It’s hard to understate the importance of social media in higher education marketing.


Because teens – in other words, the ideal target audience for most higher ed marketing campaigns – use social media a lot.

According to Common Sense Media, US teenagers average over 8.5 hours of screen time daily, with about one-sixth of that time spent browsing social media. A further 32% say they wouldn’t want to live without YouTube.

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It’s hardly surprising usage is so high, given that 95% of teens now have smartphones.

So, clearly, social media is a massive opportunity for higher education marketers.

Looking to get more from your own social media efforts? Check out these 30 top-notch campaigns from universities across North America.

1. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

A big piece of the higher education marketing puzzle is figuring out how best to position a given town, city, or state to prospective students.

Do you highlight the fantastic social life? The history and culture? The beautiful scenery? The friendly attitude toward students? Or something else entirely?

Rather than just discussing this in a few throwaway posts, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has built a whole social content campaign around it.

The Discover Nebraska series features native Instagram videos that combine clean, striking design, engaging imagery, and attractive graphics to showcase the best that the state has to offer.

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It also allows the university to promote highlights of its events calendar, feature profiles of former students, and get more eyes on its news stories.

2. University of Manitoba

Universities are some of our oldest institutions.

Take the University of Manitoba, which was founded back in 1877.

While all that heritage has many benefits from a higher education social media marketing perspective, it can also have its downsides. How on earth do you rebrand an organization that was around when Billy the Kid was still stalking the Old West?

The University of Manitoba decided to use social media to communicate and explain its recent rebranding:

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This campaign showcases visual elements of the new branding and directs viewers toward a dedicated landing page that explains in-depth the new logo and how it came about.

3. Baylor University

Baylor University tops the tree regarding its social media marketing strategy—or at least it did in 2016, according to research from Engagement Labs.

The study awarded Baylor a higher score than any other college for its Facebook presence and placed the university in third place for its X strategy.

In particular, Baylor was applauded for its “high-quality content,” which focused predominantly on campus life and the successes of its sporting teams. This helped it rack up the most likes and comments per 1,000 fans of any university.

This approach is clearly still central to Baylor’s higher ed marketing plans – and it still bags the university a ton of engagement:

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The lesson here? Once you’ve found what resonates with your audience, keep doing it!

4. University of Phoenix

The biggest reason for going to college is to get a better job.

That might sound obvious, but it’s important to remember what your audience actually wants to hear. What would persuade them to choose your institution over a rival?

The University of Phoenix recognizes this. It’s been running a Facebook ad campaign to promote its Career Optimism Index, which the university says was created to “address broad, persistent and systemic barriers to career advancement.” Potential students are obviously massively interested in this area.

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This whole campaign is a fantastic example of thought leadership on social media. Those ads are littered with juicy stats, all generated from original research.

The ads link to the Career Optimism Index landing page, which contains many additional insights on the theme of career progression.

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This paints the University of Phoenix as a real authority in career development and as an organization that genuinely cares about helping people get more from the world of work.

5. University of California Los Angeles

Want a simple example of how universities can tap into current events to boost brand awareness? Look no further than this higher education marketing campaign from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA):

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UCLA ran this ad campaign across Facebook and Instagram from late March to early April 2020, which, as you’ll likely remember, was right at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

This ad invited people to download images showcasing iconic UCLA buildings and locations to use as backgrounds for video calls.

The timing on this is perfect because late March was precisely the point when so many of us first started working (and learning) from home, causing search interest for the phrase “Zoom background” to spike through the roof:

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Think about it: whenever someone downloads one of those images and uses it as their video call background, they promote the university. It’s an amazing tactic!

6. Binghamton University

Humor is a powerful tool in higher ed marketing (provided you get it right).

That’s not just an opinion – it’s a scientific fact.

For instance, one study from the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice discovered that viewers receive humorous social video content more favorably than serious entertainment.

When you think of humor on social media, you naturally think of memes.

Whether memes are a good fit for your strategy depends heavily on your audience and tone of voice, but Binghamton University is comfortable with using them, such as when it jumped on the Bernie Sanders meme that blew up in January 2021:

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This post worked for a couple of reasons:

  1. The university posted it before the meme format became played out.
  2. There’s a legit reason for posting this – Bernie taught at the university in 1990, so it makes sense for Binghamton to get involved in the conversation.

In other words, this post managed to get the “funny” bit right while advancing the university’s message.

7. University of Michigan

Sticking with the humor theme is the following example from the University of Michigan.

Like Bernie’s example above, the University of Michigan proves that sometimes the best opportunities on social media are the ones you don’t plan for.

