Welcome to the biggest higher education social media engagement report we’ve EVER done!
We combined our annual Division 1 and Division 2 into one super report to bring you all the latest trends and stats for colleges and universities around the country. We ranked every D1 and D2 school (separately) based on engagement rates, engagement totals, and posting frequency across Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter for the ultimate guide to higher education social media.
Read on for the definitive guide to what’s happening for D1 and D2 colleges and universities on social, and don’t forget to download the full report so you can see exactly where your school stacks up.
Spoilers! See the full Higher Education rankings.Grab your report here
Higher Education Social Media Trends
All 700+ colleges and universities in this report offer a unique take on representing their school to the wider community on social, but a few key trends rise to the top whether a school is rural or urban, large or small, or D1 or D2.
Top Trend 1: Campus glamour shots
Year after year, we see stunning shots of college campuses all over the country performing well on social, especially on photo-focused Instagram. These posts resonate deeply with members of the community on and off campus by combining unmistakable beauty with a touch of nostalgia to drive up those likes and comments.
D1 school The Ohio State University rocked a 12th place overall finish this year thanks in part to beautiful snaps like this one. The Instagram Reel features many stunning vantages of Ohio State’s lovely campus stitched together into a fast-paced video that fans adored to the tune of a 202% engagement rate by follower and more than 676K engagements. Stitching together photos and video your team has shot for longer posts can be a great way to repurpose content, especially if it’s as eye-catching as the campus vantages are in this Reel.
This Reel from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona helped the school earn ninth place on Instagram in our D2 rankings this year thanks in part to its 27% engagement rate by follower, which is nearly 10x the D2 Instagram median engagement rate. The Reel features a time lapse of the beloved campus building being taken down followed by some of its most iconic looks on campus over the years. Celebrating a unique building on campus helps maximize nostalgia for followers and alumni, who jumped into the comments to bid the CLA building adieu.
Top Trend 2: Celebrating student and alumni wins
Wins win, every time. From clinching big sports titles to epic achievements in the classroom, D1 and D2 colleges and universities earned big engagement rates and totals this year when they focused on celebrating the successes of current students and alumni on and off campus.
HBCU Fayetteville State University ranked 4th overall and 7th on Instagram for D2 schools thanks in part to the success of Instagram Reels like this one featuring 2023 graduates grooving while accepting their diplomas. The simple Reel earned a 1400% (!) engagement rate by follower, which is just way, way higher than the D2 Instagram median engagement rate. Fans and followers left oodles of comments wishing the new Bronco grads well and cheering on their favorite HBCU for encouraging grads to put their own spin on the traditional formal walk to receive their diplomas, which helped further drive up the Reel’s engagement rates. Every college we profiled can count on a graduation celebration at the end of the year, so don’t be afraid to get your content creators on the ground to find fun stories or unique vantage points from the exciting event.
This video post from HBCU North Carolina Central University profiling a young law school graduate from the school earned an amazing 86% engagement rate on Facebook this year and more than 618K views, which helps explain how the Eagles snagged the Facebook bronze for D1 schools this year. Thousands of followers poured into the comments to wish this young grad well, and more than 4,000 people were so inspired by Brittany’s story that they actually took the extra time to share the video. Big campus-wide wins like football championships can be fun on social, but don’t be afraid to focus on the successes of individual students or athletes for that extra-personal touch.
Top Trend 3: Content shake-ups on TikTok
Top content can look pretty similar across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for many D1 and D2 schools, but the same can’t be true for TikTok. With trending sounds and content spreading like wildfire and then burning out, colleges and universities often find themselves jumping into brand-new content ideas without years of data to back up their gamble. Thankfully, it often pays off (especially when you hand the content creation over to Gen-Z students).
University of Minnesota, Duluth ranked 5th on TikTok this year for D2 schools thanks in part to “person on the street”-style videos like this one, which had a student challenging her classmates to identify whether a phrase came from Taylor Swift or the Bard himself. The video earned more than a million views and a 13.5% engagement rate by view, which is more than 2.6x the average D2 school on TikTok this year. This video is a good reminder that content doesn’t have to be carefully scripted or shot in a studio to resonate with fans, and that sometimes a silly video that puts students front and center can win big.
D1 school East Carolina University earned 10th on TikTok this year thanks to a huge lift from this video featuring students magically donning their caps and gowns set to music from the Harry Potter films. The video earned a 10.1% engagement rate by view and a cool five million views by grounding itself in the pop culture home run that is the Potterverse, combined with one of our other favorite trends above of celebrating big campus wins. The quick video had fans rushing to the comments to wish the grads well and let ECU know that they were moved to tears by the heartfelt message of women lifting each other to win big. TikTok doesn’t always need to be hi-fi to work well, but every once in a while a little video editing magic can really pay off.
