How do you get your first 100 signups? How do you grow your mailing list from there? What are your best tips and tricks for growth? This thread is for writers to share ideas and insights. Go at it!
(And by the way – if you click on a commenter’s profile picture, you’ll now see the publication they’re associated with.)
A few things I haven't seen yet on the thread:
1. There is a Gmail extension called Streak that does a bunch of stuff but most importantly it lets you mail merge from Gmail. (https://www.streak.com/) The first thing you should do is email everyone you've ever sent an email to and tell them you are starting a newsletter. This makes it pretty easy. (Just watch out if you have a lot of contacts. If you send more than a few hundred per day you can be put in Gmail jail for awhile.)
2. If you write a newsletter that you think a particular person on Twitter with a large following would enjoy, DM or email them about it. You don't even have to ask them to tweet it but, if it's relevant, may people do.
3. Find another newsletter you like and do a promotional swap/testimonial in each others newsletters. I've done this quite a bit with Walt from Numlock and it has been great.
4. Include a subscribe button in every email, even one that go to paid subscribers. They get forwarded around and you want an easy way for people to sign up.
5. Ask your subscribers to recommend the newsletter to people they know.
6. Include endorsements that you might get on Twitter or elsewhere somewhere in your newsletter. This will encourage other people to write their own endorsements.
I started writing once-in-a-while on Medium. Then I started writing twice a week. Gathered around 1K followers there. Then Medium changed its focus, but I discovered Substack. I made the move immediately. A lot of my Medium followers followed suit and subscribed to my Substack.
Things I don't do:
1. I don't run any ads. I don't have the time to figure all that out.
2. I don't post on Facebook. (Due to ethical reasons.)
3. I don't share my newsletter with my friends. I want my audience to be outside my circle.
4. I don't worry a lot about the number of subscribers I have.
Things I do:
1. Research and write excellent content every week without fail.
2. Focus on open rates.
3. Have a dialogue with my readers. Get feedback from.
4. Ask my readers to share my newsletter with a friend if they find my content tasteful.
Very recently I deleted a bunch of dead email addresses. I want to focus only on a very small group of readers who love my content.
I don't wan to grow my subscribers beyond 1,000. My goal is 100% open rates. I need 1000 true fans. Nothing more!!
I had a couple of hundred followers on my old tinyletter, which I imported with a welcome email. I've got about 800 subscribers now, about 10% of whom are paid, as Substack suggests.
A couple of tips I've found useful for growing my list:
1) make use of all your social media platforms. I get as many through posting screenshots of interesting paragraphs on Instagram as I do on twitter, despite have 10x as many twitter followers.
2) Don't spam your social media platforms, but don't be afraid to post more than once. I don't get so many retweets of stuff I've already posted, but it still drives people who are interested to your page.
3) On twitter, content is king; I always tweet the link to a screenshot or two of interesting teaser paragraphs, and some images, especially on subscriber only posts. It always gets more engagement that just a link.
4) Thread your social media posts. Every time I first tweet about a new essay, I do it in a reply to a previous essay tweet. I now have a long thread, so when a new potential follower clicks the tweet, they'll see 3 months of posts with descriptions and screenshots. If they're not into a cultural history of the public urinal, they might be into a sci-fi short story, or the politics of mural painting in San Francisco, or something... There'll usually be something there that grabs their fancy.
5) And on that note: good content. Sounds simple but I think it's key; it depends on your project but I try not to put out "hi guys, just a run-down of what I've been up to" emails; if I can only afford to do a certain amount of hours a week, I'd rather do one thoughtful essay than two quick roundups. Your mileage may vary, of course; some people can make those roundups engaging.
What I'm wondering now is whether I've hit a plateau for new subscribers; I've had pretty consistent growth until now but I won't lie, I was expecting it to be a little more exponential. Has anyone who was already interested in my writing signed up? It's hard to know whether new subscribers found me through 'utopian drivel' (my substack publication) or already knew my work. Have I maxed out my audience? If anyone has good tips on how to reach new audiences I'd be really interested.
My strategy - beg Chris and Hamish to feature me on substack.
I first announced my newsletter on instagram and got close to 40 sign ups from there (put the link in my bio) and then I shared it on facebook. within the first few year, the biggest boosts came from friends sharing it on twitter and then placing an ad in Ann Friedman's newsletter (got over 100 subscribers from that, great ROI). I'm close to 500 now and really want to get over that hump!
I had success with the usual social media channels but also was impressed with the amount of signups from LinkedIn!
Every three months or so, I write an update just telling the story - why I started the newsletter, what people can do to help (forward to friends, send ideas, etc.) Your subscribers probably want to help you, but you need to ask them directly. And include links to your best work in the last few months (not everybody reads everything, and your new sign-ups might have missed it.) Don't assume that everybody knows what you're all about and why you are writing your newsletter. Tell your story and ask them to help. That's one thing I have found helpful.
My first ones came from my Twitter followers and close friends, and others from converting after consistently reading content they found interesting. Funny enough, two of my newsletters got on Hacker News, and HN readers are probably the "least good" at converting to paid :D
My First 50 came from my gmail contacts. All others happened from various paid campaigns (through mailchimp, still working on setting up my Substack.)
Thank you so much for this thread, Hamish! I look forward to reading what the community will say, while I have not yet reached the 50 subscribers. But I'm working on it!
Silly question and may be unrelated. But does anyone use Medium and Substack. I know why you wouldn't want to use both together , etc , etc. At this point I'm just trying to find out if there are folks.
My first 43 subscribers came from posting that I had a newsletter and then posting articles on Facebook and Twitter. About 20 more have trickled in just from publishing, sharing pieces on social and then organic growth.
Great ideas from this thread to try next 1) posting on Linkedin, 2) emailing personal contacts, and 3) posting links to my writing on Reddit.
Someone also mentioned in the last publisher thread that it could work to collaborate with other publishers—write something together or plug each other to your respective subscribers. Not too many writers on religion/Buddhism/spirituality on Substack so maybe I'll try venturing out farther.
Most of all, I need to publish more and more regularly.
Thanks for this, @Hamish!
I started a Facebook group where Substack writers can share their latest newsletter posts (free or paid) or just discuss Substack in general. All writers are welcome! Hopefully this might lead to a few new subscribers for Substack writers! https://www.facebook.com/groups/substackwriters
Hi! My newsletter, Cruel Summer Book Club, explores grief, loss and heartbreak, and how we all get through it: https://cruelsummerbookclub.substack.com/subscribe
I got 200 subscribers right away, and have gained about 200 more since then. My goal is to have 1000 subscribers in six months, but I'm not gaining followers fast enough to hit that as of now. I have tried posting on some relevant Reddit subreddits, though their rules on posting links are often so strict. I also post weekly on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook, link to the authors and articles I link to, and ask my interviewees to please share the link on their socials, not just retweet. I also put multiple subscribe buttons in each newsletter, and ask people to subscribe and share.
I wish I knew numbers on what an average Substack newsletter's following is, and what's considered "good." I'm not ready to enter into a paid model, but would like to know a bit more about when it may actually be worthwhile.
Some context: I’m a digital designer. I’ve worked on the web since the mid-90s. My newsletter takes a critical look at how tech is shaping our lives today and offers ideas for how we can fight back for a better tomorrow.
I post similar content to Twitter and LinkedIn. I asked my followers on both services if they’d be interested in a newsletter from me on the topic. Got a fair bit of support. Made a “coming soon” post on Substack... and got over 200 people signed up before the first letter went out sometime later.
Warren Ellis kindly cross-posted my first 3 letters within his own very popular newsletter. I’m about 9 letters in now and have 1300+ subscribers.
Judd Legum has given a podcast masterclass on how to drive subs to newsletters. I’ve taken a lot of that advice on. Chief among them: posting Tweetstorms to your letters. I’ve augmented that by doing visual cross-posts of similar content to the tweetstorms to LinkedIn, FB, and Instagram (both in feed and story formats).
I was one of the early technolgy writers on Medium — back when they hired writers! — to create a column about cybersecurity and privacy that got very well read.
I dropped my substack link into my bio and some of my 6000+ followers from that platform have subscribed to my newsletter. That was about six months ago. I've got just about 300 subscribers now which might not be a lot for some of you, but I'm happy with those results. I'd anticipated a slow and steady build. What's nice to see is that my newsletter is opened 38-50% of the time which is quite high compared to every other marketing email I send out via MailChimp.
My first 15 or so subscribers were friends. From there I grew my list through my personal network and through twitter. First I used my personal twitter account, then I created a Books on GIF branded account. BoG-branded Instagram has also been helpful for growing subscribers, but way less effective than Twitter. Facebook has been useless.
Subthread-- Share subscribers /open rates do you have today, what is your goal, and how did you get them?
Planet Detroit: 441 | 40-42% | Goal = 1000 before 12/31/19
Started with personal contacts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter got me first 200). Next 200 was a combination of paid facebook email signup form, mentions in other newsletters, and one event sponsorship.
Future plans include more event sponsorship, host one event, more paid Facebook, targeted LinkedIn InMails.
I'm just starting out (writing about healthcare), but I've found some small success from posting on Reddit and just trying to help people when I can there!
Great thread, thanks for doing this. My newsletter is pretty niche -- I write about watches, especially vintage -- so have to be pretty targeted in outreach and finding the right people. Leveraged Instagram first, also doing a little giveaway to drive sign ups, and have been steadily growing since. Mostly though, I focus on writing great content on a consistent basis that keeps open rates above ~50%. Figure that'll drive referrals, SEO, etc. in the long run.
That said, love the referral swap idea; if anyone in here is in watches, fashion or a related industry, hit me up!
Probably I am one of a few Poles here who write in Polish, but my experience seems to be universal. My group of subscribers is whose who have responded to my last Facebook's post about moving here and writing a regular newsletter. I got 100 reader in one shot. Keeping them inform the way I used on Fb: tips, insights, comments no more than twice a week. What's interesting, all respond to my posts by email. Nobody uses comment section.
leverage... having an established daily newsletter with about 1500 professionals in the juice industry I decided a simple approach: As soon as I had the idea for my Substack newsletter [rootstocks](https://rootstocks.substack.com) I shared it as **PS** in the existing newsletter, with mention that the first 250 signups would get Free Membership for life.
Shared that same teaser to LinkedIn and as such gathered my first 250 brand ambassadors...
Current first free content will be there to help spread the love, but in the meantime - because of the first teasers - I already found 7 additional people to interview for the Substack newsletter, so I am off to a good start.
Game plan as I would suggest:
- look into your current reach
- offer free full membership to target audience within your current reach
- make those people your brand ambassadors
- allow for discounts for your early adaptors to share
- publish free content first, member-only later
- use LinkedIn with tags and @mentions to draw in the right people
1. I wrote my first post to have something to show and carefully picked 10 people from my audience to gather feedback.
2. After some iterations, I shared the link to my first post on LinkedIn and invited my followers to subscribe (link: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/erwanderlyn_hey-i-hope-everyone-is-having-a-relaxing-activity-6563764038306680832-zpDS). The post went way beyond my audience and reached 8,000+ people. That post only got me 100+ new signups.
3. I also added the link to my newsletter in my bio on social and to my email signature -- this helps me to consistently add new signups from new people I meet with.
My goal is really to focus on quality over quantity (0 unsubscribes so far and way above average open rates) to grow this audience organically over time. There is many tactics (some mentionned in this thread) but I don't want to use my newsletter as an awareness channel but more as a tool to support engagement with my existing audience.
Substack is fantastic and I love the experience so far. Thanks for creating this!
I have promoted my newsletter as a free companion to my blog for a year (I’ve had the blog for seven years). Now adding more content on Substack as a premium option to the blog + newsletter. I am taking the tortoise approach to this, i.e. “slow and steady wins the race”. Plus post good content. -Matt
I got my first hundred or so subscribers to my daily music email, What do I listen to today?, from social media posts on Instagram and Facebook. I started the newsletter around my birthday in June, so when people wished me a happy birthday on Facebook, I replied "thanks" and mentioned my new newsletter. Lots of sign ups from that. I've also started having guest DJ posts, and the guests share the newsletter with their networks. Each as been a great source of sign ups. Twitter has been a dud so far.
Mostly by mailchimp signups on my website and in twitter bio. Then I manually grab emails and add them to substack.
I got my first 100 signups by announcing on Linkedin (a few) and personally emailing about 1,000 people I knew that most likely would want to get the newsletter too.
In the first outreach I showed them examples of what the 1st edition would be, told them the day and time it was going out. 50 signed up in the first week. 50 the 2nd week.
Took me 10 days to send 100 emails a day. Even though it's only 5% subscribe rate, I ended up having deep conversations from those initial responses and it helped mold the newsletter into a useful thing each week. I make it a point to talk to subscribers and discuss with them all the time what can improve.
Lots of great ideas on here.
One recent one I landed on: I bought a business. It has customers who would be interested in my content.
I bought it on a cash-flow multiple, so I got their email addresses “for free”. I can then send out my substack content to them - which helps accelerate growth in the business as well (strong, non-sales content about the category)
I’m still in the process of converting everyone over but so far so good. It should get me to 50k or so readers by the time I’m done the transition
Most of mine are from Twitter, current clients, and people who find my substack page randomly. I will also start driving traffic from my www.dantudor.com website for college coaches.
I made the decision to make it more expensive vs. less expensive ($29 per month). I publish to subscribers only Monday through Friday, and to everyone on my list once every weekend.
Hope that helps give everyone some ideas!
I got a leg up from my twitter account which had 10,000 followers before I quit, but now it's good old word of mouth. Finally driving toward a paid plan. Over 200 subs now.
I'm not there yet but was pleasantly surprised when the subscribers started coming in. Stats show that most were from Instagram and Twitter, but Instagram seems to be my main traffic driver for now. Also cross-posting through Medium but hoping not to have to do that for too long as it's a fair bit of extra work. Cheers.
Creating podcasts and more podcasts for the newsletter.
Also do you think you can add in substack podcast feed to have its own individual cover art for each episode?
Also could you create another view instead of just scrolling down days?
One small, useful tip I received was to mention your newsletter when you're introducing yourself to someone. If they're not interested, no biggie. But at very least, it's more interesting than the usual small talk stuff, and at best, you might have a new subscriber.
Create great content and mention the people and companies your content contains when sharing on social
I've got about 500 subscribers and plan to move to Substack in the next couple of weeks. My newsletter has always been my main call to action, which I think helped it to grow initially. It's where I would send people from blog posts and my podcast. The other thing that can work is to let people know if you link to or mention their writing in your newsletter. They'll often then share it with their audience too. 👍
I grew my mailing list in other places, using Facebook Ads. I'll be importing them here very soon (I've about 160), to replace the way I use ActiveCampaign with Substack. I'm excited to get started. Sometimes shifting up your method gives you a fresh perspective, which I now have!
First 100 comes from your "cronies." :-) Second 100 comes from what I call "gatekeepers" in your field: influential people (with large networks of your target audience) willing to spread the word to their networks (privately and on LinkedIn). My challenge now is to get beyond that 200! (I do a lot of promoting on Twitter, too, but don't get many signups from that.)
First 50-60 came from close circles on social media and other friends. Rest of it started to arrive when those people shared what I've been writing on their blogs and newsletters. For me, social media doesn't play a big role.
I'm still under a hundred followers and all but a handful came from me posting "who wants to subscribe to my newsletter" on facebook. I've considered my first 6 months beta testing so I haven't wanted to go wider yet. Now that I've hit my groove, I plan to send out messages and emails to other contacts...
Offer a link to something of real value if they sign up. Sample chapter, free preview, folder access, checklist.
I’ve only been doing this for three weeks; getting lots of views but literally just a handful of new sign-ups. Early days, but I’m interested to hear about the experiences of others.
We've only had one issue of our newsletter so far, but we gained a number of subscribers by sharing that issue in various Slack, Telegram and Discord communities relevant to our target audience.
I am curious to learn about this. I recently started writing more consistently for my community on alphahealth.mn.co but starting to repost the content to medium and then linking it to linkedin.
I am currently experimenting but I am excited to see some of the responses.
wow, this thread is a great resource!
We're opening a restaurant in Ireland next year and wanted to start growing our community early. We have over 1200 subscribers with 20% of which are paid. We write about what we do, how we do it, who we meet, and how we met them. We share with our community in the hope that we grow collectively is what interests us. We have found that our newsletters act as an incredibly personal and in-depth method of communication, that social media just doesn't possess. However, we use our social platforms (Instagram, Twitter, FB, Linkedin) to gain subscribers, and better inform followers about our writing. We sell a number of products (and growing) via our online store and give our readers incentives, like first access to these products or access to pre-orders via our newsletters. It's really interesting to read what others are doing, hope this has helped.
Does anyone know any way to find people interested in satire? It's a short weekly spoof and I'd like to find new readers: https://fitzrovia.substack.com/
I have a Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn account, and I've shared my newsletters on these sites, but no feedback yet. I get the most from Facebook and Instagram. Any suggestions? Thanks guys! 😀
I have just started my newsletter and I have zero subscribers, I mean l, zero on almost every social platform because I don't like social network so time consuming. so what would be another way to promote the newsletter without social media and personal contacts. https://danilo.substack.com/ btw. Thank you.
Follow up: I’ve submitted my newsletter to the Stoop app. It’s like a podcast app for newsletters. Apparently pretty popular. I haven’t heard back, but who knows? You can submit your newsletter here. Submission is free. I hope this helps!
Dear all, provided that my Italian newsletter does not have success (even tough I carried out all the recommendations) I decided to launch my nesletter on the 'English market'. As I live in Italy, is there anybody among you available to put a link to my English version on his/her newsletter? A sort of twinning!!! I'll do the same with both my Italian and English version!! Pleasae let me know!!!