Discover more from On Substack
How Instagram creators are bringing their followers to Substack
Tips from writers who are turning Instagram followers into Substack subscribers, and taking back control of their audience
More and more writers are bringing followers from Instagram to Substack—the number of active subscribers coming from Instagram is up 89% year over year., who runs and cross-promotes content between Instagram and Substack, says that “in the past year, IG has delivered 15k views from 11k users, resulting in more than 2,300 subscribers” to his Substack.
For writers, Substack provides a space to write beyond the confines of traditional social media without worrying about the algorithm, where you can own your audience and earn income for doing what you love. Easily setting up a publication that includes images, video, podcasting, and commenting features offers a more direct connection with your community.
We spoke to writers who have successfully converted Instagram followers to Substack subscribers. What follows is a guide with their valuable insights, ideas, and advice for creating a seamless connection between Instagram and Substack—how they cultivate their community, do what they love, and get paid.
In this guide, we cover:
Read more: This post is an update to our previous guide to Instagram—to read more tips for bringing Instagram followers to Substack, go here. For those just getting started, visit our guide on how to set up your account and craft your first post.
Go big and get personal with your launch post
The launch moment for any Substack writer is key.
Especially for creators, making a moment of your launch can be a crucial conversion milestone to bring your truest fans over to Substack and start out of the gate with the strongest level of subscriber support., who runs the lifestyle brand Oh Joy and writes , shared this post to bring her Instagram followers to her new Substack:
Because my Substack was a little different than what people have come to know my brand (Oh Joy) for, I knew I couldn’t just post a photo on Instagram. A video of a person talking to camera always feels more personal, and this Substack is more personal, so it made sense to introduce it that way.
When Eat, Pray, Love authorlaunched on Substack this month, she also chose to share an intimate face-to-camera video with her followers on Instagram, many of whom responded by signing up to her Substack:
When longtime Substackerof devised her launch material, she created a distinctive visual look for her brand that carried across her Substack. She writes:
Having worked in socal for 10 years, I understand how important a launch moment is. When announcing Link in Bio in 2021 I knew it needed to really make a splash. I partnered with my good friend and talented designer Bryan Fountain to come up with a visual identity for the newsletter pre-launch. I also lined up a lot of interviews ahead of announcing so I could tease what was to come. This announcement post led to over 8,000 newsletter subscribers on day one. After two years, I wanted to refresh the brand and decided to line that up with “going paid.” The refresh and new paid tier was announced on Instagram along with some really amazing portraits of the Link in Bio community. The visual identity of the newsletter has always been really important to me—I want it to feel cool and fun and not like your typical professional resource.
- ’s launch post was so successful, 94% of signups in the first week were from Instagram. The post stands out visually from the rest of his grid to his 171k Instagram followers. Ben had also previously enabled payments and had the link to his Substack in his bio.
Former Great British Bake Off finalistmade a beautiful launch post carousel of images for followers, which meant 98% of all her signups in the first week were from Instagram:
Here are our top takeaways from writers to consider when you launch:
Share your mission. The best practice is to share a launch post with a similar narrative to your About Page—share your mission, why you’re on Substack, and what readers get at the different subscriber levels. Be really clear about what you’ll be offering on Substack that they won’t be able to get anywhere else. Differentiating the content you create on your Substack will illustrate why it’s important to subscribe.
Show your face. Make use of a strong face-to-camera video to introduce your Substack to Instagram followers. Many writers make this a key part of their launch assets, preparing it well in advance of the date. See examples fromand :
Create a visual identity. On Instagram, you may already know your visual voice and identity—use your new Substack as a playground to expand your brand and represent what Substack is to you. With a little space, you can create a whole new look for this important addition to your digital presence:
Ask your friends to spread the word. Whenlaunched, her followers shared her big moment for her.
Share your perks. If you launch with paid subscriptions turned on and you’ve already devised your subscription tiers, tell your followers.of included subscriber information in both her first post and her About page. She shared an Instagram Story linking to this post:
Show the bigger picture. If you have multiple presences across many platforms, you can also show how you expect to see them work together. Here’s an example from’s launch moment:
Read more: Going paid on Substack—a checklist
Share Substack moments in Stories and feed
Promote posts’s Stephanie Danler shares new Substack posts to Instagram Stories in her Instagram feed as grid posts. She has experimented with videos talking to camera, static images with caption teasers, as well as using Substack’s shareable images. Her most popular post to date is “On pretend cooking,” about her relationship with cooking and her deteriorated relationship with her mother. The image used for the post on Substack also made for a very compelling media asset to promote on Instagram. Stephanie explains:
I used a photo of myself cooking from 2010—I was an actual child, but I thought myself very sophisticated at the time. I chose it because my mother’s copper pans hang in the background, much the way her relationship to cooking hangs over mine. I did not expect the piece to hit like it did. I had a moment right before sending it where I thought, “Oh fuck. I’m very nervous, maybe this is bad.” I think that’s a sign that I’ve pushed myself into new territory. I still get emails about that piece.