Top D1 Overall Higher Education Institutions on Social
It was another big year for D1 schools on social media, with epic fan support and killer content leading to engagement rates to be proud of. Higher education social media consistently ranks at or near the top of our industry-by-industry look at social media performance in our 2023 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report thanks to smart strategy (and more than a few behind-the-scenes Gen-Zers).
|University of Iowa||1||11||1||2||35|
|University of South Carolina, Columbia||2||14||7||8||21|
|Texas Christian University||3||8||5||31||30|
|James Madison University||4||1||9||10||76|
|Utah State University||5||44||29||7||23|
|Tarleton State University||6||18||10||21||65|
|University of Mississippi||7||52||31||35||25|
|Bowling Green State University||8||12||39||42||60|
|University of Georgia||9||13||63||54||28|
|University of Tennessee, Knoxville||10||63||31||16||53|
Big ups to perennial winner University of Iowa, who clinched the overall gold for the *fifth* year running. University of South Carolina (Columbia) and Texas Christian University climbed the ranks for silver and bronze respectively, but just couldn’t catch the Hawkeyes. Other year-over-year favorites like James Madison University, Utah State University, Tarleton State University, and the University of Georgia ranked in the top 10 again. And a big welcome to the D1 top 10 newcomers: University of Mississippi, Bowling Green State University, and University of Tennessee (Knoxville).
Top D1 School: University of Iowa
The Hawkeyes are, as ever, a force to be reckoned with and dominate year after year on higher education social media. How do they do it? A seriously engaged audience helps a ton, as do big national sports wins and creative content. Let’s get into what makes the University of Iowa stand out amongst D1 schools again and again.
University of Iowa grabbed the gold on Facebook this year yet again thanks to celebratory and win-focused posts like this one about the Hawkeye women’s basketball team heading to the national championships. Fans were stoked to see this team in action and engaged with the post to the tune of a 15.3% engagement rate, which is 80x (!) the average D1 Facebook engagement rate. Not every college or university can brag about a win this monumental, but it’s good to celebrate what’s going on around campus no matter what the event is.
This Instagram post featuring sorority members dancing on campus earned an epic 31.3% engagement rate by follower this year and was the University of Iowa’s most engaging Instagram post by a mile when measuring engagement rate. The comment section was a mix of enthusiastic alums and skeptics, but when your post earns an engagement rate that’s 11x the median D1 Instagram engagement rate, do you even care about the haters? Showing off fun and unique events and milestones around campus is a tried-and-true higher education social media strategy year after year.
University of Iowa finished second on Twitter this year, moving up seven places from last year. The Hawkeyes were all about that big women’s basketball win on Twitter this year, with many of the university’s top tweets showcasing the road to the national championship. This photo tweet featuring two Hawkeye basketball players embracing at the end of the season rocked a 3.08% engagement rate and more than 4K engagements, with tons of fans sending congratulatory replies to cheer on the Hawkeyes. Twitter is a great place to mix play-by-play content from live events with more evergreen content about life on campus, and the Hawkeyes manage this mix better than almost anyone.
Are you even on Hawkeye social media if you don’t experience The Wave? This campus tradition This lovely campus tradition started back in 2017 features fans and players in the stadium giving an epic Hawkeye wave to children and their families receiving treatment at the children’s hospital that overlooks the stadium, and always garners oodles of engagement. This TikTok video earned 186K views and rocked a 12.7% engagement rate by view, which is more than 2.5x the median D1 TikTok benchmark. Alumni and parents eat up school traditions like this one when they can’t be on campus to experience it for themselves, making content like this a surefire higher education social media strategy.
Top D1 Higher Education Institutions on Instagram
D1 colleges and universities rocked a 2.71% engagement rate on Instagram this year and posted just over 4 times per week. This engagement rate is definitely lower than last year’s D1 Instagram engagement rate of 3.37%, but didn’t deter schools from posting at about the same frequency as last year.
|Rank||University||Total Engagement||Eng. Rate by Follower|
|1||James Madison University||988,483||7.26%|
|2||Georgia Institute of Technology||1,280,801||4.95%|
|3||Northern Arizona University||1,564,924||4.38%|
|4||Texas A&M University, College Station||3,691,392||4.14%|
|5||Michigan State University||1,521,008||4.29%|
|6||University of Virginia||1,463,267||4.36%|
|7||University of Houston||1,106,373||4.46%|
|8||Texas Christian University||1,775,207||4.05%|
|8||University of Connecticut||1,017,118||4.59%|
|10||North Carolina State University||950,997||4.65%|
James Madison University topped the D1 Instagram charts *again*, followed closely by Georgia Institute of Technology and Northern Arizona University on the winner’s podium. Texas Christian University was the only other overall top 10 finisher who managed to place on Instagram this year, while schools like Texas A&M University, Michigan State University, University of Virginia, University of Houston, University of Connecticut, and North Carolina State University performed well on Instagram but struggled more on other channels.
