First of all, let me start off with saying that I am a proud Mississippi State University alumna. Cut me open, and I’m sure I would bleed maroon and white. I vigorously ring my contraband cowbell at football games and I insist on spelling the shortened version of the mascot as “Dawgs,” just like any other good MSU grad. So it is with a certain amount of glee that I came up with the headline for today’s post. After all, how often does one get to say that MSU outranks several Ivy League schools in anything? And what does this have to do with PR, you ask?
Well, I came across a great article today that was posted on April 9, 2012 on Track Social Blog (http://tracksocial.com/blog/2012/04/top-universities-on-social-media/) called, “Top Universities on Social Media.” The authors crunched hundreds of metrics for the four pillars of social media marketing, Presence, Audience, Engagement, and Buzz, to determine the top performing universities in the world of social media.
The number 1 spot went to the University of Kansas by clinching the Engagement category during the NCAA playoffs. This school relied heavily on sports coverage, but took it even further by exploiting newsworthy events like the Final Four to mention other things that the school is (or should) be well-known for. According to the article, “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.‘” The number 2 slot went to Baylor, who used a similar platform for the Engagement category, by capitalizing on the popularity of their women’s basketball team.
I have seen a similar kind of strategy used by Immaculata University, where I am currently attending graduate school. Though it is a tiny Catholic private school, the majority of their Facebook posts are related to the now-famous Mighty Macs women’s basketball team and the achievements of the lacrosse and baseball teams. MSU does the same with its football, basketball, baseball and soccer endeavors. Universities are commonly linked in public minds with sports, so I see this as a good way to initially engage the audience, but I can totally see the intelligent marketing strategy of schools like the University of Kansas to link the sports achievements to academic accomplishments as well, thus engaging two huge target audiences simultaneously.
Number 3 went to Yale University, beating out big brother Harvard who claimed the number 4 status. Yale won out in the Social Presence category by demonstrating its prowess across several social media platforms–Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and YouTube, to name a few. ”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,” stated the article.
This is something I’m not very aware of regarding Immaculata. I receive their Facebook updates, but I only just the other day heard about their presence on YouTube. Even if it is out there, if people don’t know about it to check it out, it may as well be absent. And even though IU’s presence is fairly well established on Facebook, the engagement is somewhat lacking. I recently commented with a question about a post regarding commuter students. The administrator immediately came back with a response indicating that they would find out the answer, but they never posted the answer. That was over a month ago. I appreciated the speedy response with the promise to find out the answer, but I resented what came across as a brush-off when the answer was never posted and, I assume, forgotten about. Speaking of their use of Facebook, it was only when I was looking for this particular post that I ran across another post by IU stating that it was now on Pintrest.
What is interesting about Harvard’s social media presence is that it is the birthplace of Facebook and garners top spots in Buzz and Audience categories. It banks on its name and its brand reputation throughout all of its social media exploits. Oh, and check out the Facebook timeline that goes back to 1636, further solidifying its reputation as one of the oldest and most established universities in the U.S.
Well, needless to say, neither MSU nor IU can do that. But what they can do is capitalize on what they do best or the little quirky things that alumni and fans hold on to as dear. For instance, MSU has a huge agricultural department and arguably the best veterinarian school in the southeast. But this is what outsiders see…what MSU Bulldogs know is that South Farm is home to a herd of cows that provide fresh milk for the best cheese and ice cream in the world, which can be bought online and shipped anywhere or sampled fresh at the bakery and cheese shop on campus. Little things like that stick out as fond memories to alumni like myself and these are the kinds of things that online communities thrive around.
So, MSU didn’t outrank Harvard or Yale this year in social media metrics, but it did outrank several other Ivy Leaguers. MSU came in at #25, but it outranked Brown, Georgetown, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Vanderbilt, MIT and many others. But as we all know–well, all of us maroon and white-bleeding, cowbell-ringing proud Bulldogs know–none of this compares to outranking #122 University of Mississippi. Can I get a, “Go to hell Ole Miss!” or do I have to wait for the end of the national anthem at the first football game? My fellow Dawgs know what I mean.