Getting started with Chat on Substack

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Chat is a new space for writers to host conversations with their subscribers. We’ve designed it to be simple, fun, and seamlessly integrated with your Substack.

In this video, Sachin Monga, Substack’s Head of Product, will give you a tour of Chat, walk you through composing your first chat in the app, and preview the 4 key steps to launching and succeeding with your chat:

  1. Get the Substack app

  2. Start your first chat thread

  3. Announce Chat to your readers via email—the most important step!

  4. Keep the conversation going

Step 1: Get the Substack app

Chat is currently only available in the Substack app, with Android and web coming soon. 

Read On Substack in the Substack app
Available for iOS and Android

Open the app and tap the Chat icon in the bottom bar. There, you’ll see a new row for your publication at the bottom of the list. Once you tap in, you’ll see a “Start a new thread” button at the bottom.

Read more: How do I enable Chat on my Substack?

Step 2: Start your first thread

Your first thread is a chance to welcome readers into this new space—or dive straight into conversation. For example:

  • 3W/3M asked what people wanted to see in their chat

  • Leslie Stephens of morning person asked for readers’ fall to-do lists

  • Tsh Oxenreider kicked things off her chat with an intro thread

Each chat thread can include text, links, and images. Tap the lock icon to select whether you want all subscribers or only paid subscribers to be able to view and reply.

Looking for inspiration for your first Chat thread? See what other writers are trying out in our most recent conversation in the On Substack Chat:

Step 3: Announce Chat to your readers

The most important part of launching your chat is emailing a dedicated announcement post to your subscribers. Most of them won’t have the app yet, so this is a crucial opportunity to bring them in. 

We’ll notify your readers via email when you post your first chat, but it’s always better for them to hear in your voice about why you’re doing this.

We’ve added a chat announcement template to your post drafts that you can edit and publish directly. In your post, be sure to include: 

  1. Instructions to join your chat, with a “Get the app” and/or “Visit my chat” button near the top (these can be found in the Buttons menu)

  2. What you hope to do together and how your chat conversations might differ from other spaces like social media

Great examples of announcements from other writers include:

  • The Isolation Journals

    Think of it as a giant group chat just for the Isolation Journals!

  • DrawTogether

    I see this as the digital version of the Grow-Ups Table [where we are] sitting around a big round table in a room sharing artwork with each other. I’m really excited about it, and hope you are, too.

  • JoeBlogs

    So what is the JoeBlogs subscriber chat? Well, I don’t think this is exactly how Substack would want me describing it but … it’s kind of like Twitter, but just for us (A Fitter Twitter!).

We recommend sending this announcement right after you start your first chat so subscribers immediately have something to reply to. Simply copying and pasting a chat link into a post will also generate a preview of your chat.

You might also want to share a link to your chat on other social media platforms, encouraging followers to subscribe to your Substack to join the conversation.

Read more: How to share a link to your chat

Step 4: Keep the conversation going 

In Chat, you can host quick commentary, conversation prompts, and life photos and tidbits. Each thread can be for all subscribers, or just those who pay. It should feel low pressure, like sending a text to your subscribers.

Here are some of the fun threads we’ve seen writers start in Chat:

You’ll also want to consistently remind new subscribers about your chat, for example:

Read more: Five types of conversations writers are hosting in Chat

Learn more about Chat

To learn more about Chat, visit our FAQ where we answer questions such as:

  • How do I manage my notifications?
    You can adjust your app notification settings by tapping the profile tab and the settings gear in the top right corner. You can also turn on or off notifications for a specific thread by long-pressing it.

  • How do I paywall my chat?
    Writers can paywall individual threads by tapping the lock icon when composing a new thread. Currently, it is not possible to paywall the entire chat space, only individual threads.

  • How do I moderate my chat?
    Writers have a few options to moderate their chat:

    • Turn off (lock) replies for a chat thread via the three dot menu

    • Delete any reader reply by long-pressing it

    • Ban any user from replies and comments by long-pressing their reply

    • Turn off reader image replies for their chat by long-pressing their chat row or going to your publication settings

    Additionally, readers can flag and hide explicit images by long-pressing a reply. 

To learn more about building community on Substack, check out our guide to finding and engaging your readers.

What creative ways have you seen writers start a chat? Let us know in the comments.

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