10‌ ‌best‌ ‌US‌ ‌universities‌ ‌according‌ ‌to‌ ‌social‌ ‌media‌ ‌ ‌

Alina Gorbatch
by Alina Gorbatch on May 20, 2020

We analyzed the top 20 US universities (according to National Universities Rankings, Top Universities, and The World University Rankings) to discover the 10 universities most popular on social media.


We used Awario to monitor mentions of each university from December, 1st 2019 to April, 1st 2020 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit

The final ranking was done based on three metrics: number of mentions (share of voice), mentions’ reach, and mentions’ sentiment.

Before moving to the top 10 ranking, let’s explore each metric and look at the winners in each category.

Share of voice

Share of voice shows which universities dominate the social media presence, and how each university compares to others in terms of social media mentions it generates. It’s a go-to metric if you wish to calculate brand awareness and benchmark your results against your competition. 

Share of voice for 10 most mentioned US universities on social media

As you can see, the most popular university on social media is Harvard taking up almost 30% of the conversation. Yale takes the honorable second place, and UCLA and Princeton share the third place. 


The reach metric represents the total number of impressions each university generates. This number consists of the sum of impressions each mention generates. Mentions made by popular authors (i.e. social media influencers) tend to be seen by millions of people, which means they have a bigger reach than mentions made by regular Facebook users. 

As social media users tend to see mentions of a university (or a brand) multiple times a day, the final number is usually very large. 

Reach metric for 10 US universities with the biggest reach


As you can see, this pie chart is notably different. Harvard takes up even more space, meaning it’s not only mentioned the most but also mentioned by most influential people. MIT takes the second place, although it wasn’t featured in the top 3 in the previous chart. This means MIT is usually mentioned less than, for example, Princeton, but by more influential people. Yale comes third in this chart.


The sentiment metric shows the reputation of each university on social media. Each university generates positive, negative, and neutral mentions. The sentiment metric takes out positive and negative mentions from the data set of each university and shows how they compare.

Top 5 universities by reputation on social media networks

As you can see, Duke University and Caltech, which aren’t talked about the most on social media, nevertheless have the best reputation. People definitely don’t talk about them as much as about some other popular schools, but when they do, it’s all positive. 

Average number of sentiment across universities

Knowing the average sentiment across universities might help you benchmark your own results (if you’re a university).

After finding out the number of mentions, reach, and sentiment for each university, we normalized the data and assigned a score of 100 to the university with the best result, and a score of 0 to the one with the lowest value. Then, we calculated the final social listening score using the formula: 

Best US Universities According to Social Media
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Top US universities according to social media

7 exciting findings for 10 best US universities 

1. Michelle Obama is the biggest influencer for both Princeton and Harvard universities. 


As we prepare for #MothersDay on Sunday, I wanted to take a moment to shine a light on those women in our lives who may not be our mothers, but have nonetheless played an important role in nurturing us. I’ve been grateful to be surrounded by so many strong, intelligent, warm-hearted women who, along with my mother, have made me who I am. They include my soft-spoken grandmother LaVaughn, whose work managing a Bible book store showed me some of my first glimpses of a woman in charge. I sparred with my Aunt Robbie, who lived below us, during piano lessons—but her teaching showed me the importance of hard work and preparation, and she was always there for me when I needed her most. My mentor at Princeton, Czerny, saw potential in me and did her part to get me to step outside of my comfort zone—to be a little more bold, a little less cautious. And then there’s Eleanor Kaye Wilson, who we call “Mama Kaye.” She’s sweet-hearted and deep-rooted, a second mother or grandmother for all four of us—Malia, Sasha, Barack, and me. She’s been there to help with mealtime, craft time, been to all of our events over so many years—a wonderful friend and confidant to my mother. We love her, just like we love so many supportive women whose stories and contributions often go unrecognized, but who deserve just as much appreciation and love this time of year. So if there’s a Mama Kaye or a Czerny, a Grandma LaVaughn or an Aunt Robbie in your life, make sure to show them some love this weekend, too.

A post shared by Michelle Obama (@michelleobama) on


I know how hard all of you have worked to make your dreams of going to college come true. I was once in your shoes, and I know it isn’t easy. But I can tell you that from the South Side of Chicago to Princeton and Harvard and beyond, my education unlocked so many doors for me – and I know it will do the same for you. That’s why #CollegeSigningDay has become one of my favorite traditions. It’s a day when we can all come together to honor your passion and ambition and cheer you on as you get ready to take the next big step in life. I’m so proud of you, and I can’t wait to see everything you achieve! #BetterMakeRoom (credit: @chuckkennedydc)

A post shared by Michelle Obama (@michelleobama) on

With so many amazing people graduating from these universities, I’m happy to say that it was Michelle Obama that got the most attention from social media users over the past couple of years. Her Instagram posts about the universities are still being commented on, attracting the attention of social media users worldwide.

2. John Hopkins University became popular due to COVID research.

John Hopkins University worked hard on analyzing the spread of COVID-19. In March, the buzz around the university skyrocketed.

Mentions' growth and Reach for John Hopkins University. Screenshot from Awario.

The university's findings got cited and recited by the most reputable sources and ordinary social media users.

The buzz around the university is predominantly about COVID-19, as is clear from the university's Topic Cloud.

Topic Cloud for John Hopkins University. Screenshot from Awario.

3. The positive sentiment around the top-ranked universities increased when they introduced free courses.

Once social media users discovered Yale, Columbia, Stanford, and others offer free courses, the number of mentions and the sentiment around the universities got much better. 

Sentiment Analysis for Columbia University. Screenshot from Awario.
Sentiment Analysis for Harvard University. Screenshot from Awario.

4. MIT’s invention of the emergency ventilator was a hit on social media.

A group at MIT figured out how to make an emergency ventilator for $100 instead of the usual $30,000, and that's what the conversations around the institute have been all about since.


Topic Cloud for MIT. Screenshot from Awario.

5. Yale University experienced a spike in negative mentions in March.

The negative sentiment surrounding Yale university jumped when Yale epidemiologist commented on the article of the New York Times, arguing that it is biased. 

Sentiment Analysis for Yale University. Screenshot from Awario.

Most of the negativity is directed at the New York Times journalist, not the other way round.

6. The most popular mention of Duke University is by Manchester City.

The most popular social media post that mentions Duke University within the period of monitoring is this one: 

7. NYU got mixed up in the most hip conspiracy theory.

Among the plethora of coronavirus-related conspiracy theories, there is one that claims that Bill Gates is behind it all. He was the one to predict the outbreak in his TED talk five years ago and in a Netflix documentary. He's been involved in funding research looking into the viruses. He's rich and American - a combination that's bound to tie you to any horrible event that is going on. With millions of social media users discussing Bill Gates' alleged role in releasing the virus, NYU got their share of conspiracy fame.

Social media presence is as important for universities as it is for brands. Their target audience spends more time on social media than on anything else, making decisions according to what other people say on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. 

Interested to do a similar study for your own brand and see your own online presence? Sign up for a free Awario trial!

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