As March Madness heats up, one PR agency took an interesting new approach to bracketology. Schwartz MSL Insights Group developed “The Social Media Power Bracket,” which determined the winner of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament based on the social media savvy of their athletic programs.

Each team received a Social Media Power Ranking based on the following and fan engagement of the school’s official athletics Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. Winners for all The Big Dance matchups were then decided by which school held the dominant social media score.

Duke was revealed as the (social media) tournament champion, and other renowned college basketball powerhouses including North Carolina, Miami and Notre Dame rounded out the final four.

The top contenders all provide a steady flow of information to followers on their social networks including updates, photos and event details. More importantly, these programs take the time to interact with their fans through contests, giveaways and direct responses. This type of devoted communication excites fans and helps them feel connected to the organizations.

Social networks can be very powerful and cost-effective tools for staying connected to your audience.  Effectively utilizing them to engage your followers reinforces brand loyalty in any industry. In this case, students, alumni and fans feel a part of their favorite team on a daily basis, regardless of geography.

We’ll find out over the next few weeks if any of the social media bracket predictions are reflected in actual tournament play. But win or lose, it’s safe to say that the athletic programs which actively participate on social media are already a slam dunk with their fans.