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28 Ways To Grow Your Newsletter Organically (Without a Large Social Following)

Here's how to get email subscribers for free

Deep Dive

How To Grow Your Newsletter Organically (Without a Large Social Following)

Last week I asked subscribers: “What content would you like to see more of?”

The #1 response: How to get subscribers organically.

So here are all the best ways to grow your email list for free — even if you’re a beginner or don’t have a large social following.

Let’s get into it…

1) Lead magnets

Lead magnets are a force multiplier.

You can use them to convert a large percentage of a small audience into subscribers — or to grow your audience.

Here’s what I mean…

The lead magnet, comment, and DM strategy

Here’s how it works:

  • Promote a lead magnet and ask people to comment on your post so you can DM them the link

  • DM a link to your email opt-in page where they can get access to the lead magnet after entering their email

  • Automate this with Tweet Hunter or Taplio

  • Or do it manually (copy & paste)

The replies/comments to your post will amplify your reach. And if your lead magnet is good people will happily enter an email to get it.

I’ve seen these promotions drive 200-500+ subscribers and followers for small accounts.

But there are more ways to use lead magnets…

  • In a social post

  • As your social profile link

  • In a cold email, message, or DM

  • In your Instagram or TikTok stories

  • At the end of a thread, long post, video, or carousel

  • And more

What makes a great lead magnet?

Here are the best types of lead magnets to use:

  • Cheat sheet

  • Checklist

  • Database

  • Report (1-5 pages)

  • Swipe file

  • Tool/resource list

  • Template

  • Short video (<10 minutes)

  • ebook (<20 pages)

  • Summary

Understanding which types of lead magnets to use is key.

Your lead magnet should:

  • Provide immediate value

  • Be <15 minutes long in reading time or watch time

  • Solve a narrow problem — don’t share a comprehensive solution (that’s for your paid content products)

People don’t want to learn. They want answers. Easy fixes. Turn-key systems.

Imagine you’re back in high school:

Would you rather have a study guide or the answers to the test?

Most people would say the answers. And that’s exactly what people people want from a lead magnet.

Also, if you’re worried about subscriber quality from lead magnets…

If the lead magnet content is good and aligned with your newsletter content — your subscriber engagement will be too.

2) Social Content and CTAs

People ask me all the time:

“How do I grow my newsletter without an audience?”

Here’s my answer: Start building one.

Starting from scratch is hard. But that’s how we all started.

If you want to grow a newsletter organically, post on a social media platform and grow your audience there.

There’s no way around this (unless you’re using paid ads).

You need to:

  1. Post free content on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, etc (pick one platform to start with)

  2. Ask people to join your newsletter (calls to action)

  3. If people like your content, they’ll join your newsletter for more content.

It’s simple. Don’t try to avoid this with fancy growth hacks.

Newsletters are content businesses. Don’t be afraid of creating content!

Now… here’s the good news:

  • You don’t need to post new and original content every day

  • You don’t need to post on every platform

If you’re starting from scratch, do this:

A. Pick one platform.

I’d recommend starting with a text-focused platform like LinkedIn or Twitter.

But if you’re good at video, YouTube or Instagram can work great too.

B. Create ~3 high-quality posts per week by repurposing your newsletter.

Every newsletter you write should generate at least 3 pieces of social content.

There’s no reason to limit content to your newsletter only.

Create once. Distribute forever

C. Add a call to action (CTA) after each of those posts.

  • Auto-plug your newsletter (or lead magnet) after posts

  • Add a CTA at the end of threads, LinkedIn carousels, or videos

  • Add a CTA for your newsletter in your bio (and don’t use a linktree)

D. Post a pre-newsletter CTA and post-newsletter CTA every week

Pre and post-CTAs will convert more followers into subscribers and add 2 additional social posts per week to your arsenal.

Here’s how to use them…

3) Pre and post-CTAs

A pre-CTA is where you tell people about what your newsletter covers ~24 hours before it’s sent.

A post-CTA is when you tell followers about your newsletter content after it was posted.

Pre-CTA example

This tactic makes it easy to post about your newsletter.

You’re simply telling followers what you’re writing about and asking them to sign up to read it. If they’re interested in that content, they’ll subscribe.

These posts also create:

  • Fear of missing out (FOMO) on your content

  • Urgency to sign up and get access to the content

  • Curiosity to see what the newsletter content is about

For more on this, read my deep dive with 30+ examples.