Featured D1 school: James Madison University
If you read last year’s report, you’ll be familiar with James Madison University’s success on Instagram. JMU dominated on Instagram last year and managed a repeat this year, with an average engagement rate of 7.26%, which is more than 2.5x the D1 Instagram median this year.
The Dukes posted about 3.2 times per week on Instagram, which is a little less frequently than the average D1 school this year. How to explain a school that posted less frequently earning higher than average engagement rates? Quality over quantity. JMU averaged 5.92 engagements per post this year, which is about 4x the D1 average, by focusing on high-quality content that truly resonated with students, parents, and alumni.
James Madison University’s most engaging posts on Instagram by rate were all focused on showing support for fellow D1 school University of Virginia in the aftermath of a tragic shooting of three UVA football players. JMU was quick to post following the tragedy using the #DukesSupportHoos hashtag, and followers flooded the posts with likes and comments featuring UVA’s colors, blue and orange. This carousel post earned a 25.7% engagement rate by follower by focusing on actions from JMU students to grieve for and honor the UVA football players who lost their lives. Sometimes, simply reflecting what feels meaningful on campus, even if it’s not upbeat, can go a long way to connect with followers.
In happier news, JMU’s feed was also chock full of the school’s signature commitment to stunning glamour shots that show off the university’s gorgeous campus and epic sunsets. This post rocked a 17.6% engagement rate and more than 13K engagements thanks to an impressive vantage point and an even more impressive sky. Many D1 schools feature stunning photography like this on their Instagram feeds to wow followers and entice prospective students, but no one does it better than the Dukes.
See how your school stacks up.Grab the rankings here
Top D1 Higher Education Institutions on Facebook
University of Iowa dominated on Facebook again this year, but Georgia Institute of Technology gave the Hawkeyes a run for their money by tying for gold. North Carolina Central University grabbed the bronze on Facebook but struggled a bit on other channels.
|Rank||University||Total Engagement||Eng. Rate by Follower|
|1||Georgia Institute of Technology||807,589||2.11%|
|1||University of Iowa||1,048,836||1.40%|
|3||North Carolina Central University||406,683||1.55%|
|4||Tennessee State University||245,114||1.25%|
|5||Michigan State University||541,968||0.58%|
|5||Texas Christian University||432,800||0.63%|
|7||University of South Carolina, Columbia||368,000||0.64%|
|9||James Madison University||224,900||0.69%|
|10||Tarleton State University||204,870||0.70%|
The rest of the Facebook top 10 was littered with overall top 10 winners like Texas Christian University, University of South Carolina (Columbia), James Madison University, and Tarleton State University. Tennessee State University, Michigan State University, and Marquette University rounded out the Facebook top 10 with strong finishes on this channel but not quite enough oomph to break into the overall top 10.
D1 colleges and universities averaged a 0.19% engagement rate on Facebook this year, which is just barely lower than last year’s 0.22% average. These schools also put about the same amount of energy into Facebook this year, posting about once per day just like in the previous school year.
Featured D1 school: Texas Christian University
Texas Christian University, we see your epic investments in social media this year: the Frogs managed to rise at least 15 places on every channel and ended the year with a 3rd-place overall ranking after finishing 42nd last year. This success includes a huge jump on Facebook to grab the bronze there thanks to tons of attention from fans and smart, consistent posting.
TCU posted about twice as frequently as the average D1 school on Facebook this year, and those efforts paid off big to the tune of four times the average total engagement of their rival colleges and universities. TCU rocked an average Facebook engagement rate of 0.63%, which is about 3x the D1 average this year.
Every higher education social media marketer knows big NCAA sports wins are engagement gold, and TCU’s journey to the Fiesta Bowl was no exception. The Frogs had lots to celebrate as the first Texas team to make it this far in the college football playoffs. Fans ate up their posts about the Fiesta Bowl, like this one featuring two TCU football players in a sea of purple confetti. The post earned a 7.02% engagement rate and hundreds of comments from Frog fans and well-wishers excited about the Fiesta Bowl. Not every D1 school can count on big football wins, but it’s almost always a good idea for colleges and universities to take to social with flexes about exciting accomplishments from students and alumni.
Speaking of wins, TCU followers were stoked for a chance to celebrate quarterback Max Duggan’s long list of campus accomplishments this year thanks to this video post about his graduation. The video grabbed a 13.8% engagement rate and more than 337K views thanks to an excited and supportive fanbase. It’s worth noting that this video is anything but hi-fi: just a simple video likely shot on a phone of the star quarterback walking across the stage to accept his diploma. The success of this post is a good reminder to D1 schools that you don’t always need a script or epic production values to create content that resonates with fans.
