Week after week, the number of online creators that contacts us to help them grow their database raises.
Although we get requests mainly from writers, musicians, and a few designers, I know that every creative person is facing the same difficulties as a fellow artist myself.
It’s tough to build a fan base as an online creator, let alone make a living out of it.
The more I learn about the ‘artistic’ industry works in terms of promotion, the more I understand that the key ingredient is having connections.
This sucks because not having connections is one of the biggest problems creative people face in the first place.
Luckily, the internet opened a gateway for online creators (who wouldn’t make it in the past) to attain loyal fans and continue doing their craft.
In the era of social media, creators became a toy in the hands of Silicon Valley giants.
You must have a consistent online presence, constantly engaging with fans; you may also need to run ads.
In other words, you have to split yourself into three entities:
- The human
- The creator
- The marketer
One of my greatest fears is that if I decide to chase a career with my art, then the everlasting online act will kill the joy of creating.
As creators— you and I need more control and more space to breathe and continue creating.
The funny thing is that the tool we needed the most is available to us for a long time.
Email newsletters make a dynamic comeback, and the people who explore its opportunities in the era of rented online space will become the powerhouses of tomorrow.
Why do online creators need to gather email addresses?
I just made a big statement, but I’m 100% sure about it.
Online creators already started adopting this mindset and gathering as many email addresses as possible.
There are 3 reasons for online creators to gather email addresses:
- Email addresses are an owned marketing asset.
- You can use email addresses for better remarketing.
- Emails are a key ingredient to email marketing (duh!)
Email is an owned marketing channel
You can either own or rent an audience.
Sure, platforms like Instagram give a great deal of discoverability to creators, but let’s check where it comes short:
- If Instagram goes out of business, your followers are worthless.
- The platform can ban you for not following their guidelines— you can lose days of work for showing a nipple (FAIL).
- Organic engagement doesn’t exist anymore.
The same applies to any other social media platform. I’m sure you’ve seen a headline like that:
On the other hand, email is an asset that you can use in any way you want (with proper user consent).
From the moment that someone gives you their email address, you can communicate directly with them without relying on another platform that you have to control over.
I know. Organic distribution rules.
But does it? Or are you believe it because you don’t have the budget.
It’s a fact that you can’t make money if you don’t spend some money. The biggest commercial artists of our time know that.
e.g., The Weeknd spent $7 Million of his own money on the 2021 Super Bowl Halftime Show.
Most of us don’t have that kind of money, though. But you can do it with a lot less.
When people hear about paid advertising, their minds go to user acquisition, but if you have a limited budget, I would advise you to spend it on retention.
It’s cheaper to advertise to people that are already your fans, and since you have an email list, you can create custom audiences on any social media platform that supports it.
The ROI is much bigger: The probability of selling something to an existing ‘customer’ is 60-70%, whereas selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.
Email Marketing & Newsletters
Newsletters are the top trend among online creators right now, as it helps people to:
- Build a community.
- Distribute content directly to the fans.
- Drive sales.
Do you know what the most frequent phrase used when a fan meets an artist in person is?
“When I listen to your music, I feel like you know me.”
I’ve seen this conversation going down a thousand times.
Sending newsletters to your fans can have a similar effect; you speak directly to the people who support you, ask them questions, and announce upcoming plans.
You can miss an Instagram story, but it’s difficult to miss an email from a creator you admire.
Creating a community, rather than a simple fan base, allows you to distribute your latest piece of work to the people who care and offer them a chance to support you either by buying your merch/services or by entering a paid subscription model.
But the most important aspect of community building is .
Platforms like , , and are based on rewarding creators for building communities.
How creators can gather email addresses
By this point, you already understand why you should be using email as an online creator.
But how can you start gathering email addresses?
You should start small; tell your friends and family to join you (and ask them to their friends and family).
Some other ways that you can use to gather email addresses as an online creator:
- Create great content.
- Be engaging.
- Use opt-in forms.
- Create gated content.
- Offer email-exclusive material.
- Run referral programs.
The importance of great content
This one seems obvious, but I have to mention it.
Creating great things is the cornerstone of making it as a creator. I don’t want to get into a philosophical discussion about what makes a creation great or not, but I’ll tell you this:
If you give 100% on your creations, sooner or later, someone will notice it.
When someone comes across your work, they need only a few seconds to decide whether they like it or not.
Knocking your target audience’s socks off is the best chance you have to get their email address.
Building a fan base is a slow and funneled process.
Engaging with an audience (existing or targeted) works on 2 levels:
- It gets you discovered.
- It reinforces the sense of community.
- It makes people talk about you.
Have you read ?
I’m not going to get into many details, but the strategy’s essence is to find Instagram posts for your niche and join the conversation under these posts.
It doesn’t have to be Instagram; whether it is a YouTube video, message board, or a tweet, engaging with a target audience can put you on the map.
And if you have an existing audience, things can get really fun.
Twitch allows its creators to raid other Twitch channels. Twitch Raid is when a streamer who’s done streaming sends their entire live audience to another currently live streamer.
It’s a fun activity for both the host and his/her viewers, and it provided some legendary moments on the platform.
This one also goes without saying.
To grab email addresses, you need an email capturing mechanism.
Opt-in forms require you to build a landing page (unless you use a platform like Substack).
All the existing email platforms offer embeddable Opt-in forms or integrations with landing page builders.
In terms of structure, your email capturing pages should be really plain. Let’s see theDONUT for example:
They are really keeping it simple and to the point; They only ask for an email address and provide information about what the subscriber should expect to receive in their inbox.
Gated content &Email-exclusive material
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve provided my email address in exchange for some digital asset.
As a music producer who wants to stay relevant, I have to enrich my sound sample libraries. I’m currently subscribed to 25 newsletters from other music producers that send new sample packs exclusively to their email subscribers.
Email-exclusive material is another community booster.
What’s also fascinating is that I became a subscriber to most of those newsletters for downloading gated content. That’s how I discovered pATCHES:
You can always build a custom solution for serving gated content or use an app that does the trick, but lately, creators use Gumroad to generate leads with gated content.
Gumroad caught up with the trend and started offering .
Newsletter Referral Programs
Your existing audience is the best chance you have in expanding your email list.
In the past, if you wanted to build a referral program for your newsletter, you had to build a landing page to gather sign-ups and then assign a unique referral link to each participant.
This is exactly what Viral Loops does, but since we started focusing on online creators’ needs, we understood that the last thing they need is more friction.
It’s almost impossible to be a great writer, a marketer, a videographer, and a developer at the same time.
Our first attempt to decrease the amount of friction for online creators is , which allows you to run your referral programs entirely from your email campaigns and reward your subscribers when they refer their friends.
One great example of .
They even added a referral progress bar at the bottom of their newsletters:
Your fans are probably already on the verge of talking to their friends about you. All you have to do is to provide a great incentive.
If you want to l. (MUST-READ material).
Before you go
In the era of (rather expensive) rented online space, email made a comeback as a strong owned marketing asset.
Right now, email is the best chance that online creators have to build a fan base and make a living.
Creators can use email to speak directly to their audience, build communities around them, and get discovered by more people.
How would you use email as an online creator?
Apostle is a core member of the founding team at Viral Loops. He has worked closely with hundreds of referral marketing campaigns made with Viral Loops. Apostle has years of experience in growing and marketing companies and co-founded Growth Hacking University.