For those of us building up our email list, tell us: how did you get your first 100 subscribers? What did you try early on, and what worked?
A few quick and easy tactics:
1) Add it in your email signature
2) Send an email to folks who you have interacted with in the past but don’t keep up with regularly
3) Send a note to other newsletter writers on Twitter
4) Bring it up when friends ask “what’s up?”
5) Ask your readers to share it with 1 person
Down to talk more tactics on Twitter. You can DM me at @sidharthajha
I took a tactical approach five years ago. I emailed 20 friends initially. When they liked in, I emailed 50 more. When they liked it, in week three, I added another 30. So at the end of week 3 I had 95 sign-ups. At the point, I encouraged people to tweet about it with mini-testimonials. We hit 1000 sign-ups after 18 weeks and 10,000 after 70 weeks.
I'm disciplined about the channels that do and don't work.
The one take away I have, as we pass 50,000, is that what consistently drives uptake are great essays. So I spend less time on acquisition tactics than on that.
That said, we still have to do the basics (tweeting, LinkedIn, asking for shares) and talking about the newsletter in my professional life.
I have a sizeable LinkedIn following, about 600,000 in total, and once in a while a celebrity might happen across you and give you a push... but nothing beats the consistency of regularly writing great stuff.
My substack is at www.exponentialview.co
Surprisingly, LinkedIn was a huge source of subscribers. I didn't realize how many connections I had.
I've been growing theworkbooks.substack.com by posting regularly to Instagram (there's a visual component to the newsletter, so this works). New followers on IG often translates to signups. I also plug the newsletter, accompanied by a teaser for whatever I'm writing about that week, the day before it goes out. Helps catch new followers who weren't aware of the newsletter, and serves as a reminder for anyone already subscribed to be on the lookout. I started both the newsletter and the IG account from basically zero, and have been happy with the steady, organic growth so far.
I am approaching 100 subscribers.
But I also only started publishing on Substack in February, so I have been amazed by the response!
Some of the things I did:
➜ I notified members of my small but engaged email list. If you have published content (blogs, articles, books, etc.), but have not started an email list, this is the perfect time. And with Substack, creating an email list is as simple as directing readers to your URL. For example: "If you are looking to make money writing online, check out Blogging Guide https://bloggingguide.substack.com"
➜ I reached out to readers who had purchased my products in the past on Gumroad. I sent them individualized messages, giving them free access for 1 month. I figured it was the least I could do as they had supported me before, and it was also a good way to introduce them. I think sending the free trials is an idea that I will experiment with more going forward.
➜ I created visual content (infographics) which referred people to my Substack newsletter. People appreciate visual content that distills complex ideas into a simple graphic. They may even use these graphics in their own articles or share them on social media.
➜ I shared content on social media which included subtle CTAs to sign up for my newsletter. Many people seem to think "sharing" on social media means just copying and pasting the URL to their Substack newsletter. You can do this, but a much better way is to share an article (from Medium, your self hosted blog, guest posts on another blog, etc.) which offers the reader a taste of your writing or demonstrates value by providing useful content, and then includes a subtle CTA which redirects to Substack. Yes this probably decreases your direct conversion rate, but if you are looking for your "1,000 True Fans" it is a good way to identify potential subscribers.
➜ Create a Facebook group around your niche topic. Promote your newsletter to these users. For example, I have a Facebook Group, Medium Writing (https://www.facebook.com/groups/mediumwriting), which has brought in many of my subscribers. It takes time and effort to run a Facebook group, and many users recognize this, and are happy to support those individuals who are helping foster a community around your topic/niche.
Bottom line: if you engage with your readers, provide concrete value, serve as a source of at least semi-authority on your niche topic, and give them the opportunity to support you, a small percentage will support you.
Really, getting the first subscriber (who is a complete stranger, not your family/friends) is the hardest. Once you have done that, it is just a matter of scaling your promotion and marketing efforts over time.
My third article (https://theleanhouseeffect.substack.com/p/theres-no-point-in-credit-cards-points) blew up when the Globe and Mail (Canada's biggest newspaper) featured it. I bugged the personal finance writer for the Globe on Twitter and it worked!
Slow and steady. Be consistent and promote the hell out of yourself without shame.
1. Providing value is the key.
2. Content distribution is the king.
My strategy was to have a content workflow in place. I focus highly on repurposing content on multiple platforms to get the maximum exposure.
I started blogging - http://ngninja.com/
I created Instagram following - https://www.instagram.com/ranjana.ban/
I started tweeting - https://twitter.com/ng_real_ninja
I started posting on dev.to blog - https://dev.to/ng_real_ninja
Pro tip: Focus on one platform first. Master it. Then move on to others.
My future plan: Create the content on Tiktok and YouTube.
