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Marketers and content creators are generally busy people, making it difficult to keep up with the ever-evolving social media platforms. As if staying up-to-date on the top platforms isn’t hard enough, new platforms are popping up and older but lesser-known ones are changing. Take Substack, for instance, which launched Substack Notes.

If you’re looking to expand your social media marketing, find out why the six-year-old Substack and its new Notes feature are attracting attention from readers, writers and brands.  

What is Substack?

Substack, the self-proclaimed “new economic engine for culture,” was launched in 2017 to give writers and readers more control and foster deeper connections without prioritizing advertising. With a focus on free and paid subscription-driven content and direct relationships rather than algorithms and paid ads.

The simple system allows anyone to publish to the web, email, and app simultaneously and the one-click feature allows podcasters to share episodes to Substack subscribers and all the major podcast resources. The service is free for publishers (like bloggers, vloggers, journalists, and thought leaders). Substack handles all the billing, tech, and administrative work so writers can focus on producing quality content. 

Creators’ posts — of which they maintain rights to their intellectual property — can be published for free or paywalled, with the average subscription costing around $5 a month. Substack keeps 10% of subscription fees and charges some additional fees for transactions to cover operating costs.

As of April 2023, Substack had more than 35 million active subscribers, of which more than 2 million were paid subscriptions. According to Substack, approximately 12% of paid subscriptions and more than 40% of all new free subscriptions come from within the platform’s network. 

Content creators can import their posts and email lists from other platforms, such as Mailchimp, WordPress, Tumblr, and Medium, to bring their existing audience with them.

What are Substack Notes?

On April 11, 2023, Substack launched Notes, allowing writers on the platform to post short-form content and share ideas with their readers and other writers. 

Similar to Tweets, Notes will allow users to publish small posts, such as comments, quotes, links, and images. Creators can include up to six photos or GIFs per note and can also include them in replies.

As is common on the other major platforms, Notes appear in their own tab and will include icons for likes, replies, and restacks — the latter of which is a branded version of the share button. Notes posts are not sent to subscribers by email.

Because Substack publishers can offer a mix of paid and free content, the Notes tab has two feeds: Subscribed and Home. 

Although Substack’s Recommendations feature lets writers promote their newsletters and publications, Notes allows them to grow their audience — and the audiences of others — by recommending or sharing almost anything. 

Still, the focus of Substack is on creating authentic and valuable content for audiences, hoping that readers will become paying subscribers to primarily benefit the creators.

Substack Notes

How brands can use Substack Notes

On social networks like Facebook, the advertisers are the customers. But on Substack, the readers are the customers. 

With this in mind, brands can use Substack to provide valuable free content to readers just as they do with an e-newsletter or blog, or Substack Notes to give connection to thought leaders, case studies, e-books, and other relevant content. 

Rather than churning out branded content that pushes products and services to consumers, Substack Notes can help brands provide snippets of valuable content to readers that, in turn, might turn them into a subscriber. They can also use Recommendations to promote other writers that their audience might find interesting or helpful. 

Although Substack doesn’t permit publications whose sole purpose is to advertise an external product or service, it does allow brands to share and publish content. Need some examples of how your brand might use Substack Notes?

  • Promote pieces on thought leadership in your industry
  • Share quotes from your company’s founder or CEO 
  • Recommend articles and essays by Substack writers related to your brand’s products or services
  • Share images from industry events, such as expos, conventions, and expert panels
  • Write content that includes helpful tips and advice without selling
  • Share trending industry news
  • Promote your branded podcast
  • Reply to and share other writers’ Notes to engage with creators and industry leaders
  • Develop relationships with editors and journalists in your niche by subscribing to their newsletter, engaging with their Notes, and replying to requests from experts

All of this to say is that rather than relying on algorithms to predict what platform users should see, Substack readers rely on the authenticity and trust they’ve built with content creators — be they brands, nonprofits, or individuals — to learn what’s worth viewing or reading. 

If you’re a brand or content creator looking for a unique platform to share your thoughts, expertise, or simply generate interest in your industry, it’s worth checking out Substack.


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