June 7, 2021 Content Chat Recap: How To Build A Loyal Community Around Your Email Newsletter

A #ContentChat header image that says today's topic is how to build a loyal community around your email newsletter, with guest Josh Spector.

Email marketing strategies can support a range of content marketing and business goals, but marketers often face a variety of hurdles when starting and growing an email newsletter community. In this #ContentChat, we’re joined by Josh Spector to discuss how to provide value for your email newsletter subscribers and ways to turn that audience into a genuine community.

Josh creates three newsletters that help creators produce, publish, promote, and profit from their creations, and he also runs the Newsletter Creators Facebook community with 3.8K+ members. He shares his tried-and-true tips in the below recap, including his advice for how to start an email newsletter, ways to boost your newsletter open rate, and whether marketers should include ads in their email newsletters.

If you’re interested in learning more from Josh, check out and subscribe to his newsletters here:

  • For The Interested is a weekly newsletter that has four secrets of successful creators and an original blog post
  • The Daily Graph is a one-paragraph newsletter that comes out every weekday and features a useful or inspiring idea for creators
  • This Is How I Do It is a paid weekly newsletter and collection of resources featuring a behind-the-scenes look at how Josh grows his audience and business

Q1: I’m interested in starting an email newsletter, but don’t know where to start. What are the foundational planning elements for an email newsletter?

When planning an email newsletter, start by picking a goal and an audience. What do you want to accomplish? Who are you trying to reach (be specific)? Why are you doing this?

A1a:

• Choose a goal – what do you want to accomplish? Why are you doing this?

• Pick a specific audience to help make a specific transformation

“My newsletter will help THIS AUDIENCE get from POINT A to POINT B”#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

A1: Figure out what the goal is of your newsletter and which metrics you’ll track to see if you’re hitting that goal.

You’ll also want to determine the audience for the newsletter. And if you don’t have an audience yet, what steps do you need to do to build one? #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) June 7, 2021

A1:
🔹Me, and many wordnerds like me, are suckers for a poll or listicle.
🔸 A solid template is a must to attract your audience.

But, may the ghost of Bill Gates help you if you don’t have a goal. Without a purpose, it’s just writing vanity. #ContentChat

— SPW ✍️🤓 (@ShawnPaulWood) June 7, 2021

A1 Probably a good start would be defining
Your audience
Which of their problems you are going to solve
Your ultimate goal for the email newsletter
-Alyx #ContentChat https://t.co/kvoW44TR5O

— Charlie & Alyx – Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) June 7, 2021

Create your newsletter content with your audience needs and your newsletter goal in mind. How can you best help your readers overcome challenges, explore new ideas, or simply delight them in other ways? We share some valuable email newsletter additions in Q4.

A1b:

Figure out what you can provide in your newsletter to make that happen.

Don’t get bogged down in what email platform to use or any technical stuff – most platforms are roughly the same.

Figure out the value you want to provide and to who and start writing.#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

Re: newsletter intros, a common mistake I see is people use the intro to just tell people what they’re about to see in the newsletter.

Doesn’t add value – just is repetitive and lengthens the newsletter.

Just get right into the value as quick as possible.#contentchat https://t.co/ARxHsmziXX

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

A1. (a) Identify 1 to 10 sub-audiences and their specific needs; (b) begin curating relevant content [original and partner, with attribution ] (c) consider seasonal and cyclical factors that could influence your content calendar and publication dates. https://t.co/RqJoJG8i3O

— Ed Alexander (@fanfoundry) June 7, 2021

A1: A good newsletter is about categorizing. Think of it like an outline.

Intro: Why am I reading this newsletter?

Relevant Example & Story: Give me something to grab onto.

Your Topic Take: Your spot for your spice!

End: Takeaways + next time.

Bonus: Links#ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 7, 2021

A1: In my mind, it’s 3 majors – design, distribution, and content.

What’s it gonna look like?
Who’s gonna get it?
What’s gonna be in it?

