How universities can create more compelling YouTube content

University YouTube Tips

Over the last five years, Millennials and Gen-Z-ers have drastically changed the landscape of TV viewership. In 2015, