It's that time of year again. When the time-honored tradition of cutting down nets, busting brackets, and ravenous fandom takes hold in the cube farms across the country. Hope springs eternal that one college team can provide an individual their bragging rights for the year to come. Yes, it's March Madness and we're down to the wire to see who will take home the social media bracketology championship between Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Duke.
We took a look across the social spectrum (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for each of the Final Four teams to see who was cutting down the social nets.
Why do we do this? Besides the enjoyment of looking at the great content and what each social team brings to the table, we want to see how the content actually moves the audience to engage. Think of it in basketball terms - you can have a stacked powerhouse team (i.e. Kentucky) who is a shoe-in to win the title, but loses to an underdog (i.e. Michigan State) due to the way the team works together. It all depends on how effective the in-game strategy and execution is.
Without further ado, your March Madness Final Four:
Kentucky: (536,000 total followers)
The Wildcats are just as formidable on social media as they are on the court. Just like their two starting lineups, their social fan base dwarfs most over other teams, the exception being Duke. However, with great strength comes great responsibility (or something like that), and the biggest hurdle for the UK social team is getting content to be spread across such a broad spectrum.
Valiantly they tried, with 277 Facebook updates and 903 tweets in the past month, the team couldn't escape the Facebook algorithm, generating only 15.6 engagements per post, per thousand fans. The same results carry over to Twitter, with only 1.6 engagements. The only bright spot is their Instagram engagement, yielding an average of 77.2 engagements, but that was only on a total of 14 posts in March.
Wisconsin: (329,200 total followers)
The Badgers have made a name for themselves by working efficiently and effectively. They hold the slowest time in the tournament from inbound to basket, but with a squad of three point shooters and arguably the best player in the country, don't count out the boys from Madison just yet. It's a tough road to plow, but as Notre Dame showed, Kentucky isn't invincible.
Socially, that same "slow and steady" approach seems to be working well. They're middle of the road on Facebook (72 posts in March); dominant on Twitter (1,060 tweets - the most of any team in the field); and 10 posts behind Duke on Instagram (151). The passion runs deep from the Badger faithful, however, yielding the highest engagements per post, per 1000 on both Facebook and Twitter.
Duke: (588,000 total followers)
The Blue Devils bring to the table a mix of outside shooting, led by Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones, and inside power through future first-round pick Jahlil Okafor. Combine that lineup with the winningest coach of all time and they're a formidable foe on the hardwood. Despite their balance, Duke has its flaws that can be exposed.
Unfortunately, their social team doesn't match the same power. Despite their size, Duke came in second to last in Facebook posts and last in tweets (by 200!). It's clear their focus is Instagram, because they top out the group with a total of 161 posts during the month. Like a poor performance on the court, it's hard to overcome such numbers. Engagement rates for Duke were the second lowest on Facebook, and dead last on Twitter and Instagram.
Sorry, boys. Maybe next year.
Michigan State: (192,222 total followers)
As the only team not ranked #1 in their bracket, Michigan State has been a force to be reckoned with. They scraped and clawed to get through the group with a huge overtime win against an overly confident Louisville team. Look for Sparty to give the Blue Devils a run for their money on Saturday, as Tom Izzo in March is just as dangerous as a true Spartan warrior.
With an initial look, Michigan State doesn't stand a chance against any of these teams.While that may not be the case, they still are struggling to get out of the middle. They own the lowest number posts on Facebook and the second lowest on Twitter and Instagram. It's not looking good. Engagements tell the tale here, as MSU can't get above third place in total engagements on either Facebook or Twitter, but they own the top spot on Instagram. It looks like this Cinderella will be going back to the washboard.
And the winner is:
Wait. WHAT? NC State?! They weren't even in the Final Four!
Though that's true, there's something to be said about a true underdog taking home the hardware, isn't it? Yes, I realize in the context laid out, it's hard to believe. But there are two things to take into account: 1) I'm a huge State homer and, 2) I'm the one who is writing this post.
(Editor's Note: Please send complaints to @CBadders on Twitter)
Look at the numbers, though. The Wolf Pack owned the second highest post totals on Facebook, only behind Kentucky; third highest on Twitter; and fourth (by 5 posts) on Instagram. But like 1983, their effort went toe-to-toe with the best teams in the tournament. Despite a low Instagram presence, the Pack faithful came out in droves, with an average of 125.7 engagements per post, per thousand - 40 more than Wisconsin. Twitter engagements rank just behind Kentucky, and right behind Wisconsin on Facebook. When you put it all together, the shear effort from the fan base propelled the Wolf Pack to victory in 2015.
Plus, who can deny a team whose fans produce a selfie that rivals Ellen's?
(Editor's Note: Again, please send complaints to NC State super fan @CBadders on Twitter)