This was an historic year – we celebrated our 150th year; cheered the TCU football team at the College Football National Championship; graduated our first class of future physicians from TCU’s Burnett School of Medicine and welcomed new president Daniel Pullin. To capitalize on the momentum, the social team created an ambassador program, engaged social influencers, expanded our video content and leaned on social as part of an integrated communications strategy to share news that was meaningful and engaging.” Amy Peterson, Assistant Director of Social & Multimedia Strategy, Texas Christian University
Top D1 Higher Education Institutions on Twitter
D1 schools averaged a 0.06% engagement rate on Twitter this year, which is the lowest of any channel we studied and a drop from last year’s 0.096%. Colleges and universities posted on this channel about once a day, proving D1 schools are still leaning into producing content for Twitter.
|Rank||University||Total Engagement||Eng. Rate by Follower|
|1||Michigan State University||154,843||0.16%|
|2||University of Iowa||247,644||0.17%|
|3||Tennessee State University||30,314||0.58%|
|6||Oregon State University||25,654||0.24%|
|7||Utah State University||26,371||0.23%|
|8||University of South Carolina, Columbia||96,670||0.13%|
|9||U.S. Air Force Academy||64,586||0.15%|
|10||James Madison University||38,027||0.17%|
Michigan State University moved up 27 spots to clinch the gold on Twitter this year, with the University of Iowa and Tennessee State University rounding out the podium. Overall top 10 finishers like Utah State University, University of South Carolina (Columbia), and James Madison University also dominated on Twitter, while schools like Xavier University, Marquette University, Oregon State University, and the U.S. Air Force Academy earned top marks on Twitter with less impressive results on other channels.
Featured D1 school: University of South Carolina, Columbia
University of South Carolina excelled on social this year, ranking second place overall and landing squarely in the Twitter top 10. The Gamecocks rocked a 0.13% engagement rate on Twitter, which is more than twice the average D1 school. They also had nearly 5x the total engagement of the average D1 school and about 3x the followers on Twitter, which definitely helps explain their top marks. South Carolina tweeted just a little less frequently than their competitors with 6.6 tweets per week.
Looking at South Carolina’s tweets per month side-by-side with their Twitter engagement rate over time makes it clear that a key engagement spike in November led to the school’s success on Twitter rather than big increases in, say, tweet frequency. The Gamecocks tweeted less frequently than their peers consistently throughout the school year but almost always outpaced them when measuring engagement rate, reminding us more isn’t always more.
Gamecocks across the country can tell you exactly what led to that big engagement spike in November: a huge football win against the school’s arch-rival, the Clemson Tigers. South Carolina took to Twitter to offer play-by-plays to parents and alumni who couldn’t be at the big game, and victory content went a long way towards the university’s epic Twitter engagement total this year. This video tweet featuring football players getting off the bus and celebrating with fans earned a 2.39% engagement rate and more than 61K views as Gamecocks everywhere celebrated. Wins are a common theme for successful higher education social media, and this one is definitely no exception.
South Carolina was more likely to tweet a video than any other tweet type this year, and for good reason: these tweets earned killer engagement for the university, including this one about graduating Gamecock mascot. Fans loved watching this student earn her diploma wearing the feet from her mascot costume to the tune of a 1.57% engagement rate and more than 61K views. Social media fans love behind-the-scenes content with a side of celebration, and this tweet is no exception. Showing fans what it takes to make magic happen on campus is always a strong higher education social media strategy.
Top D1 Higher Education Institutions on TikTok
Congrats to Middle Tennessee State University and Florida International University for tying for the gold on TikTok this year! The Ohio State University was hot on their heels to grab the bronze. Amazingly, there wasn’t one overall top 10 finisher in the TikTok top 10 this year, proving it’s sometimes hard to be good at everything. University of San Francisco, University of Wyoming, Louisiana State University, Seton Hall University, Colorado State University, University of Hawaii (Manoa), East Carolina University, and Harvard University rounded out the TikTok top 10.
|Rank||University||Total Engagement||Eng. Rate by View*|
|1||Florida International University||1,971,635||13.38%|
|1||Middle Tennessee State University||829,093||14.35%|
|3||The Ohio State University||2,278,793||12.50%|
|4||University of San Francisco||665,858||14.69%|
|5||University of Wyoming||519,958||13.22%|
|6||Louisiana State University||673,715||11.74%|
|7||Seton Hall University||457,471||12.53%|
|8||Colorado State University||386,400||13.35%|
|9||University of Hawaii, Manoa||215,971||14.98%|
|10||East Carolina University||791,123||11.14%|
D1 colleges and universities earned a median engagement rate by view of 5.06% this year and posted just 0.86 videos per week. With engagement rates like that, we can bet there’s going to be even stronger investment in TikTok in the year to come. From trending sounds and dances to memes to using short-form video to show off campus life, D1 schools earned killer engagement rates on this channel this year.
