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How to grow without an existing audience

Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue
Hi there,
Social media can be a fantastic source of potential newsletter subscribers. If people follow you on Twitter, they’ve already expressed an interest in what you share, and might be interested in getting more of your content.
But one of the most common questions in my inbox boils down to this: “how do I grow my newsletter if I don’t already have an established social media audience?“
It’s a great question, and I’m going to pull together some ideas and advice below.
Find your ideal reader
As with most things growth-related, the absolute holy grail is knowing your reader. Ask yourself: what job does your newsletter perform for them?
Here are some examples:
Once you have an idea of their interests and reading habits, it will be easier to identify the places where you’re most likely to find, and communicate with, your potential subscribers.
Work out where they are, and go there
The best place to start, even if you don’t have a large following, is often social media. If you have an account on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, TikTok (etc), try to find groups, threads, conversations, and communities that focus on your newsletter’s topic.
Get involved. Engage in conversations. Pose questions. Become an active member in that community, and share your newsletter as a resource for the other people there. You’ll likely see your social media connections grow as you continue to show up in these spaces.
A word of warning: many social media groups don’t take kindly to overt self-promotion, so it’s advisable to authentically engage with the community before dropping in a link to your signup form at a time when it’s relevant and useful (here’s Reddit’s guidelines for self-promotion).
Know your value — and prove it early
If people don’t already know you or follow you on social media, they may need an extra nudge to understand how your newsletter could be valuable to them.
It’s always best to be clear about what value you provide on your newsletter’s sign-up page, and in all places where you share that link. But you can go one further.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how you can use freebies (aka. lead magnets) to demonstrate your value early, and to give readers an extra incentive to subscribe. The idea is that you provide something for free in return for somebody’s email address, and it can be a great way to gather engaged readers. I’d recommend checking out the issue linked above for inspiration, but here’s an example to show you what I mean:
Collaborate
Another way to grow your list that doesn’t involve having lots of Twitter followers is collaboration and cross-promotion. If you know other newsletter writers who write about a similar topic to you, ask if they would be prepared to share your sign-up page in their newsletter — and offer to do the same.
To go further, you could also work on join ventures with others in your field of interest. Perhaps you guest-edit each other’s newsletter once in a while, or perhaps you run an online event, course, or webinar where you can promote your newsletter to attendees.
Joining a club for people who share your interests and holding offline events can be a fun way of getting your newsletter in front of potential readers — especially if your newsletter has a local focus.
Word of mouth
A method that tends to bring in particularly engaged subscribers is asking your readers to share your newsletter with their friends, family, or anybody else who would be interested. In fact, I’d recommend adding a callout in each newsletter issue to ask your readers to do just that. I’ve seen writers do this in the intro, outro, or halfway through (you could experiment with where works best for you!). It’s a tried-and-tested tactic for newsletters of all shapes and sizes.
Parting words
I won’t beat around the bush — it can be easier to grow your subscriber list if you have lots of followers on social media. But it’s not the only source of subscribers out there, and it’s absolutely possible to grow your newsletter alongside your social media following by targeting other places where your reader may live, and going all in. Revue creators can learn more about setting their newsletter up for success by signing up to the Revue Email Academy — a 5-day email course with new tips every day.
I’d love to hear what has (and hasn’t) worked for you in the past — you can reach me by hitting reply.
Now, onto some inspiration to brighten your Tuesday.
Newsletter inspiration
Near the top of this issue, I mentioned Cestrian Stocks Bulletin, a newsletter by Cestrian Capital Research. It packages investment information and findings from the company’s own research in a free newsletter, as well as a paid offering that shares their “best stock idea” each week, plus real-time commentary and access to much more data.
A brilliant thing about this newsletter is that it takes complicated concepts and writes about them like a real human. No dry, dense text here — only a conversational tone that’s a rarity in the world of financial markets. They do the research and the heavy lifting, then explain it clearly to readers, thereby saving their subscribers time and, potentially, an information-overload headache.
Check out their profile page below:
Cestrian Stocks Bulletin
Here’s what else is going on in the newsletter world…
The week in newsletters
The Atlantic wants to hire newsletter writers — and it wants their subscribers, too
These ex-Morning Brew employees are launching a newsletter platform
Quartz bets on newsletters to drive reader revenue
Carlos Watson plans to relaunch Ozy, despite significant setbacks
That’s all for this week! I’ll see you back here next Tuesday.
Until then,
Anna
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Anna from Revue
Anna from Revue @revue

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