Exam Time: Ranking the Most Followed Universities Per Capita

It’s exam time! For those students toiling away at our post-secondary institutions, the next few weeks will be spent with noses dug into textbooks, coffee shops crowded with caffeinated co-eds, and a general sense of dread.

In honour of the season, this week’s post looks into which Canadian universities are performing the best on Twitter.

In order to quantify the which universities are getting the most bang for their buck on Twitter, we compiled the most recent enrollment numbers from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, as well as the number of followers per primary Twitter account as of April 2, 2014.

Image of Carleton University logo with Twitter bird on top.

Carleton University’s Twitterized logo. Carleton has close to 18,000 followers at writing

The school with the highest number of followers per capita? One that also ranks high on the National Survey of Student Engagement – Royal Roads University.

The following five highest all hail from the Maritimes: the University of Kings College, UPEI, St. Francis Xavier, Mount Allison, and Acadia.

In total, 16 of the 66 universities included have more followers than enrolled students. Most of those to accomplish that feat were smaller schools in small communities, demonstrating that the “town & gown” set-up translates well to Twitter followings. Those include towns and cities like Charlottetown, Sackville, N.B., Antigonish, N.S., Wolfville, N.S., Lennoxville, QC, Prince George, B.C., Peterborough, ON, and Sydney, N.S.

This trend wasn’t exclusive, however. Three schools with enrollments over 18,000 also saw their followers exceed current students, and all three were based in Ontario. Queen’s & Western, perhaps unsurprisingly given their importance in the community and high levels of sustained school spirit well after graduation (while this isn’t quantified, speaking to alums from either shows their school pride, bordering on unbearable levels, carries over well beyond graduation), both make the cut. The other, which is more of a surprise, was Brock.

Despite these successes, having a large enrollment meant low rates of followers per student for most of Canada’s large universities.

The bottom ten included the University of Ottawa (with only 8,063 followers), the University of Toronto, UBC, the Université de Montreal, Université Laval, and Université de Québec à Montreal.

In terms of total followers, the large schools (obviously) fared much better. While Brock cracked the top ten in terms of total followers as a bit of an anomaly with only 18,500 students, the average student body of the other nine schools was a whopping 36,212 (34,441 when Brock is included.)

As for top marks, that goes to McGill, who had 33,800 followers when the data was captured.

Of course, a number of factors play into what makes an account successful. One that seemingly hurts larger universities, like UBC and the University of Toronto who both have sprawling databases dedicated to their numerous Twitter accounts, is simply having too many. Different faculties, departments, programs, and research centres all have their own established accounts, which detract from any central ones.. Royal Roads, on the other hand, only links students and web visitors to one.

How early universities adopted the service also could play a big part. UPEI first tweet went out in January 2009, so they’ve been racking up followers for the better part of five years. The Université de Montreal, on the other hand, didn’t start until March of 2011, and were operating as a “news” account at that time.

Watch for part two of this series to come up in the coming weeks to further examine how Twitter accounts are being used by universities, as well as offering some more insight into what contributes to success or failure, but for now you can find some of the stats below.

Graph of Canadian university Twitter account followers per students.

Number of followers per student; Canadian university Twitter accounts

Graph of total followers on Twitter for Canadian universities

Canadian universities on Twitter by total followers

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