The key to growth on Substack: Mentions


Mentions are the key to publicity on Substack. No one talks about this, and I share it only with my private clients.

My information comes directly from Substack. In my meetings with them, they made it very clear that mentions are the way to succeed.

Mentions may seem complicated, but they’re not once you get the hang of them. And they’re well worth your time. My clients have used them and doubled and tripled their subscribers and seen real engagement.

If any of this is overwhelming, book a meeting. If this is the kind of guidance you’re looking for, book a meeting. We’ll go through this and so much more.

How mentions work

  • You mention another Substack writer in a Note or post. 

  • The writer mentioned is notified.

Why mentions are important

  • Mentions are your way to engage with other writers and take advantage of the network of writers and readers at your disposal.

  • The writer mentioned may like or comment, which is fun.

  • The writer may restack—which puts you in front of their subscribers on Notes.

  • The writer may subscribe to your Substack, which is an excellent way to build relationships and could lead to guest posts or interviews, which again puts you in front of their subscribers.

  • They may recommend your Substack, which gives you more exposure by Substack’s algorithm.

Why would you do this?

  • Mentions get you in front of their subscribers who may be looking to subscribe to a Substack like yours.

  • They do someone else a good turn by giving them exposure to your subscribers.

The key to mentions

  • They must be genuine!

  • Mention a specific post, not just a writer.

  • Mention only one writer. A lot of people do “roundups” with so many writers it seems insincere and/or less special. 

How to mention a Substack writer

  • Type the @ sign

  • A drop-down menu will appear

  • Click on the person

  • If you can’t find the person–and often you won’t be able to–it could mean they’re handle (@sign) isn’t easily found or they’ve opted out of mentions. (You can opt out here but there’s no reason to if you’re trying to build your Substack.)

Who to mention

You can either

  1. target a writer you want to engage with and then see if they’ve written on the topic or

  2. see who’s written on the topic on Substack in general. 

How to do this

Option 1: Go to the publication on Substack’s site. In the search bar, search the topic you’re writing on. 

Option 2: Do a Google search: 

  • Google the topic of your post (e.g., dark chocolate) + the word Substack. All the people who’ve written about dark chocolate on Substack will come up. (You can also search using Substack’s explore tool, but it’s limited in its results.)

  • Go to Tools>Past year. Do this because many, many people have started Substacks and given up and you don’t want to mention a writer who’s no longer on the platform. 

  • Read a couple of posts and see if any click with or interest you. If so, reference their post in your post. Do it the way a journalist would, i.e., summarize it in a sentence or two. Show it respect. 

» It’s much like book comps when submitting a book proposal or what you’d do if you were going to pitch a mainstream media outlet to see who’s already written on a topic.

How to include the mention in a post

If you’re writing about why dark chocolate is so good and another Substack writer has written about how it’s bad for your health, you’ll mention that in your post.

Here’s an example:

@dietician writes in her post, [give the title to the post and link to it], that dark chocolate can actually limit a person’s lifespan. Maybe, but it’s so good.

(This is just a hypothetical example. Dark chocolate is totally necessary to human existence.)

3 reminders

  • Don’t just mention; link to the post you reference.

  • Don’t mention a string of people at once.

  • Don’t waste a mention on someone with over 200,000 subscribers unless they really engage on Substack or have assistants doing that work for them. They’re not going to subscribe, restack, or recommend you simply because they’re either 1) not going to see it or 2) don’t have room for another Substack in their lives. Focus on those with a smaller subscriber base (5000-10,000) or small subscriber base (1-1000).