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This post originally ran in May 2018. I’ve added updated analysis near the end.
I hated Bonjoro.
I discovered it during a Patreon video conference, Hang Time. They were pushing it hard, and I decided to give it a shot.
Bonjoro is an app that you can pair with Patreon to enable you to record a personalized greeting when a new backer makes a pledge. (You can also pair Bonjoro with other services such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Slack, MailChimp and Stripe.) It works like this:
- Backer pledges to your Patreon account
- You get a notification on your Bonjoro app
- You record a greeting to the person
- You have a “Call To Action” button on the bottom that you can use to link wherever you want
- Send the video greeting and you’re done
Interesting? Sure. But when I tried it out, I found that I couldn’t stand the way I looked. I sounded dumb. And I couldn’t imagine that anything could be worth this amount of trouble. On top of that, the app costs $20 per month.
I didn’t like it at all. In fact, I ridiculed it on ComicLab.
Then something happened…
He was talking to me.
I felt special. I felt important. I felt significant.
And — in an instant — I got it.
Video is powerful. And personalized video is doubly so.
But still… was it worth $20 a month? I was doubtful.
However, my ComicLab co-host, Dave Kellett, was intrigued. So he linked Bonjoro to the ComicLab Patreon account and began sending out personalized greetings. And, on his first video, a person who had pledged $2 increased their pledge to $10 after seeing the video.
I assured him that this amazing return on investment (R.O.I.) was a fluke.
Then he sent out a second video, and a $2 backer suddenly became a $5 backer.
He immediately paired Bonjoro with his other Patreon accounts — as well as with his Shopify and eBay account. And these videos have encouraged an impressive average of backers and buyers to increasing their buy-in.
Part of the reason Dave was happy with his results was the increased pledges. The other part was a result of the Call-To-Action (CTA) button that Bonjoro enables you to code into the video. You can write a call to action — “buy my book!” — and link to your store, for example.
Dave sent me a copy of the first video he did with the CTA button, and we discussed it.
“I don’t like the message, ‘buy my book,’” I told him.
“Why not?” he asked.
“Everything about this video is friendly. It’s personal. That’s its power,” I said, “But ‘buy my book’ removes the friendliness and turns it into a sales pitch.”
We batted that idea back and forth for a little while, and then it hit me:
“How about instead of making a sales pitch, you give them a special just-for-you discount?”
So Dave’s CTA button became 20% off your next Sheldon book. It linked to a special page on his ecommerce site that automatically added a 10% discount.
By the end of the week, between the increased pledges and the additional sales, he had made enough more than enough money to pay for at least two years of Bonjoro.
That was enough for me. I signed up and immediately started sending out Bonjoro greeting to new Patreon backers featuring a CTA button that offered a discount on items in my estore. I’m still not thrilled with how I look in the recordings, but I’m getting better.
Update: One year later
It’s now one year after this post originally ran, and I’ve used Bonjoro to reach out to every single Patreon backer — for my own Patreon as well as the ComicLab Patreon — as well as every new Webcomics.com subscriber during that time. I remain convinced as its effectiveness in on-boarding new members, establishing a sense of community, and spreading a sense of specialness to becoming a backer/subscriber.
Patreon says that their research show that backers who received a Bonjoro message tended to maintain their pledge for several months longer than those who hadn’t received a video, and my own results don’t offer anything to refute that.
Since this article was originally written, Bonjoro has made several improvements. One of the most important of these, for me, was the ability to easily create several different Call-to-Action buttons to use in different situations. Each of these may be branded distinctly, as well. Currently, I use four
- Discount from the Evil Inc online store / branded Evil Inc
- Discount from the Evil Inc online store / branded Evil Inc After Dark
- Discounted “Webcomics Handbook” eBook / Webcomics.com
- Discounted “Webcomics Handbook” eBook / ComicLab podcast
Message templates, too, have sped up the recording process.
Be sure to set a follow-up notice. You can do this in the desktop version of Bonjoro under Settings / Resend Workflow. Here’s why. The general public on the Internet is very jaded, so when they see a message that you’ve recorded a video “just for them,” they roll their eyes. Several of these go unopened at first. When they get a follow-up message that says, “Just checking you received the video message I recorded for you a few days ago,” they tend to become curious.
When they realize you’ve created a special message just for them? That’s when you’ll (often) get a thank-you message from an amazed backer! I currently have mine set to send a reminder 7 days later.
As far as getting better at recording the videos goes, all I can say is my old stand-by: “It’s hard to get worse at something you do every day.” The more I recorded Bonjoro videos, the more comfortable I became. Today, I can sit down and rattle off a half-dozen of these (if needed) in a few minutes.
*Full disclosure — the links in the post above are affiliate links, so I will get a free credit on Bonjoro if you click them and sign up. However, I would have endorsed Bonjoro with or without the affiliate reward. If this is something you find disagreeable, please click this non-affiliate link to —> Bonjoro.
Applications for the fall season (Sept-Dec 2019) of the Helioscope Mentorship Program are open. Applications will be open until May 31st, 2019. From the Helioscope website:
Since 2005, Helioscope has provided over 70 up-and-coming cartoonists with hands-on instruction, professional development, and career coaching through our Mentorship Program. This four-month opportunity gives cartoonists with burgeoning careers the chance to work in our Portland studio alongside over 25 fully-fledged artists and writers from across the industry. Our alumni have gone on to work with companies like Image, Disney, Dark Horse, Oni Press, Marvel, and others.
