Back to school supplies
Cultural Trends

4.5 billion views—who’s watching what when?

The first day of school. The one day a year when both students and parents are excited. Today’s kids come prepared with more than just new school supplies. Armed with YouTube, this year’s back to school “kids” (ranging in age from elementary through college) are ready to take on the classes, the bullies, and that fresh, new hairstyle.

YouTube has become the sage source on back to school, everything from making friends to ROFL at harmless pranks to recreating that new braid. Interestingly, this content is viewed cyclically, but not in the way you might think. Let’s take a look at the trends that can be found in their views and uploads.

Content Timeline Through The Year

The content timeline for back to school brings a few surprises. You’d expect a burst of uploads surrounding the first day of school, which the data shows. However, on top of that back-to-school spike, content is uploaded all year round at a consistent rate.

back-to-school video uploads and views bellcurve

Instead of only one mass of content showing up around the first day of school, there seems to be consistent 5-week cycles when content goes from low (or no) to high and down again. What does this mean? Back to school content is relevant all year long because consumers are looking for back to school answers nearly every day of the year.

Interestingly, posts drop to next to nothing the week before school starts. Since much of the back to school content comes from students themselves, perhaps this is the busy week of shopping and school-time preparations, keeping posters away from their computers. Likely, these content creators have already uploaded their videos and they are now waiting until after school is in session to share more wisdom across different content categories.

The data tells us that what is viewed, or the content category, is the main thing that changes throughout the year not the number of uploads. Uploads before school starts tend to center around outfits, recipes, DIY, and comedy while videos on back-to-school hacks, peer advice, and style rule after school begins. It seems that viewers are looking for help with more concrete tasks after the bell has rung.

back-to-school bellcurve with video content types

In addition to consistent viewership and uploads throughout the majority of the year, the total views year-over-year is also increasing. From 2016 to 2017, uploads increased by 7 percent, and this year’s numbers are on track to keep up the pace. An increase of even a percentage point is no small potatoes when it comes to these YouTube numbers. To put it into perspective, this data took into account 121,000 channels, 30,000 uploads, and a whopping 4.5 billion views in 2017. That’s 9 billion eyeballs watching back-to-school content on a yearly basis.

Year over year viewership of back-to-school video content

Most Popular Back to School Content

So with such a large, impressionable audience, what is all this content about?

YouTube has become entertainer, advisor, and teacher for most students, so back-to-school content is a broad topic with dozens of categories. It encompasses everything from beauty to biology and bullies to backpacks.

For example, the peer advice content category helps students know what to do with academic and social issues at school. Hacks and school supplies reports the best supplies and how to make the most of them, sometimes in unconventional ways.

And the numbers are in! This past year, beauty/fashion (hairstyles, makeup, and outfits) took the lion’s share of uploaded content at 24 percent. Runners up include hacks (14 percent), school supplies (14 percent), and peer advice (11 percent). Clearly the back-to-school content category has its hand in every book bag.

most popular back-to-school content types

Check out some viewer favorites from the past school year:

3 popular back-to-school videos hairstyles DIY peer advice

Who is Watching What

Back to school viewers can be as varied as the material they are uploading and searching for. So what age group is watching the most and what are they watching? Turns out that high schoolers upload the highest percentage of YouTube videos (at 38 percent) while college students take second place (with 28 percent). However, what they are uploading is incredibly different, with high school students focused on the physical hacks, outfits, hairstyles and college students concerned with the not-so-tangible peer advice, recipes, sports, and comedy. These varied audiences create a huge need for relevant advertising.

types of back-to-school video content different age groups are watching

Though YouTube-cramming in preparation for the first day of school may have passed, the beauty of YouTube is that students can and do! come back time and time again. Though only one day, the uploads and views driven by the “first day of school” impact viewers all year round.

Leveraging content targeting in back to school advertising ensures that the brand message is aligned with the right content, increasing the chances that the person accessing it will actually watch it because it’s relevant to them in that moment. We’ve got a great video that explains that way better and in greater detail!

This is where Zefr comes in. We take the overwhelming profusion of YouTube’s online video content and classify, categorize, and make sense of it so brands and advertisers like you can use it in a more powerful and relevant way to engage their target consumers. Excited about what content targeting can do for your business?

Cultural Trends

This is the second part of our Back to School series. In part one, ZEFR Insights uncovered the video trends high schoolers are watching as their summer comes to an end. In part two, we take a look at how YouTube helps high school graduates navigate the transition to college life.

The mindset of high school graduates undergoes major shifts during their final summer before college. The prospect of gaining one’s freedom from constant parental oversight mixes with the anxiety and fear of the unknown. Thankfully, from the moment of writing that first college application essay to putting the final touches on a dorm-room makeover, YouTube video trends provide plenty of tips for anxious freshmen.

back to school trends on youtube college video data

College Application Tips

While parents, grandparents, teachers—and plenty of other adults with strong opinions—bombard high school seniors with their advice on the sometimes grueling application process, YouTube videos from current college students serve as a welcome point of view from actual peers.

