How wild would it be to start an email list one day, and 8 months later wake up with 42k subscribers? For context, that’s an average of 5,250 subscribers per month.
That’s exactly what Nathan Baugh has done with his newsletter “World Builders“, which is all about storytelling and business.
In this week’s deep dive we’ll take a peek behind the scenes of exactly what Nathan did to increase Twitter following by 3678% and grow an email list to 42k subscribers in such a short amount of time.
A True Overnight Success?
In September 2021, Nathan had 5,116 followers on Twitter. Fast forward to today and he is about to cross the 200k follower mark.
On the newsletter side of things, he started with 3k subscribers in April, to a whopping 42k by December.
It almost seems like he just came out of nowhere earlier this year and started exploding his growth.
? Except, you’d be missing the fact that he’s been working extremely hard at building an audience on Twitter since January 2021. In that same month, he also started his first newsletter, the Sideline Sprint, a daily sports newsletter.
So yes, it’s still an incredible growth story, but as you’ll see, he definitely put in the work to get to where he is.
The Timeline & Numbers
Let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we?
Nathan started growing his Twitter account in January of 2021, but as you’ll see this chart starts in September. I don’t have any data on how much he was growing each month because the stats I could find don’t go back that far.
But don’t worry, the real magic started happening around September of 2021 anyway.
From January to September, he had only managed to get his follower count up to 5,000. Honestly, nothing to sneeze at, but it seems so tiny in the grand scheme of things.
But during the 8 months between January and September, he was putting in the reps and learning the Twitter ecosystem.
A Story of Persistence
Nathan’s first newsletter, the Sideline Sprint started in January of 2021, and amassed around 7k subscribers before sadly shutting down just over a year later in March of 2022.
But while running Sideline Sprint, Nathan was posting all the time about top athletes, the business of sports, and doing his best to connect with folks on Twitter around those topics.
The interesting thing is that before January, his Twitter profile was pretty stagnant.
Once January rolled around, it was like a flip had switched in his mind and he knew this was the path forward and he was going to give it everything he had to make this work.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t what he’d pursue for long. I’m not sure if they ran out of money, ran out of passion, or he just wanted to focus more on business and entrepreneurship topics instead.
Whatever the cause, some people might look at that like a failure and 14 months of wasted effort.
But I highly disagree. And I’m sure Nathan would as well.
You Either Win, or You Learn
While this business didn’t grow the way he probably thought it would, it taught Nathan a lot about how to build an audience and grow a newsletter.
He brought this up in a Tweet back in May:
Having a distribution channel that you already have a following on, makes building an audience on a different platform (i.e. a newsletter) so much easier.
He already had the snowball of momentum rolling at this point, and people had seen what kind of content he was already creating, so they were happy to join the newsletter.
The Twitter Thread Guy
Nathan is a big fan of Twitter Threads. And he’s gotten very good at them over the last 2 years.
While trying to grow the Sideline Sprint, Nathan started writing Twitter threads about major sports professionals and sports news.
On January 29 of 2021, he published his first Twitter thread (that I could find).
It’s sitting at around 14 likes. A far cry from some of his current threads.
But he kept at it:
- February 11 – 1 like
- February 16 – 4 likes
- February 23 – 0 likes
- April 6 – 1,156 likes
- April 12 – 11 likes
- May 7 – 66 likes
- June 3 – 1,160 likes
- June 10 – 63 likes
- June 30 – 18 likes
- August 5 – 64 likes
- August 19 – 16,900 likes
- September 5 – 157 likes
- September 7 – 2,137 likes
- September 24 – 216 likes
- October 1 – 539 likes
- October 5 – 554 likes
Note: After this, his Twitter shows no action until March of 2022. I’m not quite sure if he accidentally deleted a bunch of stuff, or what happened. I went back through the Wayback Machine you can see tweets being posted. But it was too difficult to get accurate data, so excuse the gap in data here.
His thread saga continues in April of 2022:
- April 8 – 5,077 likes
- April 25 – 2,573 likes
- April 30 – 352 likes
- June 4 – 19,100 likes
- July 20 – 543 likes
- August 8 – 942 likes
- September 1 – 636 likes
- October 12 – 118 likes
- October 14 – 225 likes
- October 18 – 1,144 likes
- October 23 – 2,957 likes
- October 26 – 176 likes
- October 31 – 780 likes
- November 3 – 2,548 likes
- November 4 – 580 likes
- November 17 – 759 likes
- November 29 – 224 likes
- December 1 – 127 likes
This second stint of threads definitely performs better, but he still has quite a few with less than 200 likes.
A few takeaways here:
✅ You don’t need to hit huge numbers for threads to be effective. Nathan has said that threads drive a majority of his subscribers, and while he has some that go viral, most of them get between 200-400 likes.
🏋️♀️ Put in the reps. As with anything in life, consistency is how you grow and get better. You have to put in the time to get good at whatever you’re working on.
In his first year, he only had 7 threads get more than 100 likes. But he kept going. Don’t look at the results as a measure of what’s working, look at your efforts.
After being consistent with Twitter since January of 2021, he’s been able to learn the art of writing great threads.