Featured D1 school: The Ohio State University
The Ohio State University doubled down on TikTok this year, rising from 37th to 3rd in 2023 thanks to big investments in this channel and an adoring audience. Ohio State rocked an average engagement rate by view of 12.5%, which is more than twice the rate of the median D1 college and university on TikTok this year.
How’d they do it? An enormous follower count certainly didn’t hurt: Ohio State has about 15x the follower count of the average D1 school on TikTok, and you can bet that a ton of work goes into cultivating that audience and keeping them engaged. Another ace up their sleeve is frequent posting: Ohio State posts about four times as often as the average D1 school on TikTok, giving them more chances to rack up high engagement totals.
Anyone scrolling through their FYP has seen the POV-style of video that offers a first-person perspective on an event or experience, like this winning video from Ohio State. The video features a roaring stadium full of Buckeyes to give the viewer a chance to feel the energy and excitement of an Ohio State home game, and rocked an 18.9% engagement rate by view, which is more than 3x the D1 TikTok median. Videos in this style are inexpensive to produce but require having someone in the right place at the right time, and Ohio State definitely isn’t afraid to make that investment to capture engaging content like this.
When we spoke with The Ohio State University’s social media team, we weren’t surprised to hear them specifically call out the full roster of folks contributing to their social media success, including student interns. We bet they had something to do with this super-engaging video featuring a popular GIF of Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard snapping his fingers to transform Ohio State’s usual mix of comments to ones only about “only in Ohio.” The video earned a 17.7% engagement rate by view and more than 400K views, with fans rushing to the comments to keep the “only in Ohio” comment train going. Paying attention to trends on TikTok is critical for staying current on this always-changing channel, and having some Gen-Zers on your staff gives you a serious leg up in this department.
We also established a fresh and collaborative team brainstorm and creative process for our full time team and student interns to pitch, organize and produce TikTok-specific content. From the funny lip syncs to the polished high quality videos, every Ohio State TikTok is audience-centric and directly ties back to our brand goals. I’m so proud of our social team’s innovation and creativity!” Dani Dean, Associate Director, Social Media, The Ohio State University
Top D2 Overall Higher Education Institutions on Social
HESM marketers might remember our 2022 Higher Education Social Media Engagement Report: Division 2, which was the very first deep dive of its kind into D2 social media rankings and best practices. We’re back again with supercharged rankings and profiles of top D2 schools that stand out from the rest of the pack.
|Angelo State University||1||17||10||18||27|
|Michigan Technological University||3||12||25||30||20|
|Fayetteville State University||4||2||7||32||67|
|Colorado School of Mines||5||13||51||21||39|
|Lubbock Christian University||7||1||72||44||37|
|Northern Michigan University||9||19||48||87||2|
|Southern Connecticut State University||10||5||113||33||7|
Angelo State University snagged the overall D2 gold this year thanks to some serious inroads on TikTok. Carson-Newman University and Michigan Technological University are newcomers to the D2 top 10 and should be extra proud of their respective second- and third-place rankings. Speaking of new to the top 10, Fayetteville State University, Assumption University, Lubbock Christian University, Washburn University, and Southern Connecticut State University rose in the ranks this year to land in the D2 top 10 for the first time, while Colorado School of Mines and Northern Michigan University managed to secure a top 10 rank for the second year in a row.
Top D2 School: Angelo State University
Angelo State University had a great year on social, landing in the top 30 on all channels and scoring 10th on Facebook. You might be wondering how a school without a first-place finish on any given channel could snag the overall gold. Simply put, knowing how to tailor content and reach your target audience on *all* channels is more important than standing out on one channel in particular when it comes to our rankings, and Angelo State did just that. Let’s break down what made the Rams stand out channel by channel.
The Rams rocked a 17th place finish on Instagram this year thanks to upbeat and celebratory posts like this one about the 2022 homecoming king and queen. Fans at this post up to the tune of a 12.1% engagement rate by follower, which is more than a 4x increase from the D2 Instagram median. The success of this post is a good reminder to D2 schools that sometimes, a simple post can really hit with fans and followers, especially if it features a strong win or some fun campus energy like this post.
The Rams earned their highest finish of all four channels on Facebook this year thanks in part to an epic football win in the Lone Star Conference Championship. (We’re betting an undefeated record this year also helped.) The post linking to a blog post on Angelo State’s website earned a 6.14% engagement rate by follower, and is proof positive that you don’t always need a flashy photo post or highly produced video content to earn killer engagement rates on Facebook.
Angelo State ranked 18th on Twitter this year thanks to a steady feed of Rams wins and the occasional campus glamour shots like this one. Followers liked and retweeted the beautiful photo to the tune of a 1.04% engagement rate by follower, or about a 3.7x lift from the D2 median Twitter engagement rate. We’ve seen time and time again that followers on and off campus eat up beautiful shots of campus like this one, so don’t be afraid to rouse that campus photographer at sunset (or even the crack of dawn) for stunning snaps like this one.
