By continuing to use this site you agree to our Cookies Policy.
Expert Q & A

4 Tactics That Grew MIT’s Social Audience to 4M+

September 6, 2022
Mae Rice

MIT has a bigger social following than schools 3X its size. How did they accumulate such internet fame? We asked MIT’s director of social strategy, Jenny Fowler.

Table of Contents

This is an excerpt from MarketerHire's weekly newsletter, Raisin Bread. To get a tasty marketing snack in your inbox every week, subscribe here.

MIT has more than 1M followers on three different platforms: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Compare that to the University of Alabama, which has just 182K followers on Twitter, less than 600K on Facebook, and no LinkedIn we could find. 

It’s especially impressive since MIT has a third as many students as UA. 

How is MIT pulling this off? We asked Jenny Fowler, MIT’s director of social media strategy. 

She’s spent the last six years translating the university’s legacy brand to social, more than 2Xing its total social audience. Here are some tactics that have worked for her. 

Doubling down on LinkedIn

When Fowler started at MIT, she thought LinkedIn was a waste of time.

But in 2019, the university started posting native videos on the platform, including a livestream of commencement, and performance improved. 

“LinkedIn really loves to celebrate people,” Fowler said. (She suspects an algo change, too.)

Today, she’s “bullish” on the networking platform, where MIT got 677 new followers per day this January. 

Bucking the “no links on Twitter” convention

For organic Twitter, “they say engagement goes down if you link out,” Fowler said. (A Hootsuite experiment backs this up.)

Still, MIT includes links in nearly every tweet, and it works. 

The university’s news office, with specialized reporters covering every academic field gives them great stuff to link to.

Giving the audience what they want: numbers

On May 21, Fowler’s colleague pointed out that it was the 21st day of the 21st month of the 21st year of the 21st century. 

MIT’s social audience’s “love language is math and numbers,” Fowler said, so she tweeted about it in the 21st hour of that day — and got retweeted ~1.5K times. 

Other top-performing topics on MIT social, Fowler said: robots and medical research.

Prioritizing diversity

“People will judge [your account] in three thumb scrolls,” Fowler said — so she makes sure “that everyone is represented in our timeline every day.”

She posts updates on what various disciplines are up to — not just math and science ones — and spotlights diverse community members.

“If you can't see yourself… at MIT, we'll lose you to the Stanfords or Harvards,” she said. 

Our takeaway? 

“You have to experiment and do what works for you,” Fowler said. 

Leaning into your strengths  — even if it means tweeting links — can build a major social presence. Even for a university that’s not known for socializing!

Mae Rice
about the author

Mae Rice is editor in chief at MarketerHire. A long-time content marketer, she loves learning about the weird and wonderful feedback loops that connect marketing and culture.

Hire a Marketer
Join MarketerHire Today
We'll match you with a perfect expert.