I recently met someone running a daily newsletter focusing on news and trends in his industry.
It’s been going for a few months. He was understandably excited as he could see it starting to get some traction after a considerable time investment.
I asked him how he knew this. Was it sign ups, open rate, clicks, or something else?
He replied it was because people were opted in.
Here’s the thing – he wasn’t stating the obvious.
He didn’t mean what we normally think of as being opted in. Not just meeting GDPR requirements, or striving towards what Seth Godin refers to as ‘permission marketing’.
What he meant was going the next level beyond that.
Being opted in to the degree you’re invested.
Where you have a say in what’s delivered.
Where you’re a patron.
Being truly opted in.
People were replying to the newsletter unprompted to suggest improvements, new areas of the industry to explore, and making connections to other people he should speak with to get more feedback and ideas.
They were helping him craft the vision and roadmap of what he was doing.
It made his path clearer and his responsibility to his audience stronger. It made him more accountable.
You’ll see this trait in many strong communities and networks.
A good example is the successful Dutch newspaper De Correspondent.
After taking only 8 days to raise over 1 million euros in a crowdfunding campaign, last year they started a collaboration with NYU to better understand how communities and media companies can work more closely, with the public being at the heart of the publication’s work.
More broadly, the level of this deeper opt-in is a good heuristic for how powerful and connected a community is.
It could be a newsletter, a Slack group, or even a professional sports team.
What can you create where people are truly opted-in?