The Tyranny of the Unsubscribe

I get it: getting new subscribers feels good.

You’re building your newsletter or your social media following and you’re watching those numbers rise, and it just feels good.

And then you notice that it’s one digit less than it was a little bit ago. Maybe it dropped a few numbers. Tens, maybe dozens or hundreds.

A sinking feeling sets in your gut as you begin to wonder what happened.

  • What did I do wrong?
  • Did I offend someone?
  • What do I change so it doesn’t happen again?

You feel a panic as you open up your newsletter system and start sifting through the unsubscribes. You see email addresses you recognize and a lump forms in your throat.

“I guess they don’t like me,” you think. “It’s a wonder more people don’t unsubscribe. There’s probably no value in what I post at all. Why am I even doing this?”

Friend, I understand. I completely understand.

So let me be the one to tell you: if you care about unsubscribes, you are a slave to a number. You are in chains, and your mind needs to be set free from the tyranny of the unsubscribe.

There are only two kinds of people who will ever come across your content:

1. People who resonate with your work.
2. People who don’t.

That’s it.

Why People Unsubscribe in the First Place

It has nothing to do with whether you post valuable content or not. In fact,it has nothing to do with you. Everything about an unsubscribe is about the person who is unsubscribing.

Unsubscribes used to bother me a lot. I would pour over the email I had sent, trying to figure out where I went wrong.

I wrestled with it for years, until it finally clicked for me:

The time you spend concerning yourself with unsubscribes is time you’re not spending to create more content for the people who are still subscribed.

If your subscriber count is 100 and it drops down to 99, don’t waste your time on the 1% of people who aren’t interested in what you’re creating.Your time, content, and voice is still resonating with 99% of your list.

It’s okay if someone isn’t interested in what you have to say: your content is not for them.

In fact, you should be actively trying to get unsubscribes. You want to produce content that is so tailored and highly relevant for the people who resonate with your work that it forces the others to opt out.

Remember Who You’re Creating For

I’ve had friends and family unsubscribe from my lists. I’ve had people I really looked up to (I was absolutely giddy when they signed up) unsubscribe from my lists.

And honestly, I don’t really care anymore, because the point of producing content is to reach the people it’s meant for. It’s for the ones who stick around.

The journey to disconnecting any sort of emotion from unsubscribes requires that you follow these two simple rules:

  1. Never, ever, ever look at your unsubscribes.
  2. Put all of your focus into creating content for people, not numbers on a screen.

Remove any notifications that you receive when someone unsubscribes. Disable the automatic trigger that logs email address of the people who unfollow. Delete the widget on the dashboard the shows how many people have opted out.

I don’t keep track of unsubscribes. To this day I have no idea how many people have opted out of my mailing list. It might be a lot, I’m not really sure. But it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you continue to put out content for the people you want to reach. They are the ones who resonate with your work, the ones who are going to be positively affected by what you create.