And while he started off writing only about sports, his efforts helped him find out what he really wanted to write about – storytelling and business.
His 2 Main Growth Levers
There are a few ways that Nathan has been able to see such rapid growth over the last few months.
Nathan has made some really smart moves along the way to get this newsletter to where it is.
There are 4 main reasons why I think Nathan Baugh is consistently growing his audience.
🧠 Hyperfocus on One Platform
This guy has done pretty much nothing except for being on Twitter and grow his newsletter for the last 2 years.
And it’s clearly been paying off.
He started using Twitter in 2021 to build an audience for his first newsletter, Sideline Sprint, which was all about sports.
He was writing threads and tweets, engaging with top sports people, and finding his voice over there.
While he shifted his focus from sports over to business and storytelling in 2022, he was learning how to best use the platform, and what worked vs what didn’t.
🤝 Building Powerful Connections
Nathan started really engaging with other people in 2021, and he hasn’t stopped.
By engaging with other people’s content, you get on their radar and after enough of that, the algorithm starts showing those people your content.
But he wasn’t just engaging with small accounts, he was connecting with some of the top people on Twitter.
Over the months, he built up enough momentum that his tweets are going viral much more often. And he gets shouted out by bigger names because he’s been doing this for a while.
Other Tactics To Try
Those are the overarching levers he uses, but there are specific tactics as well.
🎁 Giving Gifts for Referrals
Nathan is on the Beehiiv platform, which has a built-in referral system.
But he’s not just asking for referrals, he’s giving away some of his frameworks if you refer two people to his newsletter.
After two referrals you get his “Ultimate Guide to Storytelling”.
Here’s what a referral link looks like if you’re curious:
He posted in a tweet that he’s gotten 476 subscribers with a really high-quality subscriber too.
Getting Recommended By Other Newsletters
This goes hand in hand with building connections with others.
But Nathan’s newsletter platform, Beehiiv, has a recommendation engine, similar to the one that Substack has.
Essentially, other newsletters can recommend your newsletter within theirs, and vice versa.
Nathan posted some initial results on Twitter about how he’d gotten 3,340 subscribers in just a month with this new feature from Beehiiv. That’s pretty wild if you ask me.
Now, he had a huge following and a good network, so I have to imagine some of these folks were people he knew. He said he was in 20 other newsletters, which I have a feeling would be hard to replicate for smaller publications.
But, even just being recommended by 1-2 could have incremental gains for you.
A newsletter swap can be a few different things. A friend can shout you out, or you can publish all of the content in their newsletter that week.
If you can find people who have similar-sized audiences as you, and relevant audiences, this can be a great way to grow your audience.
You’re both writing content regularly anyway, might as well give one another some of your content and vice versa. Your audience can discover a new creator, and their audience can learn more about you.
If you’re familiar with guest posting, this is kind of similar. You’re getting in front of a new audience that is highly relevant to the audience you are building.
Buying Ads in Other Newsletters
Nathan has at least tested running ads in other newsletters. Here is an ad from the Stacked Marketer newsletter back in August:
He then ran the same ad in Stacked Marketer in October – so it must have had at least decent results.
I’m definitely going to be testing this out soon (since I have a background in paid ads, this excites me a lot), so stay tuned for results.
🗺️ The Roadmap: How You Can Use This to Grow Your Audience
So how can you put some of these lessons into play?
Hyperfocus on One Platform
Yes, we all want the next tactic or hack to fast-track success.
But I’d argue that 12-15 months IS a very fast track.
If you could just focus on one this so hard for that long, you could see some kind of success like this too.
Being able to shut out all of the other shiny objects and new social platforms is key. You have to be committed to one platform in order to grow like this. I don’t think there is another way.
But once you’ve built that audience in one spot will also make it easier to start to transition your audience to other places.
Around 5 months ago, Nathan started republishing his threads and tweets on LinkedIn. He’s already got around 33k followers on that platform.
He’s gotten good at writing shorter-form and longer-form content, so the Tweets he’s putting out resonate on LinkedIn as well. He focused, and now he’s able to use the same content elsewhere as another discovery channel.
Don’t Try to Build in Silence
You have to connect with others if you’re going to grow at this clip.
Building connections with people who are a few steps ahead of you can really accelerate your growth. Make sure you’re not just tweeting out into oblivion and you’re actually DM-ing people (without asking for anything) and commenting on their posts, and sharing their stuff.
I’m terrible at keeping up with people, but all that means is that I have to learn to get better at it. I can’t let that excuse stop me from building something I love with this brand.
Test Out Different Methods of Growing Your Newsletter
While you don’t have to switch your entire audience over to Beehiiv, you can use some of the same concepts of the tools they offer to build your audience.
You can try using SparkLoop to get more referrals from your current subscribers, or you can try testing other methods of getting in front of other audiences.
Through research for these deep dives, I go through a LOT of newsletters.
I keep a swipe file of all of the cool things I see people doing so I can test them out for myself. I would suggest you do the same.
Consistency Isn’t Just a Hyped Idea
Nathan’s growth has been pretty incredible to look back on.
The lesson to take from this is one that Nathan has posted about on LinkedIn:
“Get started, get consistent, then get good.”