Nathan Allen Pirtle believes his purpose is to help leaders understand how to use social media to connect authentically. “ First, it was radio, then it was television, and now it is social media ,” Pirtle says. Per the Pew Research Center, as of January, 70% of Americans use social media for entertainment, connection, and news.
“Social media helped one person rise from the bottom of the Republican rankings to President of the United States,” per Pirtle. With eight months left to go until the general election, President Trump had an estimated $2 billion in free media coverage. This allowed Trump to spend about half of what Clinton spent on his way to the presidency, at $238.9 million compared to $450.6 million. Pirtle believes “if we teach the right people how to use social media, they can be the leaders of tomorrow.”
In 2014, Pirtle founded a digital media company called Work With The Coachto help leaders connect authentically with their fans and consumers. “Nobody wants to be sold to on social media,” Pirtle says. “When you engage with your fans in a genuine way, the fans will organically spark business,” Pirtle added. His start is a testament to just that. Pirtle landed Wyclef Jean, one of his more recent celebrity clients, through a cold tweet.
And though it might seem like Pirtle was always at the top, his life’s journey tells otherwise. Pirtle was born in East St. Louis and raised in Decatur, IL. The cities rank as being safer than 3% of other cities and 12% of other cities in the U.S., respectively. After years of disenchantment with school, Pirtle dropped out when he made it to 10th grade. The next few years were marked by instability. He did what he needed to do to fit in and avoid standing out. Before he knew it, he was arrested for an armed robbery and was looking at a prison sentence of 15 years to life. Pirtle caught a lucky break and got off with six years of probation and only one year in jail.
In 2013, Pirtle’s father passed away and it marked a turning point in his life. “I packed up my things, moved out to Los Angeles and picked up jobs at a call center and at Coffee Bean while I was starting my digital media company,” he said. He was convinced that social media was the way of the future. The territory is also very familiar. Just a decade ago, Pirtle used to manage an artist’s brand and his own page on Myspace. “It’s a gift I was always good at. When I started my company, I did it using a $29 app,” said Pirtle.
Earlier this year, Nielson published a study that showed adults 18 and over, on average, spent over five hours per week on social media – with the heaviest users spending over three hours per day. “ Social media is one of the biggest opportunities companies have to connect directly to consumers ,” the report stated. Pirtle echoed this same sentiment.
“Most digital media companies advise people on how to build their brands but they don’t have people engaging or following them on their own platforms. Digital marketing and social media should be about letting people into your life and helping them feel like family,” he said. Today, Pirtle has 1.7M followers on Twitter. His company has several notable celebrity clients and has worked with Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Wyclef Jean, and Paula Abdul. He’s been credited for worldwide trends and each month reaches over 100M between his Twitter following and client list.
His following and what he calls “family base” didn’t really start to grow until he owned his story. Pirtle shared, “at first, I was afraid to tell my story because I believed that people would judge me. One day I just put it all out there. I accepted that I wasn’t perfect and I will never be perfect. Once I came to terms with my mistakes and the things I did wrong, people started to respond positively to it. They were able to relate to me on another level because we all have skeletons in our closets, we all have secrets, and we’ve all done things we wish we didn’t do.” The rise of social media has provided us with an opportunity to augment our reach and our presence.
This work for Pirtle goes beyond his day to day. He believes that minorities need more role models who aren’t just athletes and entertainers. He believes that if black boys pursued coding, medicine, and business with the same vigor they do becoming a rapper and an athlete then we’d have more black men doctors, programmers, and entrepreneurs. Speaking from his personal experience, “there aren’t that many minorities in digital media. I want my story to inspire. I want to be that one piece of hope when it feels like there is no hope,” Pirtle concluded.
Written By: Karim Abouelnaga
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