For anyone struggling to recall obscure moments in social media history, this Twitter post references how a picture of an egg became the most-liked image on Instagram back in January 2019:

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Not only does this video tap into something topical, it also showcases locations around the University of Michigan, which means it’s effectively a double win for the institution’s higher ed marketing team.

8. New York University

New York University (NYU) famously doesn’t have a football team.

That seems like a massive oversight when you consider college football is a huge deal, with the average fixture attracting more than 40,000 fans.

As such, the lack of a football program could put off potential students – not just would-be college athletes but regular students craving the social side of college sports.

However, the NYU marketing team has had plenty of time to accept this (the football program was discontinued in 1953, so it isn’t exactly a recent occurrence).

Rather than ducking the issue, the university leaned into it with a Facebook video series highlighting all the other incredible sports on offer at the university:

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Highlights include a World Archery competitor, an award-winning baton twirler, and a Nascar driver.

9. University of Central Missouri

This University of Central Missouri campaign demonstrates the value of understanding your audience’s pain points in higher education social media marketing.

So what are prospective students’ biggest concerns?

Well, according to research from, their top two concerns are:

  1. Choosing the right major
  2. College fees and debt

This Facebook and Instagram ad speaks to both of these pain points while adding a third – the length of time taken to graduate:

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That’s a compelling piece of copywriting.

Furthermore, the ad reassures its audience by speaking to the university’s heritage: “Trust 150 years of quality education.”

It effectively says: “We understand your concerns, and we’re here to help you out.”

10.University of Iowa

According to RivalIQ’s Social Media Industry Benchmark Report, the University of Iowa has been America’s top university for social engagement for five successive years. So, we simply had to include it on our list of the best higher education social media accounts.

The institution performs strongly on Instagram and Twitter, but its Facebook presence is the true standout.

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So what’s it doing so well?

Lots of things. But one especially smart tactic is its use of high-profile alums to promote the university:

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Research from Common Sense and SurveyMonkey found that teens are just as likely to listen to celebrities, influencers, and personalities as friends, family, and news organizations.

Showcasing big-name former students can be a highly effective promotional tactic. If you can encourage them to tell their followers how much they loved their college experience, all the better!

11. James Madison University

According to RivalIQ, Virginia’s James Madison University (JMU) is the top dog in higher education Instagram.

Artsy campus shots are its specialty. But it’s not just about the images themselves; it’s about the format in which they’re posted.

Specifically, JMU is a big fan of Instagram carousels. In a highly unscientific review of the account’s 50 most recent Insta posts, we discovered that 42% were carousels.

For comparison, the University of Iowa—which RivalIQ ranked third for Instagram engagement and first overall—incorporated carousels in 34% of its 50 latest posts.

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Why does JMU lean so heavily into carousels?

When you add multiple images to a carousel post, Instagram re-serves those posts to users who didn’t interact with them the first time. That makes them a fantastic vehicle for driving social engagement.

12. University of Georgia

When it comes to higher ed social media, everyone loves a winner.

RivalIQ’s research discovered that posts featuring big “wins” produced engagement lifts across all the social platforms it studied.

As the home of the national championship-winning Bulldogs, the University of Georgia is more fortunate than most when it comes to winning big.

And it’s not afraid to shout about it, as a glance at its Instagram account will confirm.

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Of course, only one school a year can have the country’s top football team. Many institutions are far more renowned for their academic prowess than their sporting achievements (remember, NYU doesn’t even have a football program).

But “wins” don’t have to be confined to the sporting arena.

If one of your students has received a big art prize or you’ve won a significant award, that’s absolutely something to celebrate.

13. University of South Carolina

Despite having over 100 million users in the US, TikTok is still comparatively underutilized by higher ed institutions.

The University of South Carolina is one of relatively few schools to have developed a solid TikTok presence.

That’s because it takes time to create native content that resonates with users on TikTok. A great example is this cheer video, which has notched more than 270,000 views at the time of writing:

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14. Central Michigan University

Sticking with the TikTok theme, Central Michigan University (CMU) is another school that’s smashing it on the fun-sized video platform.

Despite having just 25,000 TikTok followers, the school has more than 1.3 million likes, with one of its videos generating a staggering 5.5 million views:

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This highlights TikTok’s strongest suit: its ability to help brands reach new audiences that don’t follow them and might never have heard of them.

Sure, not every video you produce will generate millions of views. CMU’s second-highest performer has a comparatively paltry 10,800 views. But the more you create, the more likely you will learn what works and bring in big numbers.

15. Brigham Young University

Another institution that excels at generating likes, shares, and comments is Utah’s Brigham Young University, which has over 88,000 followers on X/Twitter. Much of its success comes down to the school’s effective use of video.

Admittedly, X/Twitter isn’t known as a video platform, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be effective. The platform’s figures show that there are more than two billion video views daily, with video posts generating 10X more engagements than non-video posts.

Brigham Young is aware of this.

It regularly posts video content on Twitter, such as this bird’s eye view of LaVell Edwards Stadium, which has generated more than 12,000 views:

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That means roughly one-sixth of its Twitter followers have watched it.

16. Harvard University

Harvard is one of the most followed higher education institutions in the US, with 6.5 million followers on Facebook alone.

In reality, there’s no big mystery to Harvard’s success. It does what you’d expect a higher ed Facebook account to do: showcasing news and events from around the university.

A good example is this post, which highlights members of the class of 2026 during their first day on campus:

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This simple collection of images has generated 28,000 reactions and more than 7,000 shares at the time of writing, demonstrating the value of having “boots on the ground” creating content when anything important happens at your school.

17. Berry College

The phrase “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” applies to higher ed social media.

We’ve examined how the University of Georgia has happily showcased its sporting achievements.

Another Georgia institution, the tiny Berry College — with a total enrollment of just 2,200 students — might not have the country’s best football program.

However, few schools can compare to its campus’s sheer size and beauty, which covers an astonishing 27,000 acres and everything from rolling foothills to babbling rivers to forested parkland.

Unsurprisingly, this is a prominent feature of the school’s social media content, especially on visual platforms like Instagram:

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The message here is clear:

Every school is great at something. Figure out what you do better than most, and make that the focus of your social strategy.

18. University of San Diego

Another school that makes the most of its surroundings is the University of San Diego (USD), which is famed for the aesthetics of its campus.

Based on real student ratings, Princeton Review regularly names USD among the most beautiful campuses in the US.

As you might imagine, USD isn’t shy about highlighting this trait, particularly on Instagram:

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Who wouldn’t want to spend their time at college surrounded by palm trees and striking Spanish Renaissance architecture?

19. Tarleton State University

Social media can be a great leveler.

With some smart strategy and a little (okay, a lot) of effort, smaller institutions can totally outperform their larger rivals in engagement.

A great example is Tarleton State University (TSU), one of the smaller institutions that made RivalIQ’s list of the top 10 schools on social media.

Look at Tarleton State’s Facebook page, and it’s clear that the school’s marketing team has paid close attention to branding.

TSU’s purple-and-white color scheme is apparent across pretty much every image on its feed:

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This might seem like a minor point, but branding matters. It helps followers pick out your posts from their busy social feeds, which makes it easier to build an online community.

20. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) takes a different approach to many of the institutions in our roundup. Rather than showcasing campus life, its X/Twitter account is dedicated to highlighting the unique research conducted by its scientists.

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This approach generates plenty of reach and engagement and helps cement MIT as a world leader in science and technology.

It’s certainly worked hard to build that reputation, with many scientific and technological advances coming out of the college — including the discovery of quarks and the development of radar.

21. The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University (OSU) is regularly recognized as one of the top-performing higher education institutions in the US regarding TikTok content, generating over two million total engagements on the platform from June 2022 – May 2023.

OSU gets a lot of things right on TikTok. But it’s especially effective at showcasing the achievements and credentials of its faculty. (It’s fair to say that tasks get slightly easier when you’ve got a recent Nobel Prize winner on your staff!)

@theohiostateuniversityIt’s great to have you back, Dr. Agostini! Round of applause for this 2023 Nobel Prize winner! 👏 Learn more about this Buckeye’s incredible scientific achievements at the link in our bio.♬ space song sped up – autumn &lt3

22. Southern Connecticut State University

Getting your content mix right is essential to any social media strategy. Southern Connecticut State University’s Instagram does this better than most, sharing a relatively even split of post types with its audience of almost 13,000 followers.

You’ve got photo carousels showing off life on campus…​​

…Reels highlighting student achievements…

…and single-image posts promoting upcoming events:

Its posting strategy is satisfying the Instagram algorithm because, from June 2022 – May 2023, the school’s posts generated an average engagement rate of 5.71% — almost double the median for D2 institutions.

23. Texas A&M University

Texas A&M’s X/Twitter presence effectively showcases the school’s proud heritage of helping its local community by highlighting volunteer initiatives like the Big Event, America’s largest one-day, student-run service project.

Since it was established by six former Aggies in 1982, the project has racked up over 1.1 million total hours of service and expanded to include 130 events across the US. Hence, it’s the sort of thing any higher-ed social media marketer would love to promote.

But Texas A&M isn’t a one-trick pony.