4) New follow auto DMs

Send an automated message to new followers and connections about your newsletter. If your goal is subscribers, it can’t hurt to ask.

Limit your DMs to 25-50 max and keep them short and sweet.

If you have a lead magnet you can promote, that’s even better.

5) Be the reply guy

You can get a shocking amount of impressions, followers, and subscribers by replying to big accounts and popular posts on Twitter.

Ben Tossell used this strategy by replying to popular AI news announcements to grow his newsletter.

6) Use all your digital real estate

Think about all the “digital real estate” you own. Your website, email signature, social media accounts, slack profile, community accounts, etc.

Add a CTA for your newsletter on all of it:

  • CTA on your website

  • CTA in your email signature

  • CTA in your social media bios

  • CTA in private community profiles

7) Cold email all your “warm contacts”

Make a list of all your contacts:

  • Every contact in your phone

  • Everyone in your email address book

  • All your LinkedIn connections that have public email

  • If you run a business, all your clients and customers

  • (If possible) A list of all your past and current co-workers

Even if you don’t have a large network, this should be 200-500+ people.

Then, write an email that tells them about your newsletter and why they should subscribe.

Here’s an example:

In this email, you need to:

  • Quicky tell people what this is about (your newsletter)

  • Tell them why they are getting this (you’ve crossed paths before)

  • How this will help them (your newsletter benefits and topic)

Do not auto-add people to the newsletter. Make sure this is clear in your email.

Add a link to your landing page where people can subscribe.

Then send it!

Send this email to all your contacts using 1 of these 2 methods:

  1. Send 1 email at a time and customize the name and first line

  2. Send the email to everyone with Gmails BCC feature

Either way works.

You’ll get more sign-ups with the customized email, but it takes longer.

8) LinkedIn newsletter

When you create a LinkedIn newsletter, ALL of your existing and future followers and connections are invited to subscribe.

Example

This is an easy way to get 500+ “subscribers” fast.

But there’s a catch…

Subscribers are joining your LinkedIn newsletter, not your email newsletter. You don’t get their email addresses.

To convert these readers into email subscribers you can:

  • Post ~25% of your newsletter to LinkedIn – link to your landing page to subscribe and read the rest.

  • Send them a LinkedIn message promoting your email newsletter or a lead magnet

  • Scrape their emails from LinkedIn and send them a cold email

9) 1 reward referral program

Create a newsletter referral program where 1 successful referral unlocks a digital product or download.

If you have a “lead magnet” type digital product you can set this up in <10 minutes with beehiiv.

Promote the referral program in your newsletter and start getting new subscribers on autopilot.

10) Cross-promotions

Swap ad spots in your newsletter with another similar newsletter.

Both parties should track and match unique clicks they send each other so the trade is fair.

Find cross-promo partners with lettergrowth.

11) Cross-recommendations

Recommend other newsletters using beehiiv, Convertkit, Substack, or SparkLoop Upscribe.

Find recommendation partners that have similar audiences and can closely match the number of subscribers you send each other.

I suggest aiming for a 70%+ subscriber match rate.

By “match rate” I mean if I send “newsletter A” 100 subscribers in 30 days they send me at least 70 subscribers back.

12) Forward to a friend

Ask readers to forward your newsletter to a friend and provide a link to sign up.

Example from Smart Nonsense

13) Build relationships

This may sound cheesy but it works.

Plus, it will help you use other people’s audiences to grow.

When you build genuine relationships with other creators, they lead to:

  • Your content getting shared

  • Business opportunities

  • Podcast interviews

  • Cross-promotions

  • Introductions

  • Referrals

  • & more

Start doing this by:

  • Responding to polls and surveys from your favorite creators

  • Sending emails or DM to creators you can help or collaborate with

  • Leaving thoughtful comments on 10 other posts in your niche every day

  • Replying to your favorite newsletters. Tell them you liked the issue or share helpful feedback

  • Responding to everyone who replies to your newsletter, comments on your social posts, and DMs you

14) Partner giveaways

Partner with 3-5 other newsletters and give away a prize.

Books, apple products, and gift cards work best.

Create a landing page about the giveaway where users can sign up for all the newsletters to be entered to win. Each newsletter promotes it to its audience.

If you don’t have a large audience you can still get into these giveaways by:

  • Organizing them

  • Doing the technical setup

  • Providing the prize to giveaway

If you can’t afford a prize that’s okay.

Get a business to give away products for free in exchange for promotion and/or leads from the giveaway.

15) Be a podcast guest

Go on podcasts in your niche.

Talk about your newsletter on the podcast and ask the host to include a link to your newsletter in the show notes and podcast description.

Yes, I get it. This is easier said than done. But if you’re creating high-quality content and building relationships you will get booked on podcasts.

And don’t be afraid to ask to come on the show!

16) Guest posts in other newsletters

Writing a newsletter every day or week is hard.

Writers are looking for guest posts so they can take time off (I certainly am). This is your opportunity to get in front of tens of thousands of new readers.

After you have a catalog of 3-5 high-quality posts reach out to newsletters in your niche and ask if they’re open to a guest post — or a guest-written section.

Provide examples of your writing and ideas about what you can write in their newsletter.

A ton of newsletters have curated link sections (including this one).

Writers and editors are looking for great content to share with their audience.

If you have a blog post that’s a great match, share it with them!

Then make sure your blog/newsletter archive is optimized to email capture.

18) Engagement groups and relationships

Every big content creator has a group or list of 10+ people they swap comments with on social media.

  • Start building an engagement group or list of other creators

  • Comment on each other's posts

  • Start boosting your reach

19) Content syndication and distribution

Partner with a blog or media company to republish your content on their website.

They get new content to share. You get traffic and subscribers from readers joining your newsletter from the links in the syndicated content.

Also, submit or republish your newsletter content to:

  • Hacker News

  • Indie Hackers

  • HackerNoon

  • Medium

And other sites that accept submissions or UGC.

20) Online communities

Join multiple communities in your niche or industry.

These could be online, in-person, free, or paid. If there’s an established community in your space that’s active you should be a part of it.

  • If you have something relevant to share in the community, share it.

  • If you can help someone in the community with a problem or question, do it.

It’s easy to quickly become “known” in private communities. If you participate, you’ll become the go-to person for your expertise.

That will lead to subscribers, customers, and relationships.

21) Reddit

Eric Lam has added 5k+ subscribers from Reddit organically by using posts and comments.

Here’s his strategy.

22) Website email capture

Convert your website and blog visitors to newsletter subscribers with:

  • Banners

  • Pop-ups

  • Footer sign up form

  • A newsletter sign up page

  • Header or nav sign up form

  • In-line sign up form in content

  • Bottom boxes with sign up forms after content

90%+ of websites do not have enough email capture forms and pop-ups.

23) Work for free

Work for a popular creator in your niche for free in exchange for education and promotion.

A few years ago I worked for a large Twitter creator for free for 2 months in exchange for:

  • A few retweets and comments on my posts

  • 3 coaching calls on Twitter growth

  • 1 shout out

It was well worth it.

When working for free make sure you have a clear agreement:

  • Scope of work and deliverables for your service (don’t do anything outside of that for free)

  • Written deliverables on what you’re getting from the client in exchange for your services

  • A timeline or duration of the free work and rewards. (Example: I do X for free for 2 months to get Y. Then my fee is Z per month).

24) Quora

Find questions on Quora relevant to your newsletter and expertise.

Write an answer and link to your newsletter at the end of the post.

25) Repurpose newsletters into SEO-optimized articles

If you’re writing articles or deep dives in your newsletter these can be edited and optimized for SEO.

26) Launch on Product Hunt

Multiple newsletters have added 1000+ subscribers from a product hunt launch.

Here’s a great case study (see example #8).

27) Billboard backpacks

Advertiser your newsletter at a conference with an animated backpack sign.

Becasue… Why not? This is actually a great conversation starter at events.

28) Virtual events and webinars

Online events and webinars are lead magnets with built-in scarcity and urgency.

By limiting the number of attendees and using a deadline for the event more people will sign up.

Plus, if you bring on guest speakers you can ask them to promote it.

28) Milestone giveaways or events

Give away a prize, host an event, or doing something cool when you reach a subscriber milestones.

For example:

  • “When I reach 100 subscribers I’ll host an zoom call for all my readers”

  • “When I reach 1000 subscribers I'm giving away my book for free”

  • “When I reach 10,000 subscribers I'm giving away a Macbook to one reader for free”

This is a great way to get readers excited to share your content or to use your referral program.

BEFORE YOU GO

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