Mentorship programs run May-August and September-December, with potential flexibility for those working around term schedules while still in school. Application windows open twice a year. Applications for our Fall session (September-December, 2019) are currently OPEN and will close on May 31st, 2019. We will notify accepted applicants of their status by June 15th.
This week, Chris Hallbeck joins us to talk Instagram strategy. He was one of the first cartoonists to see the potential in the social media platform, and his comics Maximumble and Pepple & Wren are pure delights.
BUT FIRST, Brad shares the story of how much it hurt when he fell out of heaven.
Cartoonists Brad Guigar and Dave Kellett welcome Mr. Inktober himself — Jake Parker. Jake talks about why he recently turned down a publishing contract… at the considerable risk of being labeled an “artisanal success.”
Next, the guys discuss Jake’s recent decision to cut back on comic-convention appearances. And finally, all three workshop Jake’s Patreon approach.
BUT FIRST, Brad becomes angered over his son’s forgetfulness, only to find the shoe’s on the other foot.
Or, rather, it isn’t.
Join us for sophomoric fun!
I knew I had touched a nerve when I tweeted a conversation I had earlier with a fellow cartoonist…
Cartoonist: Every time I mention Patreon on an Instagram post, I lose followers!
Me: I’d rather have 1k followers who want me to succeed than 10k who’d drop me for that. The folks who left did you a favor. More room in the algorithm for you to reach the right people
— Brad Guigar (@guigar) April 6, 2018
The response was a groundswell of support. So let’s drill down on the subject…
A Thousand True Fans
Wired magazine co-founder Kevin Kelly advanced the concept of a thousand true fans in 2008, and it struck a serious chord with webcartoonists that reverberates to this day. In short, it posits:
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.
A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine sight-unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free youtube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month. If you have roughly a thousand of true fans like this (also known as super fans), you can make a living — if you are content to make a living but not a fortune.
Both Kickstarter and Patreon thrive on the idea of the 1,000 true fans. But that’s easy to forget in a culture that equates bigger with better — no matter what.
But bigger isn’t always better. There is no magic number of pageviews at which you get to quit your day job. And huge amounts of Facebook likes don’t always guarantee a huge audience for your message.
Rather, it’s all about investment. Specifically, it’s all about how invested your readers are in what you do. And a thousand fans who are emotionally invested in an independent artist’s work is more powerful — by mutlitudes — than a group of ten-thousand people who are only marginally invested.
The response to me tweet wasn’t all positive. I received this reply, for instance:
I don’t know if that’s how the algorithm works, but yes, you don’t want to let fear of losing followers keep you from posting ways to support your work.
Let’s start here: No one knows the inner workings of the algorithm of any of the major social-media platform. That’s proprietary information that — if spilled — would allow users to game the system. But we do know some of the basics that apply across the board. Social-network gauge a post’s value by engagement. Engagement is any interaction with the post. For example:
- Clicks on links
- Opening a longer post to read it further
- Views (for videos, etc.)
No post gets distributed to the entire audience of any one social-media feed. It gets sent to a percentage of that potential audience, and then the social network’s algorithm monitors the engagement on that post. A heavily engaged post gets distributed to more and more people in the potential audience. Importantly, as this process moves forward, the potential audience increases from the followers of the original poster to the followers of that poster plus the followers of every subsequent person who shares the post. When a post gets distributed significantly further than the original intended audience, it is described as being viral.
And that’s where a smaller-but-invested social-media following wins every time.
Let’s assume a social-media following of 1,000 fans who are — overall — highly invested in a webcartoonist. When that webcartoonist makes a post, let’s say that 200 of them engage in that post in some manner. That’s a 20% response. Not bad at all! The algorithm picks up on this as evident of a post that even more of the followers might be interested in, and distributes the post to even more followers. If the engagement continues, the post continues to be distributed. If that engagement includes shares/retweets, the potential for engagement starts to expand. And of course, at some point, this wave of interest runs it course, engagement drops, and the post gets distributed to fewer and fewer people until it stops getting distributed entirely.
LARGER AUDIENCE WITH LOWER INVESTMENT
Now lets’ take that same post. But this time, let’s assume 10,000 followers. However, unlike the preceding example, these followers aren’t as emotionally invested in the webcartoonist they’re following. Those 1,000 true fans are still there, mind you, but they’re mixed into a larger group. Once the post is made, we’ll assume the same amount of engagement — 200 instances. However, 200 out of 10,000 is only 2%! The algorithm judges this post to be much less relevant than a 20% engagement and distributes it very little past the opening salvo. Even if it accounts for the bigger audience — even it if “grades on a curve” — that engagement is never going to rise much beyond two percent. As a result, that post dies an early death.
Losing followers and gaining success
That’s why I advised this cartoonist to celebrate Instagram followers who bailed when the artist mentioned their Patreon campaign. These followers are very unlikely to ever become Patreon backers. They probably won’t pledge to a Kickstarter either. They won’t arrive at a convention to buy a book. They’re non-entities.
And buy clogging your algorithm, they are — literally — preventing you from reaching your true fans!
Their departure is a blessing. Treat it as such.
In explaining why they favored approaching comic shops to carry their books on consignment, a cartoonist recently posted that about eighty percent of retail stores buy their goods on consignment. If it’s good enough for WalMart, it was good enough for them, seemed to be the argument.
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