Joy Cho creates a different look for her posts about Substack by generating AI images for her lead images, which make her posts on her Instagram feed and Stories stand out. This post, for example, resulted in a lot of signups:
Having come from an artist and designer background and being a creator on social for so long, I’m always looking for new ways to create. When I thought about the topics I would be writing about on my Substack, I just wanted something that felt different than the photo shoots I have produced in the past. Around this time, I started playing around with AI and making images for fun. As a designer and artist, I see AI as a tool that can be a part of the creative process. It doesn’t replace the warmth or originality of a human’s hand or eye but offers a new way to look at something. I’ll also insert my own personal photos when it makes sense to the story, but I love the idea that I can create an image that is custom to the topic each time.
Flood the feed
Using Substack’s media assets and your own creativity and daily schedule, you can make sure your Instagram grid is fully pointing to Substack by regularly posting about other perks, happenings, and ideas that you are only offering on Substack.
It’s not just posts you can share to Instagram. Letting followers know that your newsletter is gaining momentum can in turn generate more subscriptions. This can be particularly key during your launch week.
Here are some Substack moments you should consider sharing:
Announcing new features or benefits to paying subscribers
A new post going live, or quotes from previous posts
Resharing stories of readers saying they have subscribed
Screenshots of particularly great comments or restacks
Milestone moments—things like your one-year anniversary, income earned, bestseller status, and subscriber growth
At regular intervals, reminding followers to subscribe
Access to subscriber Chat, Notes, and threads
Share subscription tiers, and make them shareable. Rachel Karten and others also have a great visual breakdown of subscriber options on their About page. Rachel regularly promotes upgrade perks to her Instagram followers:
Tease posts and promote them the day before they go live.shares a carousel post with an excerpt of text in his signature style prompting viewers to subscribe to his newsletter for the longer post:
Share your welcome to paid subscribers in your feed:
Tool tip: Make a Stories highlight with recent post shares about your newsletter:
Make use of Substack’s new shareable images
We recently updated the suite of media assets available after you hit publish—meaning you have a choice of various images and videos to share on Instagram without having to edit, crop, or shoot:, one of the top-grossing culture writers on Substack, regularly shares Substack media assets to Stories and his feed.
The upgraded suite of assets includes 9:16 and 4:5 perspectives, which are ideal for Stories and feed.
You can also now generate an AI audio voiceover from a quote in your post (and replace it with your own voice), as well as an audiogram from a podcast transcript.
And we have a special pack of Substack stickers you can add to your Stories. Simply search for “Substack” in your Instagram stickers and you’ll find custom designs from our team to add to your posts.
Read more: Grow your audience
Get the most out of your link in bio
Putting your Substack URL front and center creates an easy way for followers to find your Substack and subscribe.
We suggest using your full Substack URL—yourname.substack.com—so users can click directly into your welcome page, which renders beautifully on mobile. Using the full URL also acts as an indicator of the importance of your Substack. Some writers use Linktree or another third-party app to have their Substack at the top of their links, and Instagram is also testing multiple direct links per bio.
🔥 Hot tip: You can create a secret page via your Substack that doesn’t get emailed to subscribers which you can keep updated with links. This bypasses any costly third-party platforms and brings followers right into the fold of your publication.
Link your Instagram back to your Substack
It might sound counterintuitive, but making sure your Substack subscribers can find your Instagram is also a key part of bridging a link between them. If you have a strong strategy offering different types of content to both, adding a link back to Instagram from your Substack homepage can mean subscribers get a more rounded digital picture too. First, be sure to add your Instagram to your Substack profile.
New-to-Substackadded Instagram to her nav bar on her homepage to make sure subscribers can find her content there:
On Instagram, Andy Adams regularly talks about what he’s doing on Substack, links to FlakPhoto Digest on his profile, and has introduced a “Five photographers” feature in his newsletter where he recommends photographers to follow on Instagram. He promotes his latest posts weekly and uses the “link in profile” messaging as much as possible.
