March Madness Social Media Rankings: Kansas Outshines Duke

The 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship tournament is revving into high gear and, not coincidentally, PR agency Schwartz MSL has released its annual NCAA social media power rankings and brackets, highlighting which teams have the strongest social fan bases. 

Each school’s social media power ranking was calculated using the following formula: the number of Facebook fans for each college's basketball team, plus the number of Twitter followers for each basketball team's Twitter handle, divided by the number of students attending the university. "Sure, it’s not an exact science, but it’s the closest we can get to assess each school’s social media prowess and compare them against each other," said Bill Bode, account executive at Schwartz MSL San Francisco, in a blog post. "This also eliminates school size as a factor in determining the winner."

The Jayhawks of Kansas took this year's crown, beating runner-up Duke in both the bracket matchups (see chart) and in the overall power rankings. Some may find it surprising that Syracuse University and the University of Missouri failed to make the final four, since Syracuse's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and Missouri's Columbia School of Journalism are considered two of the best communications and journalism schools in the country. The power rankings suggest the schools are still among the most socially active when it comes to their basketball teams—they simply fell victim to tough matchups. 

The Top 10 by Social Media Power Ranking: 

  • Kansas — 5.244

    Schwartz MSL has determined the social media power ranking of every school in the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball tournament—with Kansas beating Duke in the finals. Click through to see larger version. 
  • Duke — 4.577

  • North Carolina — 3.957

  • West Virginia — 3.307

  • Gonzaga — 3.165

  • Syracuse — 2.811

  • Connecticut — 2.205

  • Memphis — 1.832

  • Missouri — 1.830

  • Michigan State — 1.650

The winner, Kansas, maintains a hoops-crazed student body and a legacy of basketball greatness, but also implements a sound social strategy on both its basketball team's Twitter and Facebook pages. The @KU_Hoops Twitter account embraces the #KUbball hashtag; provides exclusive behind-the-scenes pictures (like head coach Bill Self addressing the media); offers content and information crucial to basketball fans regarding game start times and TV/radio viewing options; tweets in-game updates; and, most importantly, listens to and retweets college basketball influencers, like national reporters, and passionate student fans. Simply put, the account gives Kansas basketball fans a reason to keep up with @KU_hoops before, during and after games with items they can't get anywhere else. 

The runner-up, Duke, uses its basketball team's Facebook page as a place to interact with loyal fans and spark discussions around the brand's rich history. It doesn't just simply share links—it describes what the stories are with teasers. More importantly, it provides quotes, photos and a wealth of videos—all elements to get fans commenting, liking and sharing during the season, and through March. (Duke University's Fuqua School of Business'  "Basketball Campout 2011" is also a finalist in PR News' Nonprofit PR Awards in the Social Media Category.")

While Kansas is not guaranteed to be cutting down the nets at the NCAA championship game in New Orleans on April 2, it's already had its "one shining moment" on social media.  

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg