New Rankings Reveal Surprising Mix of Colleges Dominating Social Media

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Harvard, Texas A&M and University of Phoenix Receive Top Marks in New Study on Influence and Engagement in Social Media

“We were pleased to see an unusually broad set of colleges emerge as top performers in our social media rankings,” said Branden Neish, general manager of, the encyclopedia of higher education, today announced the release of new rankings that evaluate the social media efforts of major U.S. colleges and universities. The results of the rankings were surprising in their diversity, featuring a robust mix of public, private and online institutions.

The 2014 rankings focus on each school’s activity, reach and engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram. An accompanying report includes interviews with representatives from top-performing colleges, including case studies that showcase broadly-applicable social media best practices.

“We were pleased to see an unusually broad set of colleges emerge as top performers in our social media rankings,” said Branden Neish, general manager of “These schools offer immersive collegiate experiences and fervent alumni groups that positively impact students throughout their lives. Social media helps us measure these difficult-to-quantify, yet important, aspects of higher education.”

Using a robust data set, ranging from the number of Facebook likes to tweeting frequency, developed proprietary algorithms to generate the following lists:

  •     Top 30 Most Influential Colleges in Social Media
  •     Top 30 Most Engaged Social Media College Communities
  •     Top 20 Most Influential Colleges on Facebook
  •     Top 20 Most Influential Colleges on Twitter
  •     Top 20 Most Influential Colleges on Google+
  •     Top 20 Most Influential Colleges on LinkedIn
  •     Top 20 Most Influential Colleges on Instagram teamed up with Shawndra Russell, a social media expert, to analyze the top-performing colleges. Their findings are published as “A Study of Social Media in Higher Education.”

“The immediacy and reach of today's digital and mobile world call for a robust social strategy as key to engagement within and beyond our community,” said Christine Heenan, Harvard’s vice president for public affairs and communications. “We are pleased to have built a strong social approach that builds on Harvard’s remarkable people and content, and enables sharing and engagement with larger global audiences than previously possible.”

Unique facts and statistics from the ranking lists and study are illustrated in an infographic, “The Most Powerful Colleges in Social Media.” For example, the top 100 most influential schools had a combined following of more than 41 million across all five platforms, and are collectively generating nearly 6,000 new likes and followers per day on Facebook alone.

“The ROI of social media is that you’ll still be around in five years,” said Geoff Rushton, manager of the office of social media at Penn State University. “This is the way that people of all ages communicate now. This is for everyone. If you’re not trying to build that voice in social media, you’re not going to be heard.”

One strategy emphasized by Michael Morand, deputy chief communications director at Yale University, is to use high-quality content that is easily shareable.

“Social media, like all of communications, is a quilt. We need to have an effective and compelling variety with great captions and images,” said Morand. “It was true with newspapers 150 years ago, and it’s even truer now. All of us can work to tighten up content, make captions punchier and make the images as captivating as possible.” anticipates its findings will be used by a wide variety of organizations to further develop their social media strategies, as well as by prospective students looking for colleges that offer tight-knit and supportive communities.

“We’ve included several case studies on how these schools manage their social media efforts. These detailed examples can help a variety of enterprises increase the effectiveness of their social media activities," Russell said.

For more information, including the complete social media ranking lists, “The Most Powerful Colleges in Social Media” infographic and the report “A Study of Social Media in Higher Education,” please visit

About, the encyclopedia of higher education, aims to provide comprehensive and unbiased information about universities, degrees and academic programs. publishes rankings that help millions of students make important higher education decisions. For nearly a decade, has been helping aspiring students and education-minded professionals make better and more informed choices by providing relevant, reliable and up-to-date information about college and higher education opportunities. More information is available at

About Shawndra Russell
Shawndra Russell is a writer and social media educator for businesses, professionals and graduate students at Armstrong Atlantic State University. She’s passionate about changing the outdated “me! me! me!” marketing paradigm. Her latest works are “51 Ways to Help Your Social Media Manager Crush It!” and “How to Become a Freelance Writer in 30 Days.” Shawndra holds a BA in English from Ashland University and an MA in English from Marshall University. Read about her services and projects at

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