- Newsletter Operator
- How I Grew My Newsletter To 5,000 Subscribers
How I Grew My Newsletter To 5,000 Subscribers
PLUS: Online course marketing 101, Twitter hooks, 52 ways to grow your email list, and more
Welcome to The Newsletter Operator!
We are now 5,506+ newsletter operators strong. Today’s email is about how I grew the list to 5k subscribers in 100 days and how you can apply my learnings to your newsletter!
Plus, the best links and resources I found this week on:
Media industry news
Online course marketing
Paid newsletter retention tips
How I Grew My Newsletter To 5k Subscribers With a 60% Open Rate In 100 Days
Getting Started - The First 100 Subscribers
I started the Newsletter Operator on Jan 16th, 2023.
At that point, I had ~1300 Twitter followers and ~2000 followers on LinkedIn.
~400 Twitter followers were friends and random followers. The rest came from the occasional Thread and Tweets I posted about newsletters and paid marketing starting in Oct 2022.
Almost all my LinkedIn followers came from my connections. When you convert your LinkedIn from a “normal” account to a “creator” account all your connections are counted as followers.
This small audience was a great launchpad.
When I first Tweeted that I was launching a newsletter I got 75 subscribers on day 1.
My first newsletter goes out tomorrow. 📧
Here's what's coming:
- How I make video ads that have generated 300k+ subs for clients at <$1.90 CPA
- Tactics that drove 180k+ subs for B2B newsletters
- 3 twitter growth hacks for newsletters
Get it here: htt
— Matt McGarry (@JMatthewMcGarry)
Jan 21, 2023
I also added a call to action for my newsletter in my email signature and asked a few close friends and clients to subscribe.
I did this about 7 days before publishing the first newsletter.
Promoting it before I wrote the first issue got me subscribers to write for, and kept me accountable to write and publish it every week.
The Newsletter Format
The original format and subheadline for The Newsletter Operator was:
The 5 best links on newsletter growth, engagement, and monetization. 3 examples you can steal. 1 deep dive on a newsletter growth tactic.
After the first 6 issues, I ran out of examples to share and found that writing detailed examples and a deep dive each week took too long.
So I changed the format to “The Best Links”, curated links, news, and resources on various newsletter topics. And “Deep Dive”, one long-form article about a newsletter strategy or tactic.
That way I wasn’t limited to 5 links and I had more time to focus my research and writing that week on one topic for the deep dive.
This also made my value proposition and subheadline more clear. After 6 issues, I changed the subheadline to:
How to grow and monetize your newsletter. Learn the exact tactics top newsletters are using. Join X+ founders, creators, and operators for free.
Acquisition Sources By Channel
Here’s a breakdown of where my subscribers are from:
Twitter organic: 2,623
Twitter ads: 987
Website direct: 741
Referral direct: 279
Cyber Patterns: 140
Google / organic: 140
The Rundown / Boost: 101
Facebook ads: 100
Side note: The only way I can easily break down my subscriber growth and engagement by source is because of Beehiiv’s advanced analytic tools.
To grow your newsletter, you need to know which sources you should invest your time and money in. So if your looking for the best ESP to drive growth, I recommend Beehiiv.
What Worked, What Didn’t
Let’s start with what worked great:
Twitter - 2626 subscribers, 65% open rate, 27% CTR
Writing 1-2 high-quality threads a week and Tweeting every day has had the largest impact on my newsletter growth.
Also, optimizing my profile was key in converting views from Twitter into followers and subscribers.
Think of your profile as an ad for people to follow you and join your newsletter. Work on improving every element of that “ad”. Your profile picture, header, description, location, etc.
You also must have a clear call to action in your profile for your newsletter. Your profile link should link directly to your newsletter landing page. Not your website homepage and not a linktree!
A decided conversion-focused landing page will convert 50%+ of your Twitter traffic to subscribers. While a linktree or website may only convert 10-20%.
Threads and Tweets That Drove The Most Subscribers
(These are in no particular order.)
I identified these tweets and threads by looking at the days my subscribers count from Twitter spiked, then looking at my Tweet Hunter analytics to find the top tweet from that day.
Here are my insights on using Twitter to grow:
1/ Lead magnet auto-DMs are crushing it (example)
I’ve only done 2 of these but each generated 150+ subscribers and hundreds of followers. I should be doing 2-3 of these per month.
2/ Auto Plug is a must-use tool
I had many one-off Tweets that drove 50-100 subscribers. But if I didn’t “plug” my newsletter below that Twitter with another Tweet (example), I would have seen far less newsletter growth.
Side note: I use Tweet Hunter to set up an “Auto Plug” once a Tweet I publish reaches 20 likes. I also use their tool to set up Auto DMs.
3/ Pre-newsletter CTAs work surprisingly well
Here’s how these work: The day before your newsletter is sent, Tweet about what the newsletter is about and add a subtle call to action (CTA) to subscribe. (Example)
Pre-CTAs take very little effort but are amazing at converting followers into newsletter subscribers. I recommend doing one per week.
3/ Consistently and volume is king
Since Jan 17th I’ve averaged 1 tweet a day and 1 thread per week. The only way to grow on Twitter is to publish constantly. With every post, you learn how to make your future posts better and gain more followers, more subscribers, and more favor with Twitter Algomirim.