RE: the 3rd question, I like to see 6 weeks of content before we publish the first newsletter. #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) June 7, 2021

Ensure you can commit to a consistent content cadence. Without consistency, your newsletter community will likely dwindle.

A1c:

Be consistent. Be patient.

It’s a long game. Your newsletter will evolve over time.

My Newsletter Accelerator course can also help👇https://t.co/L0jlieBTw9#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

A1. Make sure you have answers to a few of these Qs;
– Who is it for?
– What do you want it to achieve?
– Can you put out consistent content to keep it alive?
– Do you have a content plan?
– How do you intend to keep the ‘interest’ high?#ContentChat -🚀📩

— Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) June 7, 2021

So so important to be sure you’ll be able to push out content consistently. There’s nothing like marketing your newsletter and growing it too, only to be irregular with the sending schedule and, with it, your audience’s expectations. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) June 7, 2021

Research your audience and the content landscape in the space you hope to address.

A1. Settle on an engaging format + newsletter frequency backed by audience research — that’s where I’m currently at. You might assume an idea is good, but it’s only good if your audience thinks it’s good. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) June 7, 2021

True, but…you’ll never know if it’s good until you launch and you won’t really even know what it is (or can become) until you launch and allow it to evolve.

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

Q2: How can content marketers grow their newsletter subscriber list? How quickly should they expect this list to grow?

Revisit the goal(s) you identified for your newsletter. Does your email subscriber count directly influence your ability to achieve these goals? Often, you may not need as many subscribers as you think.

A2a:

It’s different for every niche/audience.

The key is your messaging needs to be about the value/transformation your newsletter helps your audience make.

Sell the benefits, not the features.

Based on goals, you may not need as many subscribers as you think.#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

“Based on goals, you may not need as many subscribers as you think.”

Having the right people reading your newsletter is so much more important than having a lot of people reading who aren’t your ideal customer persona (ICP). #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 7, 2021

No matter what, DO NOT buy your email subscriber list or auto-enroll your customers to receive your email newsletter.

A2: Whatever you do, don’t opt-in people for your email newsletter. That may grow your list size, but it will drag down your engagement rates. What you CAN do, however, is make sure you give email newsletter CTAs and signup links in your transactional emails. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 7, 2021

A2 Here’s one thing you *shouldn’t* do … Don’t buy subscribers. Let people opt in and choose to hear from you. Not just because it’s the law, but because they’ll last longer and you won’t have to deal with unsubscribes — or worse, being deemed a spammer. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) June 7, 2021

To grow your newsletter in five days, check out these tips from Josh:

A2b:

Here are some ways to grow your newsletter in 5 days:

• Improve description
• Improve social bio
• Improve welcome email
• Improve how you share on social
• Do a cross promotionhttps://t.co/XaKVefa75m#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

Make your newsletter shareable so that subscribers can advocate for you. Or, at least think through your referral strategy.

And one thing you *should* do is make your newsletter shareable. Let fans advocate for you and share your great content, and let non-subscribers get a taste of what you’re sending. #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) June 7, 2021

Also, try a referral strategy like James Clear has 👇. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/9MANnlIclJ

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) June 7, 2021

A2: If you’re already in someone’s inbox, you’re on your way to more readers.

Make that “share” button big & offer options: Email link, one for Twitter or Facebook, etc.

One newsletter I read calls it right out: “Did a friend forward this to you? Subscribe here.” #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 7, 2021

Share your newsletter across channels and invite people to subscribe if you know it will be of interest to them.

A2. Definitely looking forward to the answer to the second part of this question.

As for how to grow:
• share your newsletter on social
• write guest posts that link to it
• do a Product Hunt launch
• invite people you know to subscribe if they’re willing to #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) June 7, 2021

Promote your newsletter in blog posts, website footers, and other places on your content channels.

A2: I’m always looking for new ideas here. And is there an effective way to grow it in B2B without gated content?

A few ideas:
-Include signups in blog posts, website footers, sidebars etc.
-Share on social
-Ask your subscribers to spread the word#ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) June 7, 2021

A2 Include CTAs in your normal content w/ links to join your newsletter, have it be part of your on-boarding process for joining a FB groups/etc
How quickly the list grows really depends on a lot of factors
-Alyx #ContentChat https://t.co/o74igKGTaN

— Charlie & Alyx – Charlie Appel Agency (@ColfaxInsurance) June 7, 2021

Shruti recommends the Rob and Kennedy Email Marketing Show for more ideas.

I know these @RobandKennedy have some smashing stuff ♥️to help you with growing and keeping those signing up to your email lists coming back! Check out their podcasts! #ContentChat

— Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) June 7, 2021

Q3: How can content marketers boost their email newsletter open rate?

Open rates reflect the quality of your subject line, relevance of the newsletter content, and consistency of delivery.

A3a:

Open rates are a reflection of:

• Subject line

• Relevance of newsletter to audience who subscribed

• Consistency of delivery

• Quality of previous newsletters#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

Another thing people often overlook.

Your newsletter can’t just be good enough to get people to subscribe.

It has to be SO good that people want to open it every time they get it.#contentchat https://t.co/tj9czsQfO1

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

Spotlight the hottest topics in your subject, and ensure the email newsletter delivers on the expectation that the subject sets.

A3: Subject lines, baby!

Make sure your hottest topics are in the subject!

Also, make sure your content delivers on your subject line. #ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) June 7, 2021

A3. a. Set expectations on the frequency and value that you will provide

b. Deliverability: If you don’t want to end up in people’s spam folder:

Avoid spammy subject lines ( triggers like “free”/ “$$”)

Don’t buy lists

Don’t send stuff that can get you blacklisted#ContentChat

— Akshaya Chandramouli (@axeie6) June 7, 2021

Resend your email newsletter to anyone who did not open it after the initial send.

A3b:

Easy way to increase your open rate by 15%:

Re-send to people who didn’t open it a few days after the original send and add paragraph explaining you’re re-sending it.

I explain how to do that here:https://t.co/P7QAjgOoes#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

A/B test your subject lines and names.

A3: A/B test those subject lines and see what works best for your audience! #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) June 7, 2021

A3: A/B test your from names, too. In some cases, a person’s name may work better than your organization’s name. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) June 7, 2021

See also: Have your email address in the reply to, not a “no-reply email alias! #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 7, 2021

Engage with your community to strengthen your relationship.

A3. Boost open rates by making sure each issue is packed with value + building relationships with your subscribers (for example, always engage with someone who replies to your email. This keeps them coming back). #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) June 7, 2021

Consistently review your KPIs and introduce more value-add elements for your readers. The goal is to provide unique content that is hyper-focused on the needs of your community.

A3:

It’s like a chef who uses just the right amount of seasoning, the extra oomph in the food that keeps you coming back for me. #ContentMarketing is all about that seasoning. Make your content taste better than anyone else’s. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/NVy5yl9ICp

— SPW ✍️🤓 (@ShawnPaulWood) June 7, 2021

A3: The newsletters I consistently click on are the ones that:
– Teach me something
– Show me something
– Entertain me

How I choose:
* clear subject line
* remembering whether or not I liked the last one
* bc I like the brand & want to help their open rate. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 7, 2021

Q4: What email newsletter elements do subscribers tell you they find to be most valuable?

Delight your email newsletter subscribers by sharing actionable and relevant ideas…

A4:

People love actionable and relevant ideas.

It’s not enough to just share stuff that’s “interesting.”

Share things that are useful.#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

How-tos and informative infographics or similar visuals…

A4: By my clients’ click-throughs:

– how-tos
– informative infographics
– funny, yet educational listicles#ContentChat

— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) June 7, 2021

Customer stories that help readers overcome similar challenges…

A4 Some elements that are popular with ours are;
👉Customer stories – helps readers relate their problems
👉What’s coming up – creates excitement#ContentChat

— Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) June 7, 2021

Templates and links to relevant content…

A4: With the Content Chat Bulletin, our content marketing job leads, #ContentChat recap post links, and content marketing templates get the most clicks and responses.