Angelo State put extra oomph into TikTok this year and rose in the ranks from 93rd last year to 27th this year for some serious gains. The most impressive thing about the Ram’s high rank on TikTok? They were active on TikTok only through December 2022 due to Governor Greg Abbott’s TikTok ban for public universities in Texas issued around the same time. Imagine how they might’ve ranked if they’d been allowed to post in the latter half of the school year!
ASU’s TikTok feed was a fun mix of 1:1 interviews with students and faculty, profiles of campus events, and wackier videos like this one featuring the infamous campus gum tree, where students leave a piece of gum for good luck with sports or finals. The TikTok earned an 11% engagement rate by view by focusing on a fun campus tradition that students and alumni could easily relate to from their time at ASU.
Top D2 Higher Education Institutions on Instagram
D2 schools rocked an average engagement rate of 2.91% on Instagram this year and posted just under four times per week, or about every other day. For those keeping score at home, that means D2 schools did a little better on Instagram than their D1 counterparts and posted about the same number of times per week.
|Rank||University||Total Engagement||Eng. Rate by Follower|
|1||Lubbock Christian University||806,367||50.72%|
|2||Fayetteville State University||235,461||8.54%|
|3||Anderson University (South Carolina)||210,189||7.15%|
|4||University of New Haven||241,467||6.18%|
|5||Southern Connecticut State University||214,600||5.71%|
|6||Saint Anselm College||150,381||6.25%|
|7||California State University, Dominguez Hills||133,026||6.26%|
|9||Cal Poly, Pomona||321,685||4.73%|
|10||California State University, San Marcos||128,206||5.72%|
Lubbock Christian University grabbed the gold on Instagram, while Fayetteville State University rocked the silver and Anderson University (South Carolina) snagged the bronze. Southern Connecticut State University was the only other overall top 10 D2 school to break into the top 10 on Instagram as well. University of New Haven, Saint Anselm College, California State University (Dominguez Hills), Cedarville University, Cal Poly Pomona, and California State University (San Marcos) rounded out the list of Instagram champs.
Featured D2 school: Southern Connecticut State University
Southern Connecticut State University slid into the overall top 10 thanks in large part to a fifth-place finish on Instagram, though that seventh-place slot on TikTok also definitely helped the Owls win the day.
SCSU earned a 5.71% engagement rate on Instagram, which is nearly 2x the D2 median. The Owls also posted much more frequently than the median D2 school with 8.2 posts per week, which helps explain how they earned 3x the total engagement of their competitors.
Part of SCSU’s Instagram success is its commitment to diversifying its post type frequency. The Owls were pretty evenly split between photos, carousels, and Reels, which is a smart way to feed Instagram’s hungry algorithm. To fully dial in this strategy, SCSU might want to combine a few more of those photo posts into high-performing carousels.
Studying for finals can feel like boring social media content, but the Owls enlisted a popular John Cena meme to put a fun twist on a staid idea. The quick Reel rocked a whopping 41.5% engagement rate with almost no production value, which is quite a return on investment. The Reel stands out in a sea of more professionally-shot content, and reminds us that shaking up your strategy every once in a while can really pay off.
The carousel post announcing that the university’s beloved president was stepping down at the end of the school year landed well with followers to the tune of a 17.5% engagement rate. Fans jumped into the comments to thank President Bertolino for his time at the school and wish him well. The president himself even jumped into the comments to thank supporters, proving that SCSU’s community management strategy is on point. Celebrating campus successes can look like anything from sports wins to career transitions like this one, and often give the school community a chance to express enthusiasm with likes and comments.
Top D2 Higher Education Institutions on Facebook
Congrats to Savannah State University for grabbing the Facebook gold this year. Point Loma Nazarene University and Virginia State University snagged the silver and bronze respectively. Overall top 10 finishers Fayetteville State University and Angelo State University also landed in the Facebook top 10. Fort Valley State University, Albany State University, Morehouse College, Winston-Salem State University, and University of Montevallo rounded out the Facebook top 10 with Facebook as their top-performing channel by a mile.
|Rank||University||Total Engagement||Eng. Rate by Follower|
|1||Savannah State University||199,465||3.57%|
|2||Point Loma Nazarene University||394,903||1.28%|
|3||Virginia State University||106,801||1.71%|
|4||Fort Valley State University||79,497||1.53%|
|5||Albany State University (Georgia)||91,629||1.08%|
|7||Fayetteville State University||90,292||0.94%|
|8||Winston-Salem State University||103,976||0.72%|
|9||University of Montevallo||46,963||1.15%|
|10||Angelo State University||59,128||0.69%|
D2 schools averaged a 0.29% engagement rate on Facebook this year, which is a definite decline from last year’s 0.36% average. Speaking of declines, D2 schools posted just a little less frequently on Facebook this year than last at 5.49 posts per week, which is still more often than they posted on any other channel.
