After being tested, ranked, evaluated, interviewed and waitlisted, high school seniors all over America anxiously wait with hopes of securing spots at their dream schools. Meanwhile, Track Social has been subjecting the Universities’ Social Media Performance to the same types of rigorous tests.
Hundreds of metrics on social media activities are collected, crunched, benchmarked, and rolled up to the four key Social Pillars – the essential categories of social marketing success: Presence, Audience, Engagement, and Buzz. We then combine the Pillars to produce the Overall Performance of each school. For the full Track Social University Leaderboard go here.
Here are the Top Universities on Social Media and how they did it:
#1. UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS
Maybe you shouldn’t be. Kansas clinches the title with a strong showing in the all-important and difficult Engagement category:
Engagement is about how successful a brand’s social media interactions are with consumers. In other words, when a school posts or Tweets, does anybody care? Are there crickets or are there outpourings of comments, likes, and Retweets? It’s possible for a brand to rack up big numbers of Facebook Fans and still not capitalize on that audience if its online interactions fail to keep fans engaged.
To be sure, Kansas got a big boost from its performance in the NCAA tournament – a clear case of why college sports are so important to many schools’ financial and marketing success. By far the biggest Facebook engagement-building posts for Kansas have been sports related – including this one from the NCAA tournament with John Hamm and Jason Sudeikis.
But spinning offline success into social media gold requires more than a good basketball team – it’s also about an intentional engagement strategy. Capitalizing on its Final Four appearance, KU smartly flooded its Twitter feed with a series of Tweets like: “What else at KU is in the top 4 nationally? No. 2 in Hearst awards in journalism (the college ‘Pulitzers’) cc@kujournalism #kubball #KUFacts.”
These kinds of engagement strategies – exploiting newsworthy events to get more mileage out of posts and Tweets – help explain why Kansas deserves its place in the number one spot.
#2. BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
It was a good week in Waco.
Baylor’s social media rankings got a huge bump from the Lady Bears’ victory over Notre Dame in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. The victory capped a perfect season (40-0) and boosted Baylor to the #2 spot in the Engagement category. Tweets and Facebook posts hailing the National Championship racked up major attention, allowing Baylor to soar past bigger, more well-known schools.
For a Christian school with a solid academic reputation, Baylor’s Facebook presence is disproportionately dominated by sports. But that might just be the lesson here: Baylor has found a way to drive engagement through sports – which helps elevates its visibility and builds brand recognition. In other words, lead with your strengths.
#3. YALE UNIVERSITY
When it comes to college rankings, Yale’s had a couple hundred years to get used to being number three – consistently falling in the shadows of big brothers Harvard and Princeton. But when it comes to social media, Yale’s #3 ranking on the Track Social Leaderboard is a huge achievement. Not only does it mean beating Harvard – something that doesn’t happen very often in just about anything – but it also means claiming the top spot in the Social Presence category.
Social Media Presence measures a school’s visibility online, how well established and active it is on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Establishing a dynamic online presence is the first step in capturing a social media audience.
Yale’s solid performance across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube indicates a coherent and coordinated engagement strategy that capitalizes on Yale’s Ivy League pedigree. Twitter posts routinely publish links to new research while its Facebook timeline highlights V.I.P. visits (including one from Shah Rukh Khan), lecture topics and well-chosen slide shows of student life on the rarified campus.
Remember that before there were “brands”, there were simply “reputations” – something the Ivys have cultivated for generations. What Yale has demonstrated is a laudable awareness that establishing a reputation with the next generation will require a great deal of social media savvy. Its robust social strategy – active on all platforms – aims to exhibit the superior achievement that they’ve always been known for, ensuring that the world’s best and brightest will still be clamoring – or Tweeting – for ways to get in.
#4. HARVARD UNIVERSITY
It might not be such a surprise that the incubator of Facebook itself (not to mention American higher education) comes in so high in our overall ranking. But it also dominates the Social Audience category.
The Audience category measures the total number of ongoing relationships a brand has formed through Likes, Follows, and Subscribers.
With over 1.6 million Likes, the Facebook presence of the nation’s oldest university dwarfs most other schools. But given its 300+ year history, and its place in American culture, Harvard certainly has an edge on the competition when it comes to attracting an audience.
From links to articles about “Magnetism on the Moon” to insights into the storied traditions of campus life, Harvard’s Facebook timeline – which does indeed go back all the way to 1636 (oh, how quaint the Tweets were back then) – presents an abundant sampling of the diverse intellectual and cultural feast from one of America’s most elite institutions.
This also helps explain why Harvard also claims the tops spot in the Social Buzz category.
Buzz is a measure of how much people are talking with, at, and about a brand in the Social Media Universe. Audience numbers and engagement scores definitely play into a brand’s Buzz, but so does the general level of chatter about all things related to a brand.
Recent Facebook posts the Hubble discovering a new planet get almost as much attention as those about Jeremy Lin (an alum) and the visiting Lady Gaga.
Interestingly, even though Princeton currently shares a #1 ranking with Harvard in the most recent US News & World Report rankings, Princeton’s nowhere to be found in the Track Social Top 10. It comes in at a decidedly, dare we say, below-average, #29.
#5 UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY
Kentucky rounds out the top five this week. Maybe not quite as high as they’d prefer, but they can’t be too greedy after snatching their eighth NCAA championship.
And yes, it’s true, all that basketball action certainly did mobilize Kentucky’s active network of fans, students and alumni, which has helped keep Wildcat nation humming recently. Like Baylor, athletics is important for Kentucky in boosting that critical engagement score.
But Kentucky also gets social media mileage by incorporating creative posts from the Wildcat community. Posts like this reflect the kind of engagement you can’t manufacture. That’s the kind of old fashioned pride that that gets built “offline” and can’t help but find expression online.
Now for those universities that were just short of making it into our Top 5:
6. University of Pittsburgh
7. Texas A&M University
8. Stanford University
9. University of Florida
10. University of Wisconsin – Madison
Don’t see your Alma mater in the Top 10? Find out where it landed on Track Social’s Universities Zone! Promise you’ll be shocked at the results. Teaser: Columbia has probably never seen itself ranked so far down a list before.
Editor’s Note: If there’s a university you believe should be in our Universities Zone but isn’t, or if you see any mistakes, please let us know here and we will take care of it.