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Dealing with social media: follow the leaders

Times are changing, and so do the ways universities communicate their activities to the world.

Although traditional channels still matter, Twitter, Facebook and other services are key features in any serious communication strategy. But, how are universities doing in social media? To answer this question –or, properly speaking, to satisfy our own curiosity- we extracted some basic Twitter metrics for the top 10 institutions in the 2013 QS World University Rankings (QSWUR). Here we present the results.

As displayed in the charts below, Harvard University, the second best in the 2013 QSWUR, is showing the way in social media (or, at least, on Twitter). Its main account (@harvard) had 273,101 followers on 27/09/2013, easily the highest amount in this group. Stanford University (@stanford), the 7th best university in the world according to the 2013 QSWUR, is the second best here with roughly half of Harvard’s followers. University of Oxford (@UniofOxford), 6th in the QSWUR, comes third in terms of Twitter popularity with almost 90,400 followers. This is better than University of Cambridge’s (@Cambridge_Uni) 70,525.

It is true, however, that institutions have different sizes and, for this reason, we adjusted these numbers to a “per capita” basis.  We took the total number of Twitter followers and then divided it by the sum of faculty staff and students for each institution. Using this figure, Harvard is still the leading university with over 11 followers per capita, while Stanford keeps the second position with 7. On the other hand, Oxford falls to the 7th place, holding less than 4 followers per person. Inversely, Princeton (@princeton) achieves the third best ratio (6.7).

Interestingly, British universities perform lower than most American peers in this group. In fact, the University of Chicago (@uchicago) is the only US institution performing at the bottom of this group with less than 1 follower per capita. This suggests that top universities hailing from the United States are doing a better job in the social media area.

Of course, this is only a superficial approach to the topic and much more research and analysis would be needed in order to reach conclusive results. In the meantime, it would be interesting to know your views: Are universities paying enough attention to social media? Is there any particularly successful case you are aware of? Do you think your institution is following a sound social media strategy?

Important: the figures presented in this article were extracted on 27/09/2013.