Many creators have found success by using a newsletter to build their audience. But if you’d like to take your brand even further, you’ll eventually need to look elsewhere.
Transitioning your audience of newsletter subscribers over to a community platform could be the switch you need to expand your business. Why? Because content alone is unsustainable, and it’s hard to build a community when your audience can’t talk to one another.
Creating a community space where your people can interact with your content and build relationships with each other through their shared interests will keep the conversation going long after your post goes live.
Ahead, we’re diving deep into why platforms like Substack were good in the past; why you should transition your newsletter’s audience to a community platform; and what you gain from utilizing these platforms..
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In this article…
Why do creators use Substack?
Many creators use Substack because it is a quick and easy way to build an audience of paying subscribers invested in your work.
When you use Substack, you can easily brand your newsletters by adding a header image and an about page to tell potential subscribers who you are. On top of that, Substack has made the process of subscribing to a newsletter and paying for content easy both for readers and content creators.
Where does Substack fall short?
Substack’s restrictions arise when you move beyond the initial setup for your newsletters on the platform.
While Substack is a great way to build an email list, accumulate subscribers, and share your work, it’s nearly impossible to build a community there. And that’s a huge missed opportunity: When you have an active and engaged community of people interested in your work, then they will A. sustain the conversations around your brand long after your latest post and B. propel growth for your digital business.
Unfortunately, Substack doesn’t have a great solution for this kind of community interaction. They do offer a “community” tab, but it simply links to the comments sections of individual articles, fragmenting your members’ conversations across posts.
So with a lackluster community system in place, creators aren’t left with many options to grow their business outside of paid advertising. The problem with advertising is that Substack has already stated they don’t plan on adding in-depth advertising tools, and on top of that, creating ads takes money out of your pocket. Ads can also be distracting and put some readers off.
This is where online community platforms come into play.
Now that we’ve explored why Substack has been used and why it’s stagnating for creators, how about we look at some of the reasons community platforms are so great?
Why you should use an online community platform
Change can feel scary, and it might seem like transitioning your Substack audience to another platform isn’t worth the hassle. We’re here to tell you that while those feelings are natural, they just aren’t true.
Modern online community platforms are designed to allow you to continue creating your awesome content, while also providing your audience with more opportunities to interact.
We’re sure you already know how hard it can be to build true connections within your audience. And with Substack, you’re significantly limiting the modes of communication you have with your people.
But if you transition to a community platform, you open yourself up to more possibilities for connection—both between you and your members and between your members themselves. Plus, you also gain the potential to diversify elsewhere: the types of content you release, the ways your community interacts, your options for monetization, and more.
How to Do More With Your Substack Audience
1. Turn your audience into a community
One of the best things about transitioning from Substack over to a modern community platform is that you’ve already done the heavy lifting. Whether your newsletter has 10 or 1,000 subscribers, you’ve already completed the first major step: bringing people together around a shared interest or idea..
When you start building your community platform, your first step is communicating just that with your subscribers. Let your audience know that you’re moving away from a simple newsletter in favor of something much more robust. You have their emails. All you have to do is let them know.
As we talked about earlier, Substack has a community tab for people to look at the comments of individual articles, but it doesn’t foster much camaraderie. Online community platforms are great because you can still post all the content you normally would, but it’s within a centralized private network that your members enter to access.
A dedicated community space allows your audience to actually get to know each other and transition from simply being fans to actual members of a community. And remember, a community is powerful because it enables your followers to come together around shared passions, interests, or goals.
When you create an environment that allows your members to communicate and network with each other, that creates what we call a network effect. Think about it like this: Each new person that joins your community brings their own unique perspective and skills to the table which adds more value to you, your brand, and your members. And as your members get added value from the connections they make with each other, they, in turn, get the incentive to keep coming back, extending their subscription year after year.
2. Create more diverse content
When you use an online community platform to grow a community you’ll have more ways to give them content.
Substack is a newsletter service that mainly focuses on providing writers with an easy way to share their writing to those who enjoy it and get paid. But what if we told you that on a community platform you’d still get all of the features that make posting your writing easily, while also gaining new options to experiment with?
Here’s a list of features at your disposal:
Your community on Web, iOS, and Android apps.
Discussion board posts, polls, and Q&As.
Live and pre-recorded videos.
Paid subscriptions and Online courses.
Direct messaging and member profiles.
You’re no longer just a line item in their crowded email inbox. Instead, you’re a destination they’re excited to return to again and again.
When you’re transitioning from a platform like Substack, some of these features might not seem important to you. But having them available allows you an abundance of possibilities later on. Plus, if you were relying on Substack’s lackluster community features, then you really don’t know what your members might want once they actually have solid ways to communicate with you and each other.
3. Try paid memberships
There are multiple ways to monetize your content and audience when you switch to an online community platform.
The first and most familiar option for you will be paid subscriptions. On your Substack, you might already be monetizing by charging a fee to access certain articles or a monthly recurring subscription for access to your newsletter. That’s great! When you use a community platform you can continue utilizing subscriptions, but with more options.
When you choose an online community platform, you can charge for membership to the community or for individual parts of your community or content. For example, you could have a paid community subscription (billed monthly or annually) that gives your members access to all of your content. Or you could opt for a “freemium” structure, where the overall community is free, but other content—whether it’s groups or courses—is priced at a premium.
Basically, when you choose an online community platform, you’re supercharging what you could already do with your Substack subscriptions.
4. Build online courses
Offering online courses is another great way to monetize a community and re-use old content. Creating an online course is great because you’re helping people achieve a goal while also fostering real connections between members.
Even if your Substack audience mainly comes for your writing, there are still opportunities to create online courses. The easiest way to find out what they can be about is asking your members in your brand spankin’ new community space…maybe even through a poll or Q&A? Okay, we’ll relax, but what we’re getting at is that all of these features are connected.
When you have more ways to interact with your people, you’ll have more ideas on how to service them. And remember, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel when you make an online course. Your audience followed your Substack for a reason: you have a unique perspective that is changing the way people think about things. All you need to do is show them a simple skill or idea and guide them to results.
5. Try live events
Last, but not lest, try some live events! They're a great way to get your audience more engaged, whether it's through a community happy hour or a group coaching session.
Don’t get us wrong, Substack is a great place to start growing your audience and make money while doing it. But as your audience grows, you’ll gain a lot more when you have clearer ways to interact with them, and when they can meet others who have the same interests.
Here at Mighty Networks, we’ve designed a community platform that does everything we’ve talked about today to help you achieve the results you’re getting on Substack — and so much more. Why settle for fewer features, less monetization, and fewer ways to interact?
When you build a Mighty Network, your content is accessible to your members no matter where they are, and your community can continue the conversation even after you’ve left. It’s time to upgrade your newsletter to something much more robust and expansive.