Featured D2 school: Fayetteville State University
Fayetteville State University finished seventh on Facebook and fourth overall this year, which marks a major increase from last year’s rankings where the Broncos finished 85th overall and 14th on Facebook. The HBCU rocked a 0.94% average engagement rate, which is more than 3x the D2 average on Facebook. Part of the Broncos’ success was posting about 2.5x as frequently as their competitors on Facebook, which gave them more chances for engagements throughout the year and helped FSU earn about 3x the engagement total of the average D2 school.
Alumni on the national stage are practically guaranteed to garner strong social media engagement, like this Facebook post about FSU alum Joshua Williams celebrating his Super Bowl victory as a part of the Kansas City Chiefs. Fans ate up the post to the tune of a 93.9% engagement rate by follower and more than 13K reactions wishing Williams and the Chiefs well. Not every college or university can boast such a famous alum, but following graduates into their adult lives and celebrating their successes can be inspirational and engaging to current and prospective students and the larger community.
Speaking of inspirational celebrations, this Facebook video featuring a sea of 2023 graduates earned a 17.9% engagement rate and more than 34K views. The video was likely shot on a phone and is much more about celebrating the graduates than high production values, reminding D2 schools that sometimes being in the right place at the right time can result in serious social media engagement. Video is an increasingly popular strategy across all industries, and shaking up photo and status posts with even lo-fi video like this can engage and excite followers by giving them a glimpse of what life on campus feels like.
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Top D2 Higher Education Institutions on Twitter
D2 colleges and universities earned a median engagement rate of 0.10% on Twitter this year, which is just a little bit lower than their median last year of 0.15%. Speaking of things that are just a little bit lower than last year, D2 schools tweeted about 4.17 times per week this year.
|Rank||University||Total Engagement||Eng. Rate by Follower|
|1||Virginia State University||19,457||2.09%|
|3||University of Nebraska at Kearney||14,382||0.27%|
|6||Johnson C. Smith University||8,207||0.27%|
|7||Bowie State University||7,712||0.26%|
|8||Ouachita Baptist University||5,427||0.34%|
Virginia State University snagged the gold on Twitter this year, but Limestone University and University of Nebraska at Kearney definitely gave the VSU Trojans a run for their money. Carson-Newman University and Assumption University used top 10 finishes on Twitter to also land in the overall top 10, while Mercyhurst University, Johnson C. Smith University, Bowie State University, Ouachita Baptist University, and Morehouse College earned top scores on Twitter but didn’t dazzle as hard on other channels.
Featured D2 school: Carson-Newman University
Tennessee-based Carson-Newman University had an impressive year on social, earning second place overall and particularly standing out on Twitter where the Eagles finished fourth. C-N (as the university abbreviates itself) moved up 17 places from our overall D2 rankings last year and an impressive 25 places on Twitter, indicating investment in social that paid off in a big way.
The Eagles earned a 0.56% engagement rate on Twitter this year, which is more than 5x the D2 median. C-N tweeted about 5 times per week, which is just a little more frequent than their competitors. C-N made the most of each tweet, earning nearly twice the total engagement as the average D2 school this year.
Famous alums win the day more often than not on higher education social media, and this C-N tweet about former Eagle Dolly Parton stood out in a big way for the school on Twitter. The photo tweet earned an 8.29% engagement rate by follower and more than 22.2K estimated impressions, which are great numbers (though we’d expect nothing less for a tweet about one of the queens of country music). Featuring alumni who have gone on to do great things is a tried-and-true strategy for D1 and D2 schools alike, even if we can’t all boast Dolly Parton as one of our graduates.
Speaking of accomplished alumni, this photo tweet reminding C-N fans that the NFL draft was coming up and how successful Eagles football players have been in snagging a coveted spot on an NFL team was a big hit for the university on Twitter. The tweet rocked a 1.84% engagement rate, which is an 18x engagement rate lift from the D2 Twitter median. Reminding your community about how your school sets students and graduates up for success, especially on the national stage, can be inspiring in a way that leads to big engagement rate jumps.
It’s also worth noting that many of C-N’s top-performing hashtags on Twitter were about the NFL draft. Hashtags like #NFLDraft2023, #NFLDraft, #ColtsNation, and #football helped lift engagement rates on these tweets from anywhere between 1.44x and 3.34x, which means posting more about the NFL is a no-brainer for C-N. This hashtag strategy wasn’t necessarily a home run for competing D2 schools, suggesting C-N has hit upon a niche that works well for their audience.