This creates a snowball effect. At first, growing on Twitter is hard. Your tweets reach almost no one. Then after months of posting your views and followers consistently grow faster and faster.
To take my Twitter growth to the next level I plan to publish 10+ tweets and 3+ threads per week in the near future.
Twitter ads have also been a great growth channel for me.
Twitter Ads - 987 subscribers, 63% open rate, 23% CTR
I’ve spent $2,724 on Twitter ads to acquire 987 subscribers at a $2.75 CPA (cost per subscriber).
For a niche B2B newsletter like mine, that CPA is pretty good. But I’m more excited about my open rate from Twitter ads.
Often subscribers from ads have a 5-10% lower open rate than a newsletter's overall open rate. But for me, Twitter ads have a 4% higher open rate than my overall open of 59%.
How I Set Up My Campaign, Targeting, and Creative
I use a conversion campaign and target follower look-a-like audiences of business accounts and influencers in my niche.
I started by testing 3 ad groups at $25 per day each. Now I just have the best-performing ad group live at $25 per day.
The ad creatives that worked best were memes and Twitter testimonials.
I’m happy with the ad results so far. I plan to ramp up ad spend when I start monetizing the newsletter soon.
Also, I know you may be confused by how I set up Twitter ads. If you don’t have media buying experience it’s hard to run ads successfully. That’s why releasing a done-with-you service on Twitter and Meta ads soon. I’ll announce it in a future newsletter.
What Worked Okay
Here’s what growth sources worked okay:
Referral program - 279 subscribers, 44% open rate, 17% CTR
My referral program is set up so that users unlock one reward (The Link Database) after referring 1 subscriber. Then unlock another reward (FB Ads Course) after referring 10 subscribers.
The program has worked alright considering:
My newsletter is very niche. Most people don’t have many friends or co-works also interested in newsletters they can share this with.
The referral program is set and forget. After I made the rewards, the referral program took 5 minutes to set up with Beehiiv and all I do is mention it at the end of each newsletter.
Newsletter cross-promotions - ~200 subscribers, ~70% open rate
I’ve done 3 cross-promos (which means swapping ad slots with other newsletters).
These were hit or miss. One generated 140 subscribers. One just 11 subscribers.
It’s also a challenge to find cross-promo partners because my content is so niche. However, now that I have more subscribers and can partner with bigger newsletters, these may be worth testing again.
I plan to test this with 3-4 other newsletters and hope to find 1-2 I can cross-promo with regularly.
What Didn’t Work
Here’s what I tested but didn’t work for me:
Newsletter ads - ~150 subscribers, ~65 open rate
I’ve bought 4 ads in other newsletters. 1 work well. The other 3 were flops.
That’s a small sample size but in the future, I plan to cross-promo with newsletters or spend my paid marketing budget on Twitter ads, Sparkloop, or Beehiiv Boosts.
Facebook (aka Meta) ads - 100 subscribers, 25% open rate
I spent $589 on Meta ads to acquire 100 subscribers at a $5.89 CPA (cost per subscriber).
Facebook ads can be an amazing growth source for newsletters. My agency has driven millions of high-quality, low-cost newsletter subscribers with the ad platform
However, Facebook ads didn’t work for The Newsletter Operator. That’s probably because the content is too niche and I didn’t put much effort into creative testing.
There are definitely people interested in newsletters on Facebook and Instagram. But they may not express that interest on those platforms. And therefore are hard to target with Meta ads.
I also focused my ad creative on “newsletter business” and “newsletter growth”. I may have had more success with ad creative that had broader appeal. Like ads on “how to start a newsletter”.
That said, I’ll probably try Meta ads again when I have an online course and coaching program I can funnel newsletter subscribers into.
I’ll also be writing more content geared to beginners soon. That content can be showcased in my future Meta ads.
What Growth Sources I Plan To Test Next
LinkedIn looks like a great organic channel that pairs well with Twitter. I plan to start posting on LinkedIn daily and publishing carousel posts 2-3 times a week.
Hopefully, you’ll see a future newsletter on how to grow with LinkedIn!
SEO (Google Search)
I hope to rank for long-tail keywords around newsletters, ESPs, monetization, and growth.
No clear plan for this yet, but I’ll start by redesigning my Beehiiv website to make it more readable. Then optimizing past newsletter posts for SEO.
I’m starting to be a guest on more podcasts. These have created small spikes in growth. As I go on bigger and bigger podcasts, they should drive more subscribers.
These also build a deeper relationship with my existing subscribers.
Growth Channels I Plan To Focus On
These 4 channels can get me to 100k+ subscribers.
I don’t plan to spread myself too thin. I’ve seen the data behind my newsletters with 100k-1M subscribers and often only 1 or 2 growth sources got them to that size.
The Best Links
52 ways to grow your email list (link)
From Twitter lurker to over 30k followers in a month (link)
How Justin Gage grew Technically to 50k subscribers (link)
12 ways creators get and keep attention with killer hooks (link)
How the best newsletter operators grow to 50K+ subscribers (link)
Online course marketing 101 (link)
How to retain paid subscribers with great onboarding (link)
The secrets of email deliverability (link)
How Stacked Marketer plans newsletter content (link)
📰 Newsletter News
WorkWeek launches recruiting agency, HireFor (link)
Building a creator-driven newsletter with Nathan Barry (link)