How I Grew To 10k+ Subscribers With a 59% Open Rate and 23% CTR
PLUS: The truth about building a newsletter, LinkedIn growth, and more
Welcome Newsletter Operator!
We are now a community of 10,000+ newsletter operators.
In today’s issue, you’ll learn how I grew the list to 10k subscribers in 7 months and how you can apply my learnings to your newsletter.
Plus, the best links and resources I found this week on:
Growing a newsletter with LinkedIn company pages
Building a B2B media company
And much more…
How I Grew To 10k+ Subscribers With a 59% Open Rate and 23% CTR
Here’s how it happened in 7 months:
The First 100 Subscribers
I started the Newsletter Operator on Jan 16th, 2023.
At that point, I had ~1300 Twitter followers and ~1000 followers on LinkedIn.
This small audience was a great launchpad.
I got the first 100 subscribers in 3 ways:
1/ A Tweet that I was starting a newsletter (drove ~75 subscribers)
My first newsletter goes out tomorrow. 📧
Here's what's coming:
- How I make video ads that have generated 300k+ subs for clients at
— Matt McGarry (@JMatthewMcGarry)
Jan 21, 2023
2/ Adding a call to action for the newsletter in my email signature (~10 subscribers)
3/ Asking close friends and clients to subscribe (~15 subscribers)
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 every week.
Acquisition Sources By Channel
Here’s a breakdown of where all subscribers are from:
Twitter organic: 4,219
Twitter ads: 2,921
Website direct: 1,333
Google organic: 548
Beehiiv boosts: 367
Side note: I can easily break down my subscriber growth and engagement by source 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.
If you’re looking for the best ESP to drive growth, I recommend beehiiv.
Wins and Failures
Here’s what growth tactics works great, works okay, and flopped:
Starting with what worked great:
Twitter - 4,219 subscribers, 65% open rate, 26% CTR
Writing one high-quality thread per 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.
That link should go directly to your newsletter landing page.
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.)
Here are my insights on using Twitter to grow:
1/ Auto Plug is a must-use tool
I had many one-off Tweets that drove 100+ subscribers. But if I didn’t “plug” my newsletter below that with another Tweet (example), I would have seen far less newsletter growth.
Note: I use Tweet Hunter to set up an “Auto Plug” once a Tweet I publish reaches 20-30 likes.
2/ Pre-newsletter CTAs work surprisingly well
Here’s how these work:
The day before your newsletter is sent, post about what the newsletter is about and add a 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 January I’ve averaged 1 tweet a day and 1 thread per week.
The only way to grow is to constantly post.
With every post, you learn how to make your future posts better, gain more followers, more subscribers, and more favor in the 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.
4/ Re-write and repurpose your best content
You can grow on Twitter by saying the same thing in many different ways.
After I post Tweet that does well, I’ll re-write it and post again 45-90 days later.
This always works.
I’ll also expand on successful Tweets and turn them into threads. Then I turn my threads into short tweets.
Always be repurposing your best content.
Most of your followers never saw it, and it can reach a new audience when you post it again.
5/ Find and build a community
Over the past 7 months I’ve met ~20 creators who I support and who support me back.
This isn’t an engagement group, it’s genuine community and friendship.
I love the content and work they create, so I like, comment, and share their content.
I also offer free advice when they ask me questions.
In return, they often do the same for me.
Anyone who wants to build an audience online needs to find their community – then be actually helpful and kind to that community.
If you do that, you’ll make friends who will help you grow.
Twitter ads have also been a great growth channel for me.
Twitter Ads - 2,314 subscribers, 60% open rate, 13% CTR
I’ve spent $6,231 on Twitter ads to acquire 2,314 subscribers at a $2.69 CPA (cost per subscriber).
For a niche B2B newsletter like mine, that CPA is pretty good.
I’m able to offset my ad investment with Sparloop Upscribe and beehiiv boosts.
With these tools I’m able to earn ~$1 per subscriber, making my true CPA closer to $1.69.
What I’m most happy with is my open rate and CTR from Twitter ads. Often subscribers from ads have a ~5% lower open rate than a newsletter's overall open rate.
But for me, Twitter ads subscribers open rates are matching 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 accounts 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 $50 per day.
The ad creatives that work best are memes and testimonials.
What Worked Okay
Here’s what growth sources worked okay:
Referral program - 339 subscribers, 49% open rate, 20% CTR
My referral program is set up so that users unlock one reward after referring one subscriber.
The program has worked alright considering:
My newsletter is very niche. Most people don’t have many friends 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 in the newsletter.
I’ll probably return to using the referral program again after I revamp the rewards.
It will work better now that I have 10k+ subscribers.
Cross-promotions - 250 subscribers, 70% open rate, 30% CTR
I’ve done 4 cross-promos (which means swapping ad slots with other newsletters).
These were hit or miss. One generated 140 subscribers. One just 11 subscribers.
Cross promotions are a challenge because:
It’s hard to find partners because my content is so niche
They take a lot of work to set up and organize
The work to growth ratio is low
However, cross-promotions have generated some of my highest quality subscribers.
beehiiv boosts - 411 subscribers, 44% open rate, 8% CTR
Boosts are a great way to monetize a newsletter – but I prefer Twitter and Facebook ads as a paid growth channel.
That said, Twitter and Facebook ads take a lot of work and skill to do successfully.
I’ve been managing paid soical ads for 5+ years, so it’s easy for me.
beehiiv boosts are a way to grow with paid marketing that’s mostly automated.
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 worked well. The other 3 were flops.
That’s a small sample size but my money is better spent on Twitter ads for now.
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 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 — making them 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 test Meta ads again when I have an online course and coaching program I can funnel newsletter subscribers into.
The Best Links
How Katelyn Bourgoin built an audience of 220k+ (link)
Nathan Baugh on growing a newsletter with Linkedin (link)
The truth about building a newsletter most people don't know (link)
Philip Ideson on building a B2B newsletter and podcast (link)
5 things successful creators have in common (link)
📰 Newsletter News
beehiiv introduces custom home pages (link)