5 Steps Amanda Natividad Took to 60x Her Audience in a Year (and Keep Growing It)
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Amanda Natividad grew her Twitter following from 1k to 60k in a year. It now has over 100k followers. She has another 12k followers on LinkedIn and 5k subscribers to her newsletter The Menu, which she launched in 2021. We asked her how she did it.
Amanda Natividad knows how to go viral.
It’s not surprising that she understands virality. People with massive online followings are generally pretty good at that.
But she also knows something that’s much harder: how not to go viral. If a thread is all but guaranteed to get thousands of likes, but it runs the risk of turning her into “that person who tweets about that thing,” and that thing isn’t what she wants to be known for, she won’t tweet about it.
She also won’t post anything that could hurt her credibility among her community, that won’t be genuinely useful to her readers, or that doesn’t align with her beliefs and goals.
Put another way: She knows how to choose value over virality.
Which, counterintuitively, is how she’s managed to grow her following in a digital landscape that’s noisier than a Meat Loaf album.
In choosing value over virality, she’s built an audience that comes to her for precisely the insights she offers. Case in point: When she tweeted the waitlist for her Content Marketing 201 course, 300 people signed up in two days.
It’s possible that her audience would be bigger if she were posting about “25 things you didn’t know you could do in x platform,” to use an example she gives. But it wouldn’t be the audience she can build the strongest affinity with. And it probably wouldn’t include a former president.
We talked to Amanda about her audience-building story and the tactics she recommends. Value is central to all of them.
Here are five takeaways.
1. Know what you want to get out of audience building
You wouldn’t learn how to sail if you didn’t plan to go sailing. You wouldn’t give a speech if you didn’t have a message to share.
If you’re trying to build an audience, it helps to know why you’re doing it.
Amanda was working for Growth Machine, the SEO content agency founded by Nat Eliason, when she first started building an online presence in 2020. She’d been in marketing for about eight years—after earlier careers in tech journalism and the culinary arts—but she hadn’t done much online posting.
“It just never occurred to me,” she told us. “Not only did it not occur to me to build an audience, I just felt like, I don’t want to do that. I can’t do that. I’m not qualified.”
Nat made it clear that she was qualified. (“Having someone who believed in me, who had his own following, his own clout, that was kind of groundbreaking for me,” she said.) And it would be good for business if she were to start posting about marketing.
So her first goal was external: grow the brand she was working for. In the process, she could aim to become better known in her field of content marketing.
She began doing the work of learning what to do. She took David Perell’s Write of Passage course, which gave her the courage to write longer-form online content.
Then she took Demand Curve’s audience-building course, where she learned to step outside her comfort zone and apply direct-response copywriting best practices to her content. (We’ll discuss those best practices at Step 3.) And she learned a repeatable workflow for writing and publishing effective tweets.
In learning from and meeting intellectual peers in these courses, Amanda honed her online writing skills and found serendipitous professional opportunities that opened up her network.
She realized that posting online could be a way to chart her own career path. She walked away from those experiences with a new goal: to grow her career without ever having to do a traditional job search again.
“I was still posting about my work, posting about marketing strategy and content strategy, but I did it with a little more of the intrinsic motivation of, I don’t ever want to do a traditional job hunt,” she said.
It worked. She had been following SparkToro co-founder Rand Fishkin on Twitter, and one day, he followed her back. That led to an in-person lunch—and, eventually, her current job as SparkToro’s VP of marketing.
What do you do when you meet your goal?
Amanda succeeded at avoiding the traditional job hunt. She met her goal.
So what’s next?
Goals, like everything else that still exists, evolve. She’s thinking through her next one, but it could be increasing monetization. She’s recently started to feature sponsors in her newsletter, The Menu.
But she’ll only pursue monetization opportunities if they reflect her values. That means no partnerships with brands whose business model she doesn’t agree with. Some have approached her; she’s turned them down.
It also means thinking through how monetization supports her values of inclusivity, accessibility, and opening up doors for others.
“I don’t know that there are a lot of women monetizing through sponsorships. So there’s a part of me that makes me want to dive deeper into that, so that I can be an example for other women who want to do this too.”
- Be the Nat to someone’s Amanda. If you spot talent, support and nurture it.
- In our audience-building class, we recommend having a specific, time-bound, measurable goal (e.g., “get to 5k followers by November”). But goals can take many shapes, and not all are numerical or time-sensitive. Something like “get a job without going the traditional application route” can be just as useful.
- Adjust your goals as either 1) you meet them, or 2) they stop serving you.
- Your reputation is priceless. Avoid aligning yourself with brands you don’t respect.
2. Pick a lane. Stick with it until you’re ready to explore a little.
Amanda’s early social presence was all about content and marketing.
She’d defined her goals—brand building, then career building—and she could use those goals to guide her content strategy. Her niche was clear: She’d post about what she knew about marketing.
“I was realizing that people who are growing their accounts fastest were the people who stuck to their niche,” she told us. “So the first priority was getting to a good, healthy path of growth.”
For the first six to 10 months, that’s exactly what she did.
She still writes about marketing—about 80% of the time. Once she reached a critical mass of about 15-20k followers around the 10-month mark, she decided to venture beyond those marketing parameters every now and then.
“The fun stuff is still rooted in some kind of value,” Amanda said. “I won’t post, ‘Oh, I love coffee, I’m having coffee for breakfast!’ It might be about food, but it’ll be a recipe or thread of recipes, which are valuable in some way to some people. … Or if I think something is genuinely funny from my daily life, I’ll share that—the value being entertainment.”
“The niche content still gets the highest engagement and shows my expertise in marketing. But the fun posts are mostly for myself, to laugh with friends on the timeline and help stave off burnout.”
Another reason to explore beyond your niche: affinity building. Amanda’s non-marketing content highlights that, although she’s one of the top marketers working today, she’s also relatable and vulnerable, with plenty of interests outside of work. That builds even stronger connections with her readers.
If you’re going to head in new directions, think about how they relate to your niche. Veer off course to keep content lively and connections strong. But don’t veer so far that you’ll confuse or alienate people.
- If you’re in sales, your life isn’t 100% sales. What are some topics you’d talk about in the break room? What are your thoughts on business decisions or product roadmaps—things that affect your work but don’t define it?
- If you write about a specific topic (say, body positivity), consider all the arenas it’s related to, from social implications to pop culture.
- You need a topic: the thing that people follow you for because they want your take on it. Stick with it until you’ve reached a certain critical mass. At that point, it’s okay to get a little exploratory.
- Twitter has changed in countless ways since 2006, but one thing holds true: No one cares, or has ever cared, about what you ate for breakfast.
3. Be direct
Amanda applies direct-response copywriting to her content—a skill she learned as a marketer, but one that she learned to apply to her own content after taking our audience-building course.
In sales, direct-response copy is all about motivating action right away, whether that’s a top-of-funnel action like a newsletter signup, or a bottom-of-funnel action like a purchase.
In content, there’s not always an action to take. But there is always value to realize. (If there’s not, don’t write it.)
By applying direct response, you’re getting right to that value.
Here’s an example.
There’s no fluff in that post. Instead, there’s:
- Quick value realization: You learn almost right away what to ask a hiring manager.
- Active voice: “clarify,” “learn,” “get.” That’s not to say that every sentence has to be an imperative. But it shouldn’t be passive.
- Clarity. You might not agree with the post. But you know exactly what it’s saying.
4 ways to get good at direct-response copywriting
1. Practice. A lot. Write drafts, then edit them down. Cut whatever context or excess you can.
2. Create immediately compelling hooks.
- Compelling: “14 marketing tools and tricks you (probably) haven't heard of yet.” Why it works: The value is clear right away. And that “probably” is galvanizing—you might take a defensive “yeah right, I know all about this, let’s see what she has to say” stance, or you might think, “True, I probably don’t know about these tools and tricks.” Either way, you’ll keep reading.
- Not-compelling alternate version (that Amanda didn’t use because she’s a good writer): “Marketing tools are used by everyone, but it’s not always possible to know which ones are the best of the bunch.” Why it’s bad: passive voice, unclear value, too wordy, use of a cliché (“best of the bunch”).
3. Study the people whose writing you admire, to understand why you admire it. Amanda’s recommendations:
- Wes Kao
- Nat Eliason
- Geraldine DeRuiter
- Rand Fishkin
- Julian Shapiro
- David Perell
- Fadeke Adegbuyi
- Stew Fortier
- Michell Clark
- Steph Smith
- Ana Lorena Fabrega
4. Include a call to action at the end of a thread, if there’s a specific response you want to get.
Tip: If you ever get stuck while writing, you can use a prompt Amanda learned in Write of Passage: What’s your FAQ?
What are the questions people ask you the most? As Amanda explained, “If you’re getting a question repeatedly from people who know you well, that means they trust you in whatever area that it is. And it also might be a signal that people want that from you at scale.”
- Keep copy active. Get to the value right away.
- Include a CTA at the end of a thread if it will help you meet your goal.
- Find writing prompts in the questions people ask you.
4. Don’t be a douche
Audience building tends to have a bad reputation. It’s seen as the self-serving pursuit of:
Amanda even gave a whole presentation about this topic in February 2022: “Audience Building Without Feeling Like a Douche.”
The key word there is “feeling.” Audience building isn’t inherently gross. It can just feel that way.
Sure, there are gross behaviors online, which we’ll get into in a bit. But if you’re reluctant to go online because you don’t want to be seen as a clout chaser, consider reframing those pursuits. Here’s how Amanda did that in her presentation:
- Instead of seeking status, you’re networking at scale.
- Instead of seeking fame, you’re looking for a bigger community. That means more people to talk to and listen to.
- Instead of seeking power, you’re building leverage for yourself. Which will help you meet your goal.
- Instead of seeking virality, you’re sharing a message that you hope will resonate with as many people as possible.
Posting online is new in human history. But having something to say, and wanting it to be heard? That’s as intrinsic to our nature as the need for social connection.
Douche behaviors to avoid
Still, though, digital douchebaggery does exist, as you probably know if you’ve ever logged on. Don’t do these things.
