came here for. It won’t scale as your community grows, but the signal you get from their feedback will help you tailor your onboarding and engagement to reward the same kind of behavior your super users are demonstrating.
Thanks Emily! Really helpful principles - refining our community's mission so it's crisp and specific, reviewing and refreshing our guidelines/rules of engagement, and conducting qualitative research are all things that my co-leads and I are focusing on right now.
Hi @EmilyLakin, thanks so much for taking the time to share about your work with us! I just left my position as a Managing Director at a nonprofit and am doing some consulting with small nonprofits as I explore about if a role in the tech space might be a good fit. I have two questions: 1. What kind of consulting did you first explore after leaving the np world? 2. Two things I love about my current consulting work are the flexibility and novelty. When you moved to Patreon, what fired up your love for the new role? Did you miss anything about your previous work?
Hi Caitlyn. Congrats on your transition! It takes a lot of grit to make the move so you should celebrate this accomplishment. I actually started consulting while I was still working fulltime at my nonprofit. It was the novelty you mention that helped me enjoy working that much for a period of time, along with my focus on eventually becoming a FT freelancer. I worked with all types of clients (lawyers, private businesses, nonprofits, startups) around the themes of creativity and community. In fact, Patreon was a client before I joined the company! Consulting for Patreon gave me a leg up in two ways. First, I had a really hard time transitioning out of nonprofits so having experience with a tech company gave me another way to prove that I could do this kind of work. Secondly, spending over a year as a consultant with them gave me time to vet them as much as they were vetting my work. What I discovered was that everyone I met at Patreon had similar commitment to supporting creatives (something I knew I needed in my career), a workplace culture that offered agency to do your best work, and a faster pace and bigger budgets than I had experienced in my nonprofit life. In short, I don’t regret the decision at all. While I miss many of my former coworkers and the incredible art experiences I had during my time at YBCA, I am fortunate to be pursuing a passion and career that exists beyond the nonprofit/for-profit boundaries.
Thanks so much Emily for such a thoughtful and honest reply. Its really helpful and encouraging to hear about the paths people have taken to find work that is meaningful and sustainable, and outside of what I was taught a typical 9-5 career should look like. I really appreciate the time you've taken to share with us!
Hi, Emily! Lots of creators I follow use Patreon, so the extras are good for me!What role does emotional support / well-being play in building a sense of community among creators? What specific initiatives or resources are provided? (Are there like, Patreon Creator Conventions people can gather at? That might be cool).
Hi Morgan! I think about this a lot. According to Patreon’s 2021 community census, 80% of our creator community works alone. The top three obstacles creators face are ‘feeling overwhelmed’, ‘doing all of this alone’ and ‘burning out.’ So it’s clear to us that in addition to the business tools we provide in our product, we also need to support the whole person’s well-being. That said, we are not mental or physical health experts. Our Creator Development team provides a host of resources based on the expertise and connections we can offer. Our Creator Hub has a content series focused on well-being. We host creator-led conversation series called Hot Topics, discussing the most pressing topics creators face today. Thus far, sessions have been focused on the themes of burnout, dealing with controversy, and doubt. And, we provide a number of places for our creator community to connect with each other and find a sense of belonging over their shared experiences - including in our Ambassador program, our Pull Up community for creators of color, our Creator Community Discord server, and in the A. Club program, which are creator-led peer accountability groups. Links:Creator Hub: program: Up: Discord Server: Club:
Thank you, Emily -- I hit the Pull Up link and immediately saw someone I recognized (Pailin Chongchitnant)
Hi Emily (and all!),Thank you so much for sharing your experience and willingness to provide insights! I've worked in criminal justice, drug policy, racial justice and community dialogue facilitation and have always related my work back to what it means to build community. I recently left my job in social impact communications to be able to focus more directly on community and individual engagement. In my current home state of New Hampshire, I've struggled to find professional roles in the community engagement industry, and have deferred to volunteer positions to fill that community cup. Do you have any organizations you recommend that are hiring for remote community building roles? Thanks!Ellie
Hi Ellie, I can't think of any organizations hiring remote right now, but recommend the same community networks I mentioned above in response to @snik.