It’s no secret that social media is now key to the success of just about any business, organization, or politician. But how can university leverage its social media account to increase visibility, improve admissions rates, attract top students, and engage its on-campus community?
We’ve rounded up some of the best social media accounts in higher education marketing, and delved into the savvy ways that universities are attracting student interest, amassing hundreds of thousands of followers, and building an enviable online brand.
1. Princeton University
Why it works:
Princeton got on the Snapchat train early, and this brainy school quickly figured out how to engage its student body. The school crafted a brilliant contest to boost its student-generated content, in which students were given the chance to submit snaps of themselves packing for the fall semester.
Princeton shared some of their favorite student snaps. The school has continued to share students’ snaps from around campus, even dedicating an entire Facebook album to the practice.
2. New York University
Why it works: NYU has been deftly navigating the Snapchat scene since its very first snap. It quickly got on board with the Snapchat geo-filter feature, even using it to create some friendly competition in the form of a student contest to design the best filter.
NYU has also used Snapchat to help its newest students feel included, with an Admitted Students Day filter that lets students share their exciting news. The school has focused specifically on sharing student-generated content with prospective students, thus amplifying authentic voices from all over campus.
3. University of Michigan
Why it works: In the school’s first week on Snapchat in 2014, it attracted over 1100 followers on Snapchat, and received nearly 800 snaps from enthusiastic students. This success was the marker of great things to come. Since then, the University has used Snapchat to share celebrity on-campus sightings, goofy doodles, and fun videos.
Their social media team has wisely leveraged their audience with Snapchat hashtags and competitions like its “#selfiecontest.” With savvy engagement strategies, a vast variety of content, and above all, a sense of humor, the University of Michigan has been killing it at the Snapchat game.
4. West Virginia University
Why it works: WVU has been on the cutting edge of Snapchat happenings. Back in 2015, the school’s social team created a Snapchat “road trip” around West Virginia, meeting up with alumni, and visiting state landmarks. These posts skyrocketed in popularity, attracting over 4,000 daily views. They collected their favorite snaps into a Youtube video (see above).
In January of 2017, the school debuted a series of stories using Snapchat Spectacles. These videos both taught students how to use the new Snapshot feature, and promoted the school with fun campus trivia, tours of popular buildings on campus, and more. They memorialized these Snapchat stories in a series of Youtube videos:
5. Indiana University, Bloomington in Bloomington, Indiana
— Indiana University Bloomington (@IUBloomington) September 5, 2017
Why it works: IU’s popular Twitter page functions as a 21st-century bulletin board, featuring equal parts fun and seriously helpful information. The page maintains a versatile tone, balancing emotion-filled messages of solidarity with fun event/club announcements, and pat-on-the-back announcements of recent school accolades.
6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts
— Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (@MIT) August 22, 2017
Why it works: MIT’s popular Twitter page boasts nearly 1 million followers. Its popularity comes from focusing on what it does best, featuring fascinating new scientific discoveries, kooky on-campus traditions, and a fascination with the world around it.
Its Twitter feed demonstrates a true pride in its history, with tweets featuring old newspaper articles or shutouts to famous alumni. With obsessive precision, each Twitter post includes a gorgeous, high-quality image, well-crafted time-lapse, or fun gif.
7. Stanford University
Philip Zimbardo talks shyness, bullying and how to help young people learn to become a "social hero." https://t.co/97mnZm3scN
— Stanford Education (@StanfordEd) August 15, 2017
Why it works: With a Twitter page that has attracted more than half-a-million followers, you figure Stanford University must be doing something right. By embracing the brainier side of its school’s traditions, Stanford maintains a twitter feed full of cutting-edge research announcements, links to fascinating publications written by professors and alumni, and video clips showcasing new discoveries by on-campus researchers.
The social media team consistently delivers beautiful images with text-overlays featuring quotes from Stanford’s greatest thinkers and frequently links to great on-campus podcasts. The school’s Twitter feed has attracted a genuinely engaged audience by truly reflecting its academic excellence.
8. Texas A&M
— Texas A&M University (@TAMU) September 4, 2017
Why it works: Texas A&M University’s Twitter page employs a contagiously upbeat voice and creative use of media that turns the minutiae of college life into visually engaging, participatory fun. Take its recent post reminding students to sign up for clubs and on-campus organizations: By including a stunning Gif of the student center, shot from a visually interesting angle, the social team turned what could have been a relatively dull announcement into an eye-catching delight.
By sprinkling the occasional Disney gif, video of a cute kitten, or Game of Thrones trivia factoid into the mix, balanced out with serious posts about on-campus military servicemen, the school’s Twitter feed remains an important source of information for students, and a genuinely fun account to follow.
