Most businesses with a Twitter feed would like more followers. This isn’t just a matter of achieving a vanity metric, but achieving increased engagement with a relevant audience that will respond, pass on and provide interesting content related to relevant products and services. Today, it’s an essential part to growing a brand in many sectors.

The challenge is to achieve a sizeable growth in followers and engagement in a reasonable time and without expensive resources. Cambridge Marketing Colleges achieved just that, growing its follower base from 400 to over 10,000 in a very short time, by following the simple strategy outlined below.

The College is 25 years old, operates in the UK and several overseas locations, teaching marketing and PR through both face to face classes and by distance learning. With a demographic on the younger side, and including digital marketing as a key subject, it is natural that social media would feature strongly in the College’s communications. It also produces original online content, publishes print books and magazines, runs a radio show and of course engages in social media. Oh yes, and it also offers the full range of CIM, CAM and CIPR courses for delegates in the UK and around the world.

The Twitter page @cmcpointsofview was coasting along with just a few hundred followers and occasional posts. After just five months of the new tactics, they hit 5,000 followers and this has continued to grow ever since.

The process started by identifying the type of audience to target: in essence this was actual and potential marketing students and more experienced practising marketers. A search on #marketing revealed people who tweeted under this hashtag; these were reviewed to make sure they were genuine and not people just using the hashtag carelessly, and these were then followed. Many followed back right away. A similar search for marketing related words provided a wider marketing population.

It became clear that showing appreciation to those who followed @cmcpointsofview was a good move and was a key factor in maintaining many of the initial group of new followers. The first 1,000 new followers were clocked up in roughly 12 days and the momentum continued as the college moved towards the initial target of 5,000.

Some Twitter posters with a lot of followers tend to not follow back so easily. It can take a lot of re-following but doing it too often could easily annoy them! By favoriting the tweets they wrote and were passionate about ensured that a lot of them followed back. Often it takes several tweets for a poster to notice, especially if they follow many people themselves.

While retweeting people is a good tactic to gaining followers, really highlighting it by using ‘RT’ and then the users name makes them feel valued and builds a real connection with them. They feel grateful for you RTing especially if they have few followers of their own.

This approach however is unlikely to work if the marketer has hundreds of thousands of followers because they are already enjoying many retweets and favorites, and so are unlikely to take yours into consideration. It’s best not to be too selective with those followed initially, because not everyone follows back and a significant number of approaches are needed to achieve a step change in followers.

For Cambridge Marketing College, adopting an attractive Twitter icon also helped in attracting attention to the interesting content produced, and establishing its image as a well-established and inspirational organisation.

Mindful of the ‘daily follow limit’ that Twitter sets, around 200 to 300 new follows were made each day. Using the hashtag technique means this doesn’t take too long as this updates with new people and tweets in seconds. The next day you may unfollow those who didn’t follow back to keep your ‘following to follower’ ratio reasonable, and to provide some headroom for more followers.

This simple and effective technique is an efficient and cost effective route to new followers. After several months, CMC’s feed had 10,000 followers and good levels of engagement.

Arguably the best route to building a sustainable and relevant audience is content marketing: original and interesting articles, opinion pieces, reviews, survey data etc. is surely the best tactic currently, but of course this takes considerable time and effort to produce.

There are many opportunities for using Twitter in conjunction with content marketing. People will follow you for advice if you gain a reputation and tweet regularly with excellent content. Tweet regularly using relevant hashtags and try to become part of your industry community. Don’t be afraid to show your authentic company personality online.

Work continues on the CMC Twitter account, which has now surpassed 17,000 followers.

Charles Nixon

Charles Nixon


Charles Nixon, Master and Founding Director of Cambridge Marketing Colleges