Dorm Room Tours

Once the acceptance letter arrives, it’s time to start learning how to live with all of your belongings in a single, small rectangle with another human. Knowing the best tips and hacks for setting up a dorm room can make a huge difference in terms of overall comfort and happiness. As a genre on YouTube, “tour” videos can be found for practically any space, and “dorm room tours” are especially fascinating for anyone looking for tips on how to make the most of a cramped lifestyle.

Some brands have already recognized the unique opportunity YouTube presents for the home furnishing and improvement vertical. Ikea recently partnered with YouTube star Nastazsa for a “Dorm room tour and makeover” video:

College Advice

Dorm room, check. Class schedule, check. Insanely expensive books, check. As college freshmen look over the syllabus of their new, mostly independent life, the number of new situations they will face can be overwhelming. Again, as with college application advice, instead of only being able to call home for help from the parents, today’s generation of college kids know how to search YouTube for help.

Reaching the Next Generation of Students

As brands seek out new ways to reach a younger audience that are “cutting the cord” in ever growing numbers, YouTube is a platform built by and for the next generation of students. When they want to learn a new skill, or get advice about how to handle an unfamiliar experience, the power of video gives them a head start toward mastery. When you reach someone in the mindset of wanting to learn and grow and achieve their dreams, this creates a level of engagement where an authentic, contextually relevant message can make a major impact. Class is officially in session for brands on YouTube.


Get future posts delivered to your inbox

Cultural Trends

In part one of a two-part series dedicated to Back to School trends on YouTube, ZEFR Insights first investigates the videos high schoolers are watching as their summer comes to an end.

We’ve talked before about how massive the beauty community is on YouTube. With Back-to-School content, beauty vloggers are making a huge impact on the market for anxious teens wanting to get the first day at high school as close to perfect as possible. Many of these YouTubers have been posting Back-to-School themed videos as far back as March. These clips usually include advice about what to wear on the first day of school and hair and makeup tips, as well as supply hauls and what to expect.

First Impressions

Planning a look for the first day of school is an important and often stressful task for some youngsters. For good or bad, the reality is that what you wear makes a statement about who you are and how you want the world to perceive you, especially on the first day of school. Wearing the right outfit on that first day back from summer vacation can set the tone for the entire year. Thankfully, there is plenty of content available on YouTube to help students choose their outfits according to what first impression they hope to make.

The last thing someone wants to worry about on the first day of school is the possibility of a bad-hair day. YouTubers offer up advice on easy-to-do hairstyles, as well as “heatless” hairdos that can be done in a pinch if short on time.

Adding a touch of makeup can help give a person that last tiny boost of confidence they need to face all the turmoil of a new school year. Getting the look right can be stress-inducing and avoiding stress on the big debut day is what these videos aim to achieve. There are plenty of Beauty Gurus ready to give advice on the best products to use for a simple or full-face look, and how to properly apply the makeup.


Prep School

Before heading back to school, preparations must be made, and supplies must be hauled. Hauls are one of the most popular videos in the Beauty community. These videos usually contain the results of a recent clothing or beauty product shopping trip. However, during the summer months, many Beauty gurus spotlight their Back-to-School supplies, showing off everything they need to prepare for that first day back.

Once they have their supplies, they have to have someplace to put them. That’s where “What’s in My Backpack?” videos come into play. In a spin off of the “What’s in My Purse?” videos, YouTubers film themselves discussing what they carry in their backpacks, highlighting what they consider their school essentials.

In addition to everything else that goes into prepping for a flawless debut back to school, many YouTubers agree that an organized locker is a must. There’s even a trend around creating DIY decorations and organizational tips so that they can help viewers ensure their lockers are not only clean and functional, but stylish too.

Acing the Test

Surviving high school can be a daunting task. YouTube comes to the rescue yet again with the “Expectation vs. Reality” video trend. These videos show students the truth about what the reality of going back to school is like compared to their imagination, ensuring that expectations don’t result in disappointment.

Once everyone is officially back to school, and those start of school jitters are gone, it’s time to worry about all that school work. Thankfully, YouTubers are there to make sure their viewers stay on top of things. There are plenty of videos on study tips and hacks to help students get through the shock of suddenly having homework and tests again.

Extra Credit

Worrying about all the things that come with a new school year is tough enough. YouTube can provide a sense of relief for those who want to look their best, as well as do their best. If you’re a student searching for tips about how to put your best foot forward and start the school year off right, the community that exists on YouTube can be a virtual oasis of last-minute comfort, easing ever so slightly the pressures that abound on that first day back to school. Brands that are savvy enough to find and align with the kind of content that provides this valuable advice to students will not only find themselves in front of the right audience, but more importantly, become part of the conversation that is serving to make back-to-school a little bit better for everyone seeking that last bit of advice before heading off to class.


Get future posts delivered to your inbox