Following helps writers grow their audience via the Substack network, which is already home to millions of the world’s most valuable readers. We built this feature to help maximize—and not replace—subscriptions, which will always be the most important type of relationship on Substack.
A follow offers a lightweight way to start a relationship with a writer or reader, with the option to convert it into a subscription at any time. By following them, you can stay up to date with what they’re reading, liking, publishing, and subscribing to—through the Home feed and on their profiles.
With following, you can:
Find contacts: Sync phone contacts to see which of your friends are on Substack
Follow each other: Follow friends, other readers, and discover new writers
See activity: See profiles, notes, and reading activity such as likes from your follows
Invite friends: Invite your contacts to join Substack
Anyone can follow writers and readers to see their activity on Substack. Pledges and subscriptions are only available when a writer has set up a Substack publication, in addition to their Substack profile.
What is the difference between a follower, a subscriber, and a pledge?
- Follower: They’ll see your notes and some reading activity such as post likes. When someone follows you, you won't receive their email so they won't get posts in their inbox.
- Free subscriber: They'll subscribe to your Substack and receive free posts via email and/or the Substack app. They'll automatically follow you and see your notes in their feed.
- Pledge: If you don’t have payments enabled, pledges allow subscribers to pre-commit to pay for your work.
- Paid subscriber: They'll subscribe to your publication on a monthly, annual, or founding plan and receive all posts from your Substack via email and/or the Substack app. They’ll automatically follow you and see your notes in their feed.
You can think of these relationships as a hierarchy. If someone is a paid subscriber, they don’t need to also follow you to see your notes and reading activity.
Who can see my followers?
On a reader's profile, anyone can see your followers list to see who follows you and who you are following– this cannot be hidden.
If you have a publication, we'll display a partial list of your subscribers, as well as a full list of your followers and your public follows. The exact subscriber count will not be shown to readers and only an estimated count will be displayed (100+, 1K+, etc). The exact follower count is not displayed on your writer profile.
Things to note:
- For the subscribers list, we'll only show Substack profiles who've selected to make their subscription to your Substack public.
- To hide the subscriber count on your profile, follow these steps.
How can someone follow me on Substack?
On your profile, we’ll show “Follow” as a person icon–people can follow and unfollow anytime by clicking on that icon.
For writers with publications, the subscription relationship is the most important. Users can follow profiles, not publications, so when someone lands on your Substack publication they will not see the option to follow, only to subscribe. We prioritize the subscription button on your profile and in the Notes feed.
Readers can subscribe directly to a publication such as FlakPhoto Digest in their Home feed by clicking "Subscribe"
If someone wants to follow a writer while scrolling through notes, they can do so from the three dot menu.
Do I get notified if someone follows me?
When someone on Substack follows you, you'll be notified by email and also see a notification in your Activity bell.
Note: To stop receiving emails about new people who follow you on Substack, click "Unsubscribe" in the email itself or head to your Substack profile Settings and click the toggle to the left next to "New followers".
Do I get my followers’ emails? If I leave Substack, can I get my follower list?
No. Following is a lighter weight action that helps potential subscribers get to know you via notes before committing to a subscription.
How do I manage my followers?
Today, writers can see their followers from their profile page by clicking or tapping on the subscriber count under their name.
Followers are associated with profiles, not publications, so they won’t appear in your writer dashboard.
In the future, we might offer more insight into who your most engaged followers are and stats into when followers become subscribers.
I don't have a publication– what happens to my followers if I create a Substack?
In the future, we’ll automatically notify your followers that you’ve started a publication to encourage them to subscribe.
Make the most of the following relationship to grow your audience
- Join the conversation in Home. When you comment on other writer’s notes and share their work via restacking, it helps you get in front of new audiences.
- Update your profile. Your profile is the first impression that people have of you. Here, people can see what you are up to on Substack at a glance include your publication, posts, notes, and what you read. Make sure your bio clearly states who you are and what you care about. Add links to your social media, books, or website so that people can quickly learn more about you.
- Encourage your readers to share. Even if you don’t post notes, following helps your readers discover what their friends are reading. The more active they are in notes, the more it will help you grow. When you see them posting about your work, thank them and consider re-sharing.
- Sync your contacts. Find recommendations from trusted friends see what they’re reading, publishing, and liking on Substack.
Over time, turn your followers into subscribers.
The subscriber relationship remains the most important on Substack. We plan to build more tools to help writers turn followers into subscribers. In the future, we’ll make upsells easier by automatically notifying followers about trending posts and other milestones.
In the meantime, every time you post a note, your current followers will see it and be prompted to subscribe.