My first 100 subscribers were all friends. I'd send them a note saying, "hey, I send an email that I think you'll dig." I'd add them to the list, and pretty quickly after getting a couple of my emails I'd get a "LOVE THIS!" response. To this day, the one-by-one approach has been my most successful!
Nothing too innovative, just posted to Facebook/Twitter. My list is growing super slowly (~200 1 year in) but it supports my coaching practice just fine so I would say keep your purposes in mind and not just the numbers on the graph!
I initially started by hammering Twitter and picked up a lot from there. But it's really word of mouth (funnily enough, the English translation of my newsletter's name!) that has been the main drive. There are lots of brilliant ideas here - I'm going to try out linkedin and maybe even a bit of paid advertising to drive that up.
Mine looks at political developments in Southeast Asia, so it's really important to me that young people from the region aren't priced out. I've started offering free annual memberships for anyone under 30 from the region and that has seen my list explode dramatically in the last couple of months. I've also found a lot of these young people, particularly students studying abroad, tell their mates and colleagues to get on it which has been amazing!
Sent 1,000 emails and 1,400 LinkedIn Conncts...got my first 50 in the first week, another 50 the next week. I downloaded all my Linkedin contacts. Sifted, and filtered, through them. Found about 1,000 that I could imagine would be interested in the newsletter. Emailed them a sample, and told them the first edition was coming out on Friday. Also I found 100 people a day on LinkedIn and asked to connect to share the newsletter with them. Between those two things....the newsletter got 50 signups. The next week, another 50.
The first signup, was one of my best friends, who also works in the industry I cover. He signed up 30 minutes after I launched.
I started my newsletter for a pretty specific (and personal) purpose: keeping in touch with a wide network of people who wanted to hear what was going on with me. I also wanted a project to begin working on creative nonfiction outside of sports. So I emailed everyone I thought who'd want to be in on the newsletter and started letting my social networks know when I posted a new issue. We're only at 137 now, but engagement is satisfyingly high.
I started writing The Trip Report, a newsletter on the business, policy and growing pains of the emerging psychedelic ecosystem in October with zero audience.
I did two things as a test to see if I was on to something.
I didn't tell anyone I know about it, not even my wife.
And I shared it with relevant groups on reddit, fb, linkedin.
Since then it has been word of mouth and I finally told my wife.
Thank you for all the tips. Although, apart from growing subscribers, how can we increase the engagement on our posts? Like the opening rate, or the number of shares? Any suggestions? New to substack at https://dataduet.substack.com/
I got my first 100 followers mainly by posting about it on social media. My newsletter curates a list of 10 links to long form stories or multimedia work by women of color, and a lot of people decided to sign up after hearing about it firsthand from me. You can check it out here! https://truecolors.substack.com/
I think I'm going to hit 100 posts before I reach 100 subscribers! If you want stories on early-stage growth and marketing from companies in India, subscribe and share: ideascape.substack.com
I just started blogging on Substack last month. I have earned a lot from all of you and have implemented some of your recommendations such as adding a link to email signature, linkedin and twitter profile. my blog talks about blockchain development in Asia, including technology, regulation, investment. blockchainasia.substack.com
I have found that when you add up your communities you realise you have an incredible following no matter where you start. The key is to figure out why people follow you on specific platforms. It will mostly differ from one platform to another.
I started my newsletter with zero subscribers and did what many here suggested. For every platform I took a separate approach which I believe is key:
- I announced why I was launching a newsletter on LinkedIn and broke down what people could expect from here there. I also asked for ideas and feedback in the same thread on LinkedIn to help get my post more widely viewed. The LI algorithm likes views and comments.
- I mentioned it a few times on Twitter and was thankful when a few influential people with large followings than me retweeted my post.
- I send a lot of emails and I am always connecting people so 100% added it to my email signature. I get a consistent drip of people coming from there.
- Because my newsletter dives into big themes monthly I have a lot of quotes from experts so making sure I get them excited about their involvement and the part they had to play is key to reach their audiences too.
- I engage with communities on Slack, Hacker News... a lot which also gets people interested in what I do and what I write about. It creates interest more than following but over time that translates.
- Finally, I will create summaries or expanded thoughts and post them on Medium.
I'm still building my list. I write short fiction pieces and post them about once a month. At the time of posting I promote my newsletter on Facebook and Twitter. I have a total of 36 on my emailing list, but no one has unsub'ed as yet! I suggest people go to the site and read the selection that is there. I have the link on my email signature and in my published books. It's a long slog to build the numbers. At present I feel everyone is genuinely interested in receiving my short fiction pieces. The offer is open to all of you as well!
Here it is - enjoy! https://iwriteuread.substack.com
I shared it in 3 places, but didn't 'announce' the launch of a newsletter (instead called it as an experiment, keeping it in line with my About page - https://thejoyofsharing.substack.com/about):
1. Twitter (580 followers)
2. LinkedIn (1,400 followers)
3. WhatsApp Status (60+seen)
- I dig the idea of adding a link to the newsletter in the email signature.