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 7, 2021

A4: Content that makes your subscribers’ jobs easier.

For us, we know most healthcare marketers are swamped and short on budget. We try to focus on best practices that can help them excel without extra time or $$. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) June 7, 2021

And a unique point of view and style that keeps readers coming back for more.

A4 As a subscriber, I appreciate a point of view. Knowing a human sent the newsletter, because they include a personal note and context for why they’re sharing content (if that’s what they do). #contentchat

— Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman) June 7, 2021

Q5: Should content creators include ads in their email newsletters? What are some considerations for including advertisements?

Josh introduced ads in For The Interested, and most of his advertisers are his readers. He links to a post that explains how to launched and sells ads below.

A5a:

It depends on their goals, but ads can be effective depending on your niche and size of your audience.

The key is to find advertisers that provide value to your audience and don’t just annoy them.#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

A5b:

I’ve had a lot of success with classified ads in For The Interested since launching them about a year ago – I’ve sold out every issue.

And my audience digs them.

This explains exactly how I launched and sell them.https://t.co/QwVZClrPc6#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

Most of my advertisers are actually my readers.

I’ve done nothing to promote/sell the ads outside of mentioning them in my newsletter.#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

Which is even better! They know your audience because they ARE your audience. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 7, 2021

Be transparent about any paid relationships.

A5. I’m not sure of the specifics. What I do know is that if you choose to pair with advertisers, be sure to be open about it with your readers by telling them about it upfront. #ContentChat

— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) June 7, 2021

A5: If there is a partnership with a brand, state that upfront. Be transparent and your audience may even become patrons. Don’t, and your newsletter may get funneled to the Bermuda Spam Triangle. #ContentChat

— SPW ✍️🤓 (@ShawnPaulWood) June 7, 2021

Similarly, if I have had a company as a paying client before, I note that for transparency. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 7, 2021

Q6: You run the Newsletter Creators group on Facebook with 3.8K members. What are the top considerations and necessary resources for someone hoping to host a similar online community?

Your community isn’t about you—it’s about the community. Listen to their needs and create opportunities for them to connect and share ideas.

A6a:

The community isn’t about you – it’s about the community.

Your job is to create opportunities for people to connect with each other and it’s really their group (even if you “own” it).

I highly recommend reading the Seth Godin book TRIBES#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

A6b:

I also recommend having people answer questions to join the group and have one of the questions be an invitation for them to subscribe to your newsletter (assuming it’s relevant).

50% of people who join my group sign up for my newsletter when they do so.#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

Q7: What general tips do you have for newsletter creators to sustain engagement and keep the content ideas flowing?

The community share their tips for sustaining an email newsletter community below. Did we miss your top tips? Let us know in the comments!

A7a:

• Talk to your audience and find out what they’re struggling with

• Experiment

• Read this: https://t.co/n8rzye274D#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

A7b:

And if you’d like to learn more about newsletters…

• My DMs are open!

• Check this out 👇https://t.co/nzWUSZ839J#contentchat

— Josh Spector (@jspector) June 7, 2021

A7: I’m a big fan of periodically polling your subscribers to see how you’re doing. It could help you find potential gaps in content and opportunities for increased engagement. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) June 7, 2021

A7b: And always be testing! Take advantage of a/b tests whenever you can to learn more about your subscribers. #ContentChat

— Melanie Graham (@WriterGirlMel) June 7, 2021

Testing is a big one!! Our recent newsletter look so much different and better than a year back after all that testing #ContentChat

— Shruti Deshpande (@shruti12d) June 7, 2021

A7:

🔹Audit your audience
🔸Talk to your audience
🔹Engage your audience
🔸Reward your audience
🔹Segment your audience

Noticing a trend here? #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/dl20NpPxNY

— SPW ✍️🤓 (@ShawnPaulWood) June 7, 2021

A7: Amazing, another chat where I politely nudge everyone to poll your audience!

Polls are the best. They’re easy to set up and they provide a great feedback loop for future ideas.

Also love a newsletter that encourages a direct reply if it’s asking for opinions. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 7, 2021

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