And the March Madness Social Media Winner Is…

College basketball is in the air! As the NCAA Championship Game looms closer, let’s see how the Final Four teams stack up on a very different court—social media. In the below analysis, I took a look at each school’s follower count, voice, creativity, and level of engagement. Keep reading to see my pick for who came out on top in this social media faceoff!

Michigan State University

Twitter: @michiganstateu – 56K followers

Twitter: @MSU_basketball – 89K followers

Facebook: Michigan State University – 330,000 likes

Instagram: @michiganstateu – 24K followers

YouTube: MichiganStateU – 2.5m views

MSU sees an immense amount of engagement across social media, especially on Facebook. Each post racks up thousands of likes and comments and hundreds of shares, no doubt because of strong use of photos and videos. The university also knows how to curate click-worthy content from external sources—for example, a post featured a recent ESPN article citing Magic Johnson.

As part of the lead-up to the Final Four, MSU encouraged community members to show their school pride by using the #SpartanSelfie app to add a spartan helmet to their profile pictures. This initiative led to all sorts of interesting community-generated photos across social media.

University of Wisconsin

Twitter: @UWMadison – 91K followers

Twitter: @UWBadgers – 121K followers

Facebook: University of Wisconsin-Madison – 228K likes

Instagram: @uwmadison – 55K followers

YouTube: uwmadison – 3.4k subscribers and 1.8m views

While some schools adopt a buttoned-up, sterile voice on social media, UW’s casual, spirited tone is refreshing and relatable. It feels like you’re hearing from a friend—a witty, upbeat pal who knows how to make you smile. UW mixes science and basketball and puppies, seeing remarkably high engagement across the board.

Plus, UW isn’t afraid to have a little light-hearted fun with rivals—especially during NCAA Tournament time.

The school’s social media team encourages community members to share content with the hashtag #UWSocial, picking top submissions to display on an aggregator site. “What do we showcase? Energy, creativity and fun. Your jokes, friends and babies.”

University of Kentucky

Twitter: @universityofKY – 51K followers

Twitter: @KentuckyMBB – 179K followers

Facebook: University of Kentucky – 393k likes

Instagram: @universityofky – 13K followers

YouTube: University of Kentucky – 1.9k subscribers and 1m views

The University of Kentucky may not be as quippy on social media as UW, but the team makes up for it with strong, consistent content. UK deploys weekly features across its social platforms, including “Quote of the Week” (often an inspiring or uplifting saying) and “Wildcat of the Week” (a snapshot of a UK student or grad who had a major accomplishment).

Impressively, the Men’s Basketball Twitter account has 179k followers—more than triple that of the school’s main account! @KentuckyMBB has documented the trip to the Final Four closely, garnering strong engagement from fans.

Duke University

Twitter: @DukeU – 33K followers

Twitter: @Duke_MBB – 69K followers

Facebook: Duke University – 258K likes

Instagram: @DukeUniversity – 21K followers

YouTube: Duke University – 6.7K subscribers and 1.6m views

Duke strongly believes in showcasing its many departments and units via social media, which is clear by the number of re-tweets and shares on its main accounts. This results in a steady stream of content (often multiple tweets per hour!) that appeal to diverse interests. Whether community members want to know about medical breakthroughs, climate change, basketball, or anything in between, Duke’s got it covered.

One particularly unique element of Duke’s social ecosystem is the Duke Archives Twitter account (@dukeuarchives), which shares vintage photos from campus.

During March Madness, the @Duke_MBB Twitter account has done a great job of amplifying content from fans and sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses of the basketball team.

And the winner is…

University of Wisconsin! Though all four schools have a strong social media presence, UW’s creativity, wit, and level of engagement with its community can’t be beat. Not only does UW share fun content that resonates with followers, but it also knows how to make normally mundane content pop.

Agree? Disagree? Agree to disagree? Share your favorite social media contender in the comments below!

For more from Dan, check out his post “6 Great University Pages on LinkedIn.”


Dan Klamm is Director of Young Alumni Engagement for the NYC office of his alma mater, Syracuse University. He has six years of experience across higher education career services, alumni relations, and marketing. Feel free to connect with Dan on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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