Current and former students have been involved in many projects that have benefited the school’s local area and much further afield, from Nobel Peace Prize-winning alums…

…to researchers striving to solve the next pandemic before it emerges:

All of which are perfect for sharing on social media.

24. Texas Christian University

Texas Christian University (TCU) takes a high-volume approach to Facebook, posting about twice as often as the average Division I school.

This strategy doesn’t guarantee results. In fact, many social media marketers find that the more often they post on Facebook, the fewer comments, likes, and shares they generate. But that’s not a problem for TCU, which saw a Facebook engagement rate of 0.63% from June 2022 – May 2023 — that’s about three times the average for a D1 school or college.

Part of TCU’s success stems from its ability to paint the university as one big, happy family, like in this post about its annual Easter egg hunt:

Amy Peterson, the school’s assistant director of social and multimedia strategy, explained, “Our social media strategy reflects the experience that our audiences expect from TCU—a celebratory focus on our campus experience, plus a deeper look at impactful academic research, service, and scholarly activity.”

25. Fayetteville State University

Like Texas Christian, Fayetteville State thrives on Facebook by sharing more content than its rivals. Between June 2022 and May 2023, the school posted about 2.5X as frequently as other Division II schools on Facebook while maintaining roughly three times the average D2 engagement rate.

So what, exactly, is it posting?

As with most higher ed institutions, there’s a ton of sports-themed content celebrating the successes of teams and individual students:

The school also does a great job at celebrating key announcements and milestones, like the third anniversary of Chancellor Darrell T Allison:

26. Northern Michigan University

Northern Michigan University (NMU) is more active on TikTok than most higher ed institutions, sharing an average of 2.2 videos per week.

This approach helped it earn over 4.8 million total views in the year to June 2023, compared to a median of just 336,000 views for all Division II schools.

Committing to posting all that content is challenging for any higher ed social media marketing team. But NMU gets it right by keeping a close eye on TikTok trends, like this montage of students attempting to guess each other’s majors:

@northernmichiganu Guess that major!!! 🐾💚💛 #nmu #college #collegelife #univeristy #northernmichiganuniversity #wildcats #major #degree #getthatdegree ♬ nintendo wii (mii channel) song – julie on the internet

27. Stanford University

Stanford is one of the world’s most-followed higher ed institutions on Instagram, with a community of over 1.1 million followers.

The school’s stellar reputation stems from its long history as a leading research university, reflected in its Instagram content. Stanford’s social media marketing team regularly highlights the school’s most interesting and ground-breaking insights and innovations — like TidyBot, a robot that “learns to clean your space just the way you like it.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Stanford University (@stanford)

At the time of writing, this Instagram Reel had notched up close to 400,000 views, demonstrating a huge audience eager to learn about the school’s latest research.

28. Colorado State University

One of the most effective ways for higher ed social media marketers to foster a sense of community is to discuss the shared experiences and characteristics that unite fellow students and alums.

Colorado State University does a great job of this on its Instagram account, where it regularly highlights (and sometimes pokes fun at) the realities of campus life. Just like in this Reel, which replicates the “of course we…” meme format seen across Insta and TikTok:

This approach helps Colorado State build a real sense of belonging — an effective tactic for boosting social media engagement among current and former students and attracting future students to study at the institution.

29. Carson-Newman University

If you’re fortunate enough to have a well-known alum, you should shout about it on social media.

That’s doubly true for smaller, less famous institutions like Carson-Newman University, which can count Dolly Parton among its former students:

Posting about the Queen of Country Music (among many other things) helped Carson-Newman achieve more than 5X the median Division II engagement rate on X/Twitter from June 2022 – May 2023.

30. Louisiana State University

Posting about your sports teams is hardly the most revolutionary higher ed social media tactic, but Louisiana State University (LSU) does it better than most.

LSU posts a ton of TikTok content, much of which is themed around its various sporting programs — from showing off its packed football stadium to sharing clips of its basketball teams in action.

And, like many other institutions in our roundup, Louisiana State also takes the time to shout about famous sporting alums. And they don’t come much bigger than basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal:

@lsu ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? 😤 #lsu #geauxtigers #collegelife #shaq #shaquilleoneal #mood #school #finals #test #exam #trending #meme #relatable #foryoupage #fyp ♬ original sound – LSU


This is a diverse selection of social campaigns despite them all coming from higher education institutions.

We have humor, heritage, sports, and an egg rolling along the ground in Ann Arbor.

This shows that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to social media in higher education marketing. What works for you might not work for anyone else—it all depends on your audience and brand.

That’s why it pays to research what your audience wants and to try a wide range of tactics to learn what resonates.

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