Considering how often teenagers use social media, it’s clear that a strong social media presence benefits colleges and universities. The three largest platforms, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, boast over 2.2 billion users worldwide, many of whom are in their late teens and early 20’s. Facebook has a particular large presence, accounting for just over 68% of total social media use between the big three.
Below, we’ve ranked the top colleges around the country by their social media presence. To come up with our list, we compiled a weighted average of likes on Facebook and followers on Instagram and Twitter from each school’s verified accounts.
All of these schools recognize the power of Facebook, as even the lowest-ranked Facebook account has more likes than the highest-ranked Instagram. Instagram recently passed Twitter as the second most-used platform globally, and it appears that schools have yet to maximize their brands there. Only one school, Harvard, currently has over 100,000 followers on Instagram while about half the schools on our list have more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. Social media platforms surge and plummet quickly though, and it’ll be interesting to monitor these schools and the social networking sites they use over the next several years.
One of the world’s most prestigious schools, Harvard is the star of all three social media platforms. Harvard has over four million Facebook likes, a number that more than doubles Yale’s tally and exceeds the combined likes of the next four schools combined. This tremendous popularity carries over to Twitter and Instagram as well. Recent Harvard posts on Facebook highlight a professor who writes crossword puzzles, along with photos of stained glass windows across campus.
Stanford is consistently visible across all three social media platforms, as one might expect from a school in the heart of Silicon Valley. Stanford’s Facebook and Twitter feeds recently featured an interview with Michael Levitt, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, about the importance of funding science education and research.
Yale’s Facebook page combines research news from campus with interesting stories from students. One post featured an article about a possible mass extinction, while another from Yale’s Medical School argued that a doctor’s judgment is better at determining a stroke patient’s long-term prognosis than the commonly-used scientific calculator.
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Michigan’s strong Instagram presence pushed them above rival Ohio State in the overall rankings. The school’s feed is filled with photos of students, the campus and projects students and faculty are engaged with. One photo is from Kumasi, in south-central Ghana, where UM doctors are working with physicians at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital to treat neurological ear diseases.
Ohio State University
Ohio State’s feeds are regularly filled with photos and stories about students, staff and graduates. Seasonal photos and holiday decorations are also prominently featured on Facebook and Instagram.
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M’s Facebook feed is dominated by graduation photos and stories about the school in the national media. A&M’s Instagram feed is much more social. Here, the school posts photos from around campus while also highlighting recent athletic and academic events.
University of Florida
Florida’s feeds are in synch with each other and they all send a consistent message about the school. The photos are gorgeous, highlighting Florida’s beaches and sea turtles, while also supporting student activities and school sporting events.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT’s social media feeds feature photos of robotics, electro-microscopy and other projects from around campus. Though MIT’s use of Instagram lags behind its Facebook and Twitter feeds, the school’s message is clear— research and learning at MIT is fun and engaging.
Louisiana State University
Most of LSU’s social media posts are student-centered, including an article on members of the Tiger Band who won an Elevator Pitch student incubator competition for their invention of a smart device to display sheet music. LSU’s Twitter feed regularly includes research articles from professors, ranging from scientific computing to the nutritional needs of soldiers.
Princeton’s Twitter feed is particularly popular, and it includes a recent post highlighting Princeton researchers’ involvement in a study to boost support for vaccination. The university’s Facebook page links to stories pertaining to the academic achievements of students, professors and alumni.
University of Texas at Austin
Texas’s Facebook feed recently featured stories covering how children “fit in” socially, a video game company founded by UT alumni and a profile on the women’s volleyball team. Instagram followers will find pictures of the school’s beautiful campus and announcements for upcoming events.
Michigan State University
Ever trendy, Michigan State’s Facebook feed was filled by Stars Wars posts last month to coincide with the release of The Force Awakens. Along with fun posts about the movie, an interview with MSU’s Richard Lunt discussed the science behind light sabres.
New York University
NYU’s Facebook feed has an institutional feel, often highlighting professors who have been recently interviewed in the media. Their Instagram account is much homier, with photos and videos showing students enjoying their time in New York City.
Pennsylvania State University
Penn State’s Instagram account is popular and eclectic, highlighting campus events, breathtaking settings and student photo contests.
University of California - Los Angeles
UCLA’s Instagram has a little of everything: amazing architecture, sunny scenery and news from campus events. They like to feature students wearing “UCLA” t-shirts in their photos and, befitting a school dubbing itself the Bruins, there are many pictures of bears as well.
University of Alabama
Alabama’s Facebook feed offers a mix of stories about the school, its research and student achievement. Given the popularity of Alabama’s championship football team, it’s no surprise to see links to football-related photos and videos across all three accounts.
University of Oregon
Among the usual Facebook posts about research, student life and sports, Oregon recently highlighted a staff member who is also a master charro. Oregon’s Instagram feed focuses on student life and outdoor photography.
University of Kentucky
Kentucky’s Facebook feed often mentions the school’s medical research accolades and award-winning hospital. The school also uses Facebook to highlight fundraisers and charity drives. One recent post featured Kentucky students raising more than $6,000 as a Christmas present for a longtime employee of the campus Starbucks, just to say “thank you.”
University of Oklahoma
At the end of last semester, Oklahoma’s Instagram feed was “taken over” by students using the hashtag #OUIGStudentTakeover. Each took a photo and wrote about something personally relevant, highlighting a particular club or activity, or listing a favorite place or memory on campus.
University of California - Berkeley
California-Berkeley’s Twitter feed reviews research conducted by the school’s professors and students. On Instagram, the school shares images of campus and local events, highlighting student stories and passions over on Facebook.
Cornell has a strong Twitter presence, tweeting stories about technology, food sciences and art. Their Instagram feed is a combination of student life and photos of Cornell’s lakefront campus.
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Wisconsin’s Instagram feed went all out for the holidays, showing photos of student life and the winter graduation ceremony. After longtime men’s basketball coach Bo Ryan retired in December, Wisconsin’s Facebook feed linked to several posts covering his career.
Both Auburn’s Facebook and Twitter feeds recently highlighted stories from the College of Veterinary Medicine. On Facebook, the post was about extending pet dog’s lives while on Twitter, they shared a holiday pet care video.
Brigham Young University
Several of BYU’s recent Facebook posts have featured the football team and its home, LaVell Edwards Stadium, including a gingerbread replica created by one of the players.
Indiana University - Bloomington
Indiana’s high-ranking Twitter page features holiday notices, football and basketball news and links for students looking for things to do over winter break.