This is the fourth in a series of six posts designed to share the essential knowledge writers demand to become independent on Substack.
This resources aims to assistance you grow your free readership using tactics from social media promotion to targeted partnerships.
It’s normal for your Substack to primarily experience irksome, steady growth most of the fourth dimension. Devotion to consequent promotion will aid ensure a continuous growth trajectory. Every once in a while you may also go large subscriber jumps from a post that goes viral, a shoutout from some other publication, or commemoration moments similar a paid launch.
This resource offers ideas on how to create those big moments also as a variety of routine tactics you can invest in for steady growth.
Routine tactics for steady growth
The best predictor of success is writing and promoting your work regularly and consistently. Information technology’s hard to predict which pieces will take off or when someone big volition find and share your Substack. Even if growth feels tiresome at starting time, over time, the growth will chemical compound into a self-propelling momentum.
Talk about your Substack everywhere
Most writers feel that they are too self-promotional, merely in a crowded attention ecosystem, new readers may need a few nudges to discover you. Your existing fans won’t heed being reminded.
Apply CTAs (calls-to-action) in your posts.
In every post, employ buttons and e-mail headers and footers to inquire readers to subscribe, annotate, and share.
Add your Substack link prominently to your website, social media bios, and electronic mail signature
to catechumen existing friends and fans into readers. Information technology’s also good for SEO: Search engines rank sites partly based on how many other pages link to your site.
Turn on recommendations.
Our recommendations characteristic helps writers’ publications exist discovered by new readers. Writers that make a recommendation are iii times more likely to be recommended in return. This feature is bachelor for all writers, podcasters, and other publishers on Substack, then if you oasis’t tried information technology yet, here’s how to turn on recommendations:
Share on social media every time you publish on Substack.
Give potential readers a taste of your content on the platforms where they are. You lot tin can include teaser excerpts, screenshots, or share the enquiry backside your work. You can also gloat milestones, like getting close to 500 subscribers.
Twitter, many writers create viral threads that summarize free or paid posts and link to their Substack. Likewise, connect Substack to Twitter in your Settings page to notify your Twitter followers nearly your publication.
Instagram, tell followers about your latest writing in your captions and stories, and add Substack-related Instagram stories to a profile highlight.
Facebook, you can create a page to share your piece of work. In posts, use an eye-catching image and add together the Substack link in the outset annotate rather than the post body to make sure information technology gets seen.
Find potential readers where they’re at.
Later you ascertain your readership, research where these people congregate online and in real life: conferences, Facebook groups, subreddits, and more. Create a rolodex of potential outreach opportunities, and start engaging in these spaces and sharing your work. For his local news publication, Tony Mecia partnered with Charlotte’s local radio station, local Facebook Groups, and even hosted an awards bear witness.
Comment on other writers’ publications. Substack displays your reader and writer profile when y’all annotate on other Substacks. Engaging with other writers’ work helps their readers find yours. (Don’t know where to beginning? Attend one of our upcoming Function Hours or Shoutout Threads.)
Appoint with your readers
Your readers are ofttimes the best cheerleaders for your Substack. Here are a few pocket-sized things y’all tin can practise to ensure you’re learning about what resonates with them most.
Answer to friendly reader emails
to build a personal connexion with your readers. The more you talk to your readers, the more they’ll tell their friends.
Add testimonials to your About page.
If you receive a compliment from a reader, consider request them if you lot tin can share information technology on your About page and on social media.
Acquit reader surveys.
Learn what your readers want by asking them who they are (e.g. geography, job, age), what they love most your Substack, what they want to see more of, and who they know would similar your work. Erin Moon explains more.
In addition to the routine tactics you’ll do every week, you may want to invest in some larger promotion campaigns and bigger bets.
Create growth moments
Spend time writing a few large hits.
Write longform, loftier-quality content that stands a chance of getting picked up by other websites, people with large audiences, or press outlets that match your target audition. In that location’s no magic formula, only i big hit tin bring you thousands of new readers.
Celebrate milestones. Punctuating cardinal moments helps readers rally around your writing. It tin can exist a simple weblog post celebrating a writing ceremony similar Anne Helen Petersen did hither, or a full-on festival similar Persuasion put on. Ascertain what milestones are important to you and invite your readers to celebrate with you.
Forge targeted partnerships
Partnering with other writers, influencers, and media outlets will help you reach new readers and build your network of supporters and idea partners.
Ask people with larger audiences to share your Substack, peculiarly if they’re friends or current subscribers.
If you don’t know anyone, endeavour cold emailing or messaging someone y’all admire whose audience overlaps with yours. Introduce yourself with your Substack, share something relevant to their followers or about a topic they care about, and be gracious with your ask.
Build relationships with press and community leaders.
Whether in accelerate of your publication launch, breaking news, or a big story, you lot can create your own “press list” of journalists and influencers in your industry, locality, or community. This encourages them to share or cite your piece of work, as Edwin Dorsey explains. Y’all can fifty-fifty offer these people comped subscriptions to your newsletter.
Publish guest posts and interviews with other figures in your field.
These enable you lot to “borrow” another person’southward audition if the interviewee shares your newsletter post with their followers. It also can give readers new perspectives: For example, Kevin Maguire invited a non-biological mother of a same-sexual activity marriage to write a guest post about fatherhood, and Isaac Fitzgerald swapped interviews with Anand Giridharadas.
In Practice: How First grand grew to 20,000 subscribers
Ali Abouelatta, the author behind Start chiliad, unlocked growth by combining ongoing, routine efforts with a series of experiments. After three years of this systematic approach, he went from having no pre-existing make or audition to reaching over 20,000 subscribers. Ali shared his creative, entrepreneurial approach with us.
Good work compounds over time.
Ali argues that growing gets easier as you grow—a thesis we’ve heard from multiple writers. That said, y’all don’t know at what signal you will experience your inflection moment. The important thing is to keep going, knowing that each reader will help you find more readers.
Set small achievable goals.
Ali ready a goal to grow his email list to 170 new subscribers every month, then broke that down to 6 new subscribers every mean solar day. He then dedicated time every Sunday and Mon to growth experiments, and Tuesday through Sat to his routine tactics.
Growing isn’t magic.
Ali plant that growing his publication took a combination of routine efforts and growth experiments. Routine efforts are depression try, depression reward, but they add up over time and correlate to steady, consequent growth. Experiments are higher attempt, higher reward. These artistic ideas could unlock a whole new segment of readers, or but not pan out. In the video, Ali shares a deep dive into some examples of both successful and failed experiments, including two ProductHunt launches and offering express-fourth dimension bonus content to readers who shared his piece of work.
You lot need to give to get.
Ali sets three hours aside every Thursday to contribute to online communities he’due south a function of. He answers questions in Quora and joins conversations in different Discord servers, WhatsApp groups, and Slack channels. He says that this goodwill went a long way in building advocates for his ain writing.
Make a plan
To put these ideas into practice, we’ve created a workbook for y’all to plan your growth strategy. It includes tabs to track your routine promotion tactics and a rolodex of contacts to reach out to for partnerships and experiments.
We encourage you to adapt the md to your specific needs. Update the columns to reflect the tactics that work best for your publication and audience. For example, if you have a lot of photos in your publication, yous might update the “Share on social media” column to “Share on Instagram.”
Don’t use Google Sheets? Download the excel version.
This post is the quaternary in a series of half dozen posts that will share the essential knowledge writers need to get contained on Substack. Cheque out the get-go three posts: “Start past setting goals,” “Developing a publication strategy,” and “Building a habitation for your publication.”
On Substack, writers earn a living doing what they love. Getting started is easy. Set upwards paid subscriptions in merely a few minutes.
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