Top D2 Higher Education Institutions on TikTok
Cedarville University took home the D2 gold on TikTok this year, with Northern Michigan University and Elizabeth City State University hot on their heels. Southern Connecticut State University was the only overall top 10 school besides NMU to rank in the top 10 on TikTok this year, suggesting what works on TikTok doesn’t necessarily work on other channels (and vice versa). Clark Atlanta University, University of Tampa, University of Minnesota (Duluth), Flagler College, Wheeling University, Hawaii Pacific University, and Missouri Western State University rounded out the TikTok top 10 this year.
|Rank||University||Total Engagement||Eng. Rate by View*|
|2||Northern Michigan University||660,925||13.70%|
|3||Elizabeth City State University||56,464||17.06%|
|4||Clark Atlanta University||129,782||13.35%|
|5||The University of Tampa||2,222,712||10.69%|
|6||University of Minnesota Duluth||171,948||11.35%|
|7||Southern Connecticut State University||181,941||10.58%|
|10||Hawaii Pacific University||57,986||9.50%|
|10||Missouri Western State University||41,280||11.92%|
D2 schools averaged a 3.86% engagement rate by view on TikTok this year and posted pretty infrequently with just two videos per month. Lots of room to bulk up posting on this high-engagement channel in the year ahead for these schools.
Featured D2 school: Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University rocked on TikTok this year with a second-place finish, which is significantly higher than the Wildcats ranked on any other channel. TikTok can be a tricky channel for schools who aren’t familiar with producing vertical video regularly or who aren’t keeping their ears to the ground to stay on top of trends, but NMU has this channel dialed in.
The Wildcats averaged a 13.7% engagement rate by view, which is 3.5x better than the average D2 school on TikTok this year. They also posted way more frequently than their competitors with 2.2 videos per week, and earned a whopping 4.83M views compared to the D2 median of 336K.
Relatable and down-to-earth videos were a huge page of NMU’s success on TikTok this year, like this one asking new students to pronounce classic Michigan words like “Ontonagon” and “Mackinac.” The video earned a 7.53% engagement rate by view by poking some gentle fun at the NMU community. With 716K views, it’s clear that this video appealed to a much broader audience than just NMU students and alumni, which is always good to strive for when creating social media content.
Another of NMU’s top-performing TikTok videos jumped on the “mukbang” trend, where content creators share a meal with their followers and offer comments and reactions. The video features current students chowing down in an NMU dining hall and having a wide variety of reactions to the spice level of the corn dish they’re eating. The video is comical and a little silly, but seriously resonated with fans to the tune of a 16.7% engagement rate and more than 3.3 million views. Successful TikTok videos don’t all have to be highly-produced or scripted content: sometimes a slice of life from campus will land well with your school’s online following.
Live Higher Education Social Media Benchmarks
Comparing your school’s social performance has never been easier. Browse our D1 and D2 live benchmarks for a real-time look at top Higher Education posts, engagement rates, high-performing hashtags, and tons more. You can even add these benchmarks directly into your Rival IQ account for always-on monitoring of these top brands.
Need even more competitive analytics? Go head-to-head with a free report on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to see how you stack up against your top competition. See what makes your competitors tick with key insights and actionable advice you can start using now to come out on top.
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We surveyed all D1 and D2 colleges and universities on social media between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2023 on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. Using this data and a weighted formula, we generated an overall engagement ranking for each school. The top-ranked colleges and universities on social media have high engagement rates with average or better audience size and posting volumes.
We define engagement as measurable interaction on social media posts, including likes, comments, favorites, retweets, shares, and reactions. We used engagement rate by follower to measure engagement on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, which is defined as the total engagement divided by the number of followers. We used engagement rate by view to measure engagement on TikTok, which is defined as the total engagement divided by the number of views.
Please note: If you haven’t grabbed your school’s TikTok handle yet, consider doing so now even if you’re not ready to post there yet. There are a ton of imposters on TikTok snapping up handles, and we’d hate to see you struggle for a handle that matches your university’s brand by waiting too long.
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The case for benchmarking in Higher Education social media
Why benchmark instead of just measuring how your school’s individual performance changes over time? Because social success is relative. Benchmarking means figuring out what’s working (and what isn’t) in your industry and measuring your success against that.
It’s crucial to go beyond likes and favorites because audience size is hugely important: 100 likes is great engagement for a college or university with 1,000 followers but is a drop in the bucket to a school with 100,000 followers. Engagement rate helps us take audience size into account to see who’s really reaching the highest percentage of their fans and followers with their social posts, which are the schools you need to beat.
Wrapping it up
Congrats to all the D1 and D2 schools in this report for working harder than ever to cut through the noise on Higher Education social media to show off their campuses, students, and alumni. We loved seeing schools break into the top 10 or hold onto their dominating lead, and can’t wait to see what happens in the school year ahead.
Want to continue the #HESM conversation? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Twitter!