Randall Kanna recently posted an AMA on Indie Hackers on how she grew her Twitter following from 300 in 2019 to 35k in 2020. As we are unable to extract the actual number of followers in each month, this issue will take a slightly different approach. We shall examine her tweets in the context of Daniel Vassallo's Everyone can Build a Twitter Audience course, and extract the key tweets that had the greatest engagement. Along the way, we will also see the projects Randall took on as her Twitter following grew. Let's dive right in.
🗓 December 16 2019: Establishing credibility. Being a published author under the O'Reilly brand definitely increased her credibility. However, this is not something you can get to in a single day, or even in 3 months. Randall has been a software engineer for the past 4 years before releasing her book.
While you may not have the expertise to be the subject matter expert on a topic, one immediate step you can take is to identify skills you wish to develop, then learn in public. This is similar to Scott Young's MIT Challenge, which greatly raised his profile and made him an expert in the field of ultralearning projects.
Tweet engagement: 458 likes, 49 comments.
🗓 January 18 2020: It is interesting to note that Randall did not start any new thread at all in January. Instead, she spent her time replying to tweets and adding value to other people's audience. This tweet resonated with me- there's actionable advice in the tweet on a very specific domain. It's no surprise that this has the highest engagement among all of her replies in January.
Tweet engagement: 7 likes, 1 comment
🗓 February 19 2020: Providing differentiated value to your audience. We have all seen way too many 'so you want to learn to code' guides. But what I love about the copy is the phrasing 'with low risk to your financial future and time'. That is understanding her audience and the demand among adults who want to learn programming but are unable to afford the time needed by universities' modules.
If you feel that the market you wish to target is already too saturated, a good way to approach it is to think about a very specific subset of your target audience that has different limitations, and work towards helping that subset.
Tweet engagement: 100 likes, 29 comments.
🗓 March 10 2020: Timely advice. Randall posted this thread while the pandemic was hitting the United States and many workplaces had to allow their employees to work remotely.
While it is almost fruitless to wait for a similar black swan event, it is important to notice trends and contribute your existing expertise when the occasion occurs. You want to ride the rising waves, not the dying tides.
For example, Yaro Bagriy launched Newsletter Crew when he realised there was no podcast that specifically focused on newsletters. The steep ascent of Substack in the past year also meant that he was riding a rising tide and could capture on the momentum.
A quick note: Randall has wrote a new tweet (that was not a response to others) only 2-3 times a month thus far. That is to change-
Tweet engagement: 50 likes, 18 comments.
🗓 April 27 2020: April was the clear pivot month in which Randall was very active in putting out her own content.
This thread is an example of one that garnered a lot of engagement, with 2 reasons on hindsight:
- This tweet is very encouraging to people who are looking to break into tech but do not necessarily have the formal education for it. Given how popular technology jobs are right now, there is a similar desire for people to acquire tech skills.
- It is divisive- many people interpreted it as a way of shitting on formal CS degree (which was not what Randall meant), but nonetheless it increased engagement as it invited discussion on the matter.
Tweet engagement: 2k likes, 247 comments.
🗓 May 16 2020: Sell your specific knowledge. Every month or so, sit down and brainstorm specific knowledge that your audience can benefit from. This is especially true if most of your peers are too busy/focused on the actual job itself, but neglect how more junior people desire the knowledge. You don't necessarily need to be at the very top of your game, you just need to be one step ahead of people in something. In fact, I'm a firm believer that you have more to teach the person a step behind you than the one who is ten steps behind you.
Randall understands this principle extremely well, and has been putting out tons of specific advice.
Notice how helpful threads like this gain a huge amount of engagement, and are the main reason why her Twitter following ballooned during this period. 🎈
Tweet engagement: 3.3k likes, 784 comments.
🗓 May 21 2020: The power of curation. What I love about this tweet is not just how helpful it is, but also how attainable. You don't have to be an expert to curate- in fact, if you decided 3 months ago to start learning a new skill and have gone through a few courses, you can rank the courses and curate those that have been more helpful. This goes back to the idea of helping someone a step behind you.
Tweet engagement: 7.2k likes, 2k comments.
🗓 June 20 2020: Wow this tweet blew up! 🥳 (It has 20.7k likes at the point of me writing this.) Randall has been mostly targeting the developers/wanna-be developers audience. But this tweet was a little more general- targeting anyone who wishes to learn how to code.
This is pretty much the inversion of what we suggested just now- finding out which subset of your target audience is neglected and working to serve them. But serving your audience need not be mutually exclusive.
You can think of your potential audience as subsets of each other- perhaps it helps from time to time to jump from your smaller audience to write for a larger audience and see how it turns out. Likewise, if you feel that you are writing for too general an audience, you can always zoom in and cater to specific niches.
This concludes today's time capsule on how Randall Kanna grew her Twitter following. I highly recommend that you check out the threads- not only are they extremely helpful, they act as a benchmark that you can measure your own output by.
In our next issue, we are going to examine how Randall self-published her first book and made $30k, then spun off subsequent products such as a podcast and more books. If you will like to be the first to receive that issue, subscribe now! For the price of a ☕️ a month, you gain access to all 4 entrepreneurial espresso- short issues that motivate and educate you in 5 minutes so that you can grow your own business as well! 📈
Keep building! 🔨