Getting started with Chat on Substack
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:
Announce Chat to your readers via email—the most important step!
Step 1: Get the Substack app
Chat is currently only available in the Substack app, with Android and web coming soon.
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:
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)
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:
Think of it as a giant group chat just for the Isolation Journals!
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.
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:
Suleika Jaouad kicked off with a huge introduction thread
3 Worlds / 3 Moons hosted a live watch party for the movie Alien
Hunter Harris solicited reactions to the latest episode of Love Is Blind
Wendy MacNaughton asked readers to share their drawings
Sports blogger Joe Posnanski live-blogged Game 3 of the World Series
Tic Toc Trading gave out midday trading tips
Elle Griffin shared a favorite recent read
Darryl Cooper prompted readers to react to his latest podcast
Bernard Hickey shares news updates every morning
You’ll also want to consistently remind new subscribers about your chat, for example:
Embed recent chat thread links in future email posts
Share screenshots and links to your chat on social media
Link your chat in your post footers, About page, and welcome email
List your chat as a free or paid subscriber benefit
Learn more about Chat
To learn more about Chat, visit our FAQ where we answer questions such as:
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.
The default is that only publication contributors can start chat threads. Writers have the option in settings to let subscribers participate by starting top level chats. This empowers subscribers to help steward the community around your publication.
Is Chat available on the web and the Substack app?
Yes, you can visit Chat in the Substack iOS and Android apps in addition to the web via susbtack.com/chat.
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.