9. University of California, Los Angeles
Why it works: This California school’s Instagram feed is a visual delight. Making the most of its gorgeous on-campus architecture, as well as its sun-kissed California scenery, UCLA’s Instagram is a constant reminder of why this university attracts students from all over the world.
10. University of Wisconsin, Madison
Why it works: The University of Wisconsin’s Instagram feed is, above all, a celebration of its student body. Through strategic crowd-sourcing of images, the social team curates the best images of students preparing for their first day of the fall semester, celebrating winter holidays, or hugging their way through graduation.
These images show the amazing diversity of the student body, featuring images of student-made cross stitching, experimental photos, or food art. The feed also features images of the lively campus football stadium, the school mascot, and famous on-campus statues.
11. Ohio State University
Why it works: Ohio State University’s social team has created a lively Instagram feed by devising brilliant user-generated contests. The recent O-H-I-O challenge really takes the cake: It encouraged students to spell out the word “OHIO,” using their bodies.
The challenge was a success, to say the least: It inspired over 16,000 user-created images and even earned itself a page on the university’s website. By tapping into the creativity of its student and alumni audiences, OSU was able to make its initiative go viral, and now, it can reap the rewards: It has amassed an impressive supply of kooky images celebrating all things OSU.
12. Penn State University
Why it works: Like any successful college Instagram account, Penn State knows how to show off the beauty of its on-campus life. Its Instagram feed features gorgeous images of everything from cafeteria waffles to early 19th century photographs of its University Park.
With a recent hashtag campaign, “#WeArePennState,” the school has been spotlighting the diversity of its student body, and the wide range of interests and passions being pursued on campus.
13. Duke University
Why it works: It’s easy to use Instagram to show the more visible moments of on-campus life. What sets Duke’s Instagram feed apart is the brilliant way it captures moments that take place behind-the-scenes.
Whether showing an image of a goofy lemur playing at the Duke Lemur Center, or a short video of the campus Robotics team preparing for competition, Duke’s Instagram page is an insightful peek into the day-to-day lives of members from across Duke’s amazing community.
14. University of California- Berkeley
Why it works: UC Berkeley’s Facebook page puts students first: whether it’s promoting a new library initiative to supply students with free books or showcasing a particularly special roommate connection. The page serves as a medium for communication between campus leaders, providing information about building renovations, on-campus demonstrations and more.
The page also makes unique use of the video feature, using it to spotlight back to school press conferences, advice from a professor on surviving a rip current, and new scientific crowdsourcing initiatives.
The school also posts actionable new research findings from on-campus professors. All in all, the page serves as a refreshing reflection of Berkeley’s free speech and social justice values, and as a place where student voices are valued.
15. Boston University
Why it works: BU’s Facebook page puts its stockpile of gorgeous, professionally-made videos front and center. These videos wisely target a wide variety of audiences: including BU parents, prospective students and alumni, providing a point of unification for all kinds of members of the BU community.
The school’s Facebook page spotlights interesting research by BU professors, frequently using video to bring their new scientific ideas to life. BU’s Facebook page is more than just a celebration of everything that makes the campus great, it’s a truly useful resource for students in every phase of their BU education, featuring advice about move-in day and information about how to use your on-campus ID:
16. University of Kentucky
Why it works: The University of Kentucky maintains a strong Facebook presence, beginning with its unbelievably gorgeous cover photo:
The page is also peppered with engaging videos celebrating the city of Lexington, the kickoff of football season, and the beginning of the fall semester.
But the school’s Facebook page isn’t just about fun and school spirit: The university also uses its social media account to reach out to students about important issues, like the “Emergency Assistance and Relief Fund” for students experiencing a financial emergency in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. With frequent posts on a wide variety of content, the University maintains a Facebook page stockpiled with important information for students and alumni alike.
17. Baylor University
Why it works: Baylor University has one of the best campus social media accounts around, and don’t just take it from us: According to a 2016 study by Engagement Labs that used eValue Analytics scores to determine the top 50 U.S. colleges and universities on various social media networks, Baylor has the very top Facebook presence, with the highest number of likes and comments per every 1,000 fans.
Additionally, it maintains the most active user base amongst top campus social media accounts. Baylor’s most successful content centers around its football team and general on-campus news. Other highlights include videos of its annual football season fireworks, and the school’s “#BearsofBaylor” hashtag campaign, which spotlights individual students discussing how their time at Baylor has transformed them.
18. University of South Dakota
Why it works: What’s great about the USD Facebook page? The number of reviews. Glowing review after glowing review from potential students, recent grads and alumni. That will really get anyone excited about checking out the University of South Dakota, especially when they see so many genuine, positive reviews. It really validates the experience.
Also? They have a motion-based cover photo which brings the visitor right into the heart of the school.