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.

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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