Andy says a growing dissatisfaction with Instagram was one of the primary inspirations for rebooting his newsletter on Substack, but he sees them as interconnected communication channels and frequently uses them in tandem:
Instagram plays a significant role in my Substack workflow. I regularly invite my IG readers to connect with me on Substack by sharing a link to my newsletter and frequently refer to and link to Instagram from my Substack header. I look up new subscribers on Instagram and send them a thank-you note via Instagram DMs if I can find them. I actively correspond with my readers via Instagram DMs and regularly solicit submissions for my newsletter on Instagram.
I love connecting with my readers. It takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it.
Instagram and Substack work well together because they’re a nice mix of long- and short-form storytelling. Since I work with imagemakers, IG has been instrumental in growing the audience for my Substack newsletter. For me, they go hand in hand.
Read more: Andy’s overview of Substack and Instagram
Consider social promotion in your payment model
When devising the free and paid offerings for her Substack, Rachel Karten naturally thought about a social promotion perspective.
Here’s how she thought about the paywall and what she might share to Instagram:
My two buckets were always going to be interviews with other social managers and strategies from me. If I am interviewing social managers, I want them to be able to share those interviews without asking their audiences to pay. It was basically as simple as that. I also knew if people were paying for the newsletter, they were likely invested in my perspective and wanted more of it. Those newsletters where I am breaking down social strategies from my own POV feel a lot more casual and fun and a way to connect more deeply with the paid Link in Bio audience.
In those paid newsletters, I always do a big bulleted list of what’s going to be in it ahead of the paywall. I then send free previews to everyone on my list. I’ve found that really teasing what’s inside and making the value proposition very clear has led to a lot of conversions. People are curious what the “very bad social post” was that week or the “brand that’s nailing Reels.”
Also, turn on free trials!
Rachel shares an overview of how her Substack and social strategy works—and how her Instagram and Substack work together:
On days when I publish a newsletter, I’ll post 2-3 Instagram stories of the newsletter. Typically it’ll be a screenshot of the headline and dek with a link, a screenshot of an interesting quote or moment with a link, and then a final “why you should read it” slide with a link. Then it’ll be back to posting my dogs or food or whatever else I’m up to that day.
Go deeper on topics
For many writers, having a space for more images, words, links, and ideas can mean the difference between a quick caption and being able to go deeper on a topic they care about.
Stephanie Danler of Write What explains how she created extra sections on her Substack to explore areas of her work she couldn’t share elsewhere:
For paid subscribers I have a series called “The Middle Third” that are craft-ish essays about the difficulties of writing and the writing life. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could contribute that was specific to my voice, my skill set. In my first piece, I married the writing of television beats to the writing of fiction. This conversation about craft, I could never have on another platform.
For Stephanie, part of the draw of Substack was carving out more writing space and time—something many creators are secretly craving.
I came to Substack because I wanted more meaningful interaction with people who are reading me or following me on Instagram. I wanted to talk about books and food and poetry. And I wanted to write for myself.
I still think [Instagram] is a platform where meaningful communication can happen, but there’s so much noise. And as far as mental load, I take my newsletter seriously. Each one takes an unbelievable amount of thought, sometimes research, sometimes multiple drafts. But that’s not built into the nature of the platform, that’s me. I want every piece to be something I’d be proud to publish in a book. I don’t dash them off. And that was the intention of the entire endeavor. I didn’t just want to write longer captions. I wanted to write.
Joy Cho also found one of the hidden perks of running her Substack publication was knowing that her writing would ultimately be read:
I’m much more focused on telling a story and writing more here. Also, there is some consistency in what to expect from a reach perspective because you know your current subscriber numbers, whereas Instagram can be much more irregular on which of your followers even see your posts!
A summary of advice from writers
There are few communities like a Substack community. It’s not a connection based on how an algorithm is feeling that day. It’s a real, deep, and meaningful connection that requires work and care and investment to grow. My Substack started by me literally just saying, “I want to build the social media resource I wish existed.” What’s something you wish existed? Write it!
IG and Substack are my primary communication platforms, and work well together. Think about the two as companion publications and link between them as often as possible. IG is great for short-form stuff and ideal for promoting lengthier Substack posts, so think about how to do that naturally and authentically. Remember that DMs are a powerful way to connect one-to-one, deepen relationships with readers, and share links. Find your way and have fun doing it.
Substack is definitely a great place to be if you want to write more than what would typically be in an Instagram caption. I think it’s a place that writers (or those who like to write) can thrive. I don’t see it as a replacement for Instagram but as a place to express yourself in a different way.
I wouldn’t start one if you can’t see what it might look like a year out. There’s so much writing out there, so think through what you want to say, and make it as specific, original, and insightful as possible. Move with intention. It takes more work than you can imagine, but for me, it’s worth it.
If you’re inspired by the tips writers shared and ready to write your first Substack post, starting your own publication is just a few clicks away: