Growing Your Mailing List By Being Helpful
I’ve been working on www.RTLjobs.com, a niche job board for HDL engineers, for about three months. My biggest challenge, by far, is getting people who need it to know that it exists. Reddit has become one of my primary channels to get the word out about www.RTLjobs.com. It’s netted the most mailing list signups by a country mile; I would guess that about 70% of the mailing list signups have come from Reddit users.
It wasn’t super obvious how to do this at the outset. After all, you can only post new content on any given subreddit once, without becoming a repost. I had one front page post to /r/FPGA, which netted a very respectable handful of people (about ten in one day) signing up for the mailing list. I’ve also had a number of other people share out the link in other hiring-related electrical engineering threads. The rest of the signups have come in dribs and drabs from comments I’ve posted to relevant Reddit threads.
I’ve been pretty concerned about coming across as spammy or scammy when posting links to RTLjobs on Reddit. For one thing, it’s really easy to get carried away in self-promotion. That will earn you a ban on many subreddits these days. For another, it’s a waste of time trying to get people to engage with a site or community that they just aren’t interested in. I think, however, I’ve come up with a formula that works for everyone involved.
I had one front page post to /r/FPGA, which netted a reasonable handful of people (about ten in one day) signing up for the mailing list. The rest have come in dribs and drabs from comments I’ve posted to relevant Reddit threads.
I keep an eye on /r/FPGA, /r/ECE, and a few other engineering relevant subreddits. When I see a relevant post about career questions or job prospects that I think I can answer, I try to provide some useful input, and end with a link to RTLjobs.com and our mailing list signup page. This is a method I’ve seen discussed several times on the internet: Give, then Ask. You start by giving away a bunch of useful, valuable, and relevant information. Then, you ask for something in return. Critical to this process is giving away a lot more useful stuff than what you receive in return. Since I’m giving away information, this means long, thorough, complete answers, with as much context as I can possibly provide. I try to bias to sharing just a little more than what I’m comfortable with. If I start to worry that I’m sharing something that might be tactically advantageous for me, I take it as a sign that I’m giving enough away.
For example - this question popped up a while back on /r/DSP:
“I discovered that there were a lot of companies that want to hire RF signal processing engineers. But I’m a little bit confused about the RF part. Are they expecting you to have knowledge of RF design or do they mean something else?”
I know something about this. There’s a lot of this type of job on www.rtljobs.com, and I read a lot of RF DSP job descriptions as part of my work on the site. On top of this, I have some immediate built-in credibility just by being associated with www.RTLjobs.com. I’ve made it my job to understand the RTL/FPGA/HDL job market. My domain says so right in the name! I was able to give the following answer:
“Lots of jobs out there for folks who know about frequency synthesis and digitized modulation coding schemes.
Also plenty of work on detectors and phased array type stuff. Details of exactly what that entails are generally a little tough to find, as the folks who hire are mostly defense contractors, and, due to security clearances, have to be a bit tight lipped about specifics.
There’s definitely work to be done in research contexts as well. Lots of wireless comms can be modeled using fpgas driving ADCs/DACs with variable attenuators simulating the channel.
Shameless plug: I run www.rtljobs.com, and you can find a ton of roles like this searching for “DSP” within the page.”
This method has reliably gotten me good results. People generally write back thanking me for the link. I will generally see at least one email list signup in the day following a post like this. Sometimes, I’ll get lucky and see three or four new signups!
Part of what I have to grapple with in this process is the twinge of guilt I feel for posting the same links to our signup page over and over again. It feels an awful lot like spamming. I hate spam. I don’t want to be associated with spamming. But, I want people to use the site! And I want to get more links to it to help build SEO!
I have to remind myself that:
- All signs point to this site being useful: people are signing up for the mailing list, coming back, and asking for features to make it easier to use, and
- About 90% of the people who have visited www.RTLjobs.com are brand new users, who have never visited the site before.
I’m posting links to the site on Reddit at least once a week. Each time I post a link on reddit, I see a noticeable uptick in visitors. The data that I collect suggests that none of them have ever seen the site before.
Put another way: The /r/FPGA subreddit has 30k subscribers. A well placed comment with a link to www.RTLjobs.com will drive 30 visitors to the site. That’s 0.1% of the total /r/FPGA community. Google Analytics tells me that twenty seven out of those thirty visitors are making thier first visit to the website. That indicates pretty strongly to me that I’m not spamming, even if I’m ending all of my posts with a link to RTLjobs and a link to our newsletter signup page. Rather, I’m engaging with a new subset of the community with each new post I comment on.
I do worry that the ones who think I’m spamming are the ones who aren’t clicking. However, the Reddit metrics available on posts these days indicate to me that more than 80% of the people who see those links are clicking on them, so that’s encouraging!
I still, however, get the occasional scaries about being a spammer. Whenever I start feeling that spammer anxiety, I have to remind myself to pause, take a deep breath, and tell myself: “You’re not spamming. You’re getting the word out.”