- If you've more than 10k followers (I think?) on Instagram, you can add it to your story and link directly to the newsletter.
- I dread posting it on Reddit until I find my sweet spot. But the paradox is that I won't be able to find my sweet spot until I find a decent number of subscribers.
I did add Google Analytics to track these exact metrics. :D Will share the detailed results when I reach critical mass.
I had previously published a newsletter on Mail Chimp that was funded by Kickstarter. I imported that mailing list and have been promoting my new blog on social media. My open rate is terrific, so my followers clearly are happy with my move to Substack.
I use my Medium articles. Link to my newsletter at the end.
After working as an editor, I set up a new business and a Substack blog early this year. Along with my two co-founders (an award-winning writer and ad man) we are teaching businesses better writing skills.
Getting the first 100 subscribers was tricky. But then, since my background was in travel, I wrote a blog on 'How to Write Travel' - and it took off from there really. Giving the people want they want!
Link here: https://forthwrite.substack.com/p/how-to-write-travel
Come join us!
I haven't been promoting often as all I have is two posts. I've been hitting a dry spell mainly from overthinking on how to break out from the crowd since originally I got burned out with social media and heavily producing my own wrestling podcast episodes.For more visit https://buydetectors.pk/
I just launched my newsletter and have gotten the most take up directly asking people I know. A few days before, I reached out to people via email and text with a preview link to check out my newsletter and subscribe if they like the content. Best idea! I went from 25 to 44 subscribers in a couple of days. This is huge for me! I know I can contact more people.
My topic is relevant to a lot of people; digital wellness and healthier tech-life balance. https://mehretbiruk.substack.com/welcome
I have 42% opening rate! I am so geeked about it!!!! I'm reading all the comments here and taking notes, and reminding myself consistency, consistency, consistency, and quality content.
I moved my author newsletter here from MailChimp and imported my list from there. It's a free newsletter and most of my signups came through my website and reader magnets (i.e., free books). It's got a decent open rate but disappointingly low engagement.
I started a second newsletter this month with a paid tier, for educating and coaching aspiring freelance writers at http://workingwriter.substack.com. Only about a dozen subscribers so far, most of whom came from Twitter, Instagram or my other newsletter, and so far the only one who's upgraded to paid subscriber is the friend who talked me into doing it in the first place. So far everything I've posted there has been free. Not much point in doing otherwise until I have more than one paid sub. I'm considering giving some away for free to get some community engagement and word of mouth going. But I'm seeing a lot of great ideas here and appreciate everyone who's sharing what works.
For EndlessMetrics.substack.com, my first 30 were just friends who I asked pretty simply “oh I’m starting this new project would love to get your thoughts or insight and if you hate it or it’s annoying then it’s easy to unsubscribe!”
The rest have come from hitting on certain topics that resonated more broadly and brought in a lot of new readers. I found that once I hit on a good idea it would work but with decreasing impact over time so then I’d have to look for the next hit topic. In between, would kind of flat line a bit on growth but that’s okay cause my real focus is just writing versus popularity.
Using Facebook and some personal emails, I ran up to 90+ really quick--and have been stuck in the mid-90s for weeks! Trying various social sites, and started posting on Medium, but starting to feel pinned down. It's a very small niche (temples and churches in Asia and America), but still...
So what social sites do you suggest?
I uploaded a list of LinkedIn contacts. That had some 2400 contacts or so. So, all of them free subscribers. But since then due to the 'Unsubscribe' option available, the total number has come down to 1700 or so in these 6-7 months. I've got just a few new subscribers. It doesn't feel good to me. Neither, the fact that on an average I'm getting 6-7% email hit. Not more than that.
I want to increase this email rate to beyond 30% but don't know how to do that.
I had about 100 children over the last few years so it was easy for me to ask them to make email addresses and subscribe!
My first 100 (just reached the 120 mark!) came fairly easily with friends and social media. I know about half of my subscribers personally and the other half are what I think to be friendly internet strangers that have come across my work mostly through twitter and some other online communities. I'll probably be trying to tap into twitter and possibly quora more for my next 100!
I tweet about my substack at least once a day. Not always direct links to the 'stack, or anything so obvious, but "hey, my dad thought the thing I wrote was ridiculous" or "wow you guys really liked this issue". I have running jokes about the newsletter. I have news or tidbits about the newsletter. Screenshots of work in progress, as well as screenshots of cryptic headlines that make you want to read the article (er, or clickbait, yes, I am guilty of it). And I make sure to tweet a lot about my normal life or politics or my usual "beat" so people don't get really sick of me plugging my stuff all the time.
The first 100 came easily by contacting friends over email and social media. But I have no clue about the second 100; I was hoping it would happen organically, and it's not! Twitter seems to work for others, but writing-Twitter it's not a scene I was ever part of. Most of my followers are spammy-marketing types from my days in that field years ago. So I can't just start tweeting now and expect meaningful engagement. Thanks to all of you for pulling back the curtain! laurenmaxwell.substack.com
My first one hundred were mostly friends and people I was connected to through my personal twitter. I’ve since split off my personal and newsletter twitter accounts. Twitter and word of mouth are my main subscriber engines. Growth is slow, but steadily upward.
My first 100 subscribers were largely through Twitter.
I write a newsletter called Adventure Snack (adventuresnack.substack.com). It's a "Choose Your Path" adventure game via email where there are multiple endings. Players click a link in the newsletter and they're taken to a page with their character's ending. I put share buttons on all the endings, so players can share how their adventure ended, and they take advantage of it.
I've over 15,000 followers on Twitter but I realised that this doesn't mean much when you've no direct way to talk to everyone at once. Tweeting into the void is a bit like pissing in the wind — fun but fraught with danger.
If I sent direct messages to everyone about my paid newsletter I'd end up getting lynched. So I decided to give it away for free. Because as much as I need money I hate capitalism and want people to read my work.
It's still a paid newsletter but I've comped anyone brave enough to DM me their email address. I've also given it away to friends, colleagues, fans, and Patreon supporters.
Giving away a paid newsletter for free seems to have, perversely, increased its perceived value. So I'm going to keep this up until it has at least 1,000 subscribers.
I'm new to Substack so I'd love your feedback on my newsletter. Or, you know, for you to sign up for it. If you respond to this message I'll even gift you a lifetime paid subscription for free.
Through my blog; the newsletter is an extension of it. I promoted it in posts, embedding the sign up form in the sidebar, sharing out on Twitter, etc.
I'm not there yet but I've gained a few subscribers by literally just talking about it to random people I interact with and at work. (I work at a co-working space so there's a lot of traffic). If you work out of a shared space, there are usually community boards and announcement areas where you can tell people about your newsletter!
I sent quarterly emails to my contacts with a link to my newsletter inviting them to join the "pre-launch." I also have it linked to my LinkedIn account and mention it periodically in LinkedIn posts. I include a link in the signature line of my emails and I also talk it up when I meet with people who I think would find it relevant. Also would include links on social media interactions. Took probably a year or so to get to the first 100 doing this.
I wrote the first newsletter, published it on substack, then then used LInkedIn to send direct messages to contacts and non-contacts who I thought would like it. Instead of asking them to sign up, I asked them for feedback. Many provided feedback but also signed up and shared it.
I'm right at about 100 subscribers for The Chomp and am actively working through this issue in getting to my next 100. I got to my first 100 mainly through LinkedIn and mentioning the launch of my newsletter to my network of friends. My newsletter wasn't born from a previous endeavor, so it was quite exciting to get to that first 100 so quickly. However, it's been frustrating seeing it stall around that number in recent weeks. That being said, I'm only on issue 14 so hopeful that growth will pick back up.
Any advice on scaling to that next 100 would be much appreciated!
I posted it on my personal Instagram (I had ~2,000 followers) and got 288 emails from that.
My newsletter is at: https://sariazout.substack.com/
It's a tech and startups newsletter designed to make you feel human.
I personally emailed everyone I knew and asked them one at a time to subscribe and share.
I made a big announcement on my medium publication and explained why it was the best way to keep up with all that I was doing. ALSO I showed them examples of the newsletter-only content they would get.
Bidwell Hollow was born out of a popular radio show/newsletter getting cancelled (The Writer’s Almanac). I started it after seeing other people online talk about missing the Almanac. So, once I was ready for subscribers, I replied to tweets and public Facebook posts related to the cancellation. I sympathized with the poster, and told them I have a replacement if they’re interested. It didn’t take long to get to 100 subscribers.
To apply it to others, I would suggest first identifying your target audience. Who do you think will subscribe to your newsletter? Then find them online and engage in their conversations. It’s not scalable to do this forever, but it’s doable when you’re trying to get your first 100 subscribers.
I started less than 2 weeks ago, I am at 98 subscribers now. I am currently using LinkedIn only to promote my content because this is where I have a lot of connections, and my newsletter is about career advice and how to grow as a professional so I thought it's the most relevant audience. I will try to keep the consistency in writing for now and learn more about how to leverage LinkedIn. Then I will consider other mediums.
You can check out my Newsletter here: https://ataasoulami.substack.com/
Hello! I am a fashion journalist and just started my newsletter yesterday. I currently have 50 subscribers. It's my first newsletter experiment, would love to gather some thoughts and advice from more experienced editors :) The email signature one is already super helpful.
Thanks for the many good tips in this thread.