Seems obvious, but sadly, not everyone got the memo. Amanda dealt with this when someone straight-up copied and pasted a tweet she did about LinkedIn.
Then, when she commented on it, he blocked her.
And blocked a lot of other people who called him out. (Tip from Amanda: Don’t block someone just because they criticized you. “You’re inviting people to post about it to laugh. And people talk in DMs.”)
According to Social Blade, the plagiarizer’s growth plummeted in May 2022, around when all this happened. He also changed his handle.
Bigger picture, he lost a ton of credibility. Again, your reputation is priceless.
Don’t use bro math
That’s fake or arbitrary numbers that people use to sound impressive.
An example Amanda gave in her newsletter: a post about “500 million tweets being sent daily but 99.3447% of you are reading the wrong ones.” That’s bro math.
If you can back up your claims—and if those claims aren’t scare tactics—make them. If not, don’t. It’s that simple.
Don’t be completely self-serving
Help others out. Like Nat Eliason did with Amanda.
Find your own ways to contribute. It doesn’t have to be at the level of a dedicated Airtable. It can be as simple as engaging with responses to your posts, or spending time commenting on or sharing other people’s posts.
It’s hard to measure the ROI of that kind of community behavior. Not all valuable things have KPIs. More on that later.
Just because you’re not a douche doesn’t mean you have to be “good”
“I think a lot of people think once you have a platform, you must use it for ‘good,’” Amanda said. “I don't agree with that at all and I actually think it's a pretty toxic way to look at it.”
“That puts a lot of unfair moral responsibility on someone who might be, say, just trying to help ordinary people understand real estate.”
Although she sticks to her values of inclusivity and accessibility, and although she pays it forward, Amanda doesn’t post about social justice issues unless she has a personal connection to them—“not because I don’t care, but because I don’t see how my tweeting about them is impactful for the greater good.”
“For all the people who rage about the importance of using one’s platform for ‘good,’ tweeting about these topics yields low engagement. And if there’s low engagement, it means people aren’t reading. They aren’t being influenced. Thus, the message isn’t impactful.”
“And so, when I do wade into social justice issues, I’ll amplify the voices of underrepresented groups, but I do it sparingly. I trust that my audience knows when I occasionally amplify this type of content, that they really need to pay attention to it.”
- We’ll use a tongue-in-cheek quote from Amanda’s newsletter to sum this one up: “Don’t be cringe about it. Skip the fake statistics, don't write up some ‘get rich quick’ scheme, and for the love of god, if you're going to write a thread on people to follow, include women and underrepresented people because if I find out you didn't, I will spend the rest of my life quietly finding ways to destroy you.”
5. Care more about the things you can’t measure
Affinity building, defensibility, respect, trust, your reputation: all things you can’t measure.
If you get too metrics-driven, you’ll lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
And you could start posting things that don’t serve your goal—like the kind of like-baity posts we talked about at the beginning of this piece (“25 things you didn’t know you could do in x platform”).
Amanda does pay attention to the numbers. She looks at retweets, comments, likes, and new followers. She aims for 1,000 likes on any given post.
But, admittedly, that number is “arbitrary,” she said. It’s “nice looking.” It can be a helpful gauge of whether a particular post landed. If a post underperforms, she’ll dig deeper into why that might have happened.
But it’s the immeasurable things that she finds more interesting.
Like the intention behind a number. A better question than How can I get another follower? is: Why would another person decide to follow me?
Plus, some metrics are just another form of bro math. Does your ratio of new followers to likes on a thread really matter?
It might, for some, depending on your goal. For others, not really.
To grow on a social media platform, go off it
Your off-platform presence affects your on-platform audience building.
“I think this [off-platform] activity matters a lot more than most people think, but they ignore it because you can't measure it,” Amanda said.
“What you do off of social media matters. Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time doing public speaking. [I] spoke on 100+ podcasts, webinars and digital conferences. Now I'm being asked to do keynotes and sessions at conferences.”
The lowest-hanging off-platform fruit? Blogging. Whether it’s personal or for work, blogging will amplify your social media voice and vice versa.
Amanda sometimes writes a blog post first and then converts it into a thread.
Sometimes she does it the other way around.
Or sometimes a thread is just a thread.
Also, do things off-platform that will build your credibility. If you write about email marketing, do it. Send emails, test iterations, discover what works. Then share your findings and any advice you’ve gathered along the way.
Not only will you become more defensible, but you’ll have more to write about.
Takeaways: unquantifiable audience building
- Don’t get too hung up on numbers. Twitter is a community. Just as you “wouldn’t walk into a party and begin shouting over everyone,” like Amanda tweeted in a post we featured earlier, you wouldn’t start number-crunching the minute you left that party. You wouldn’t tally how many conversations you had, how many of your jokes landed, how many friends you made. You’d reflect on the night at large and what it meant to you.
- Think of metrics as indicators rather than results. If a post got four retweets, what made those people decide to retweet it? Aim to understand the behavior behind the data.
- Go off-platform. Start with blogging. Do things that will build your credibility.
Here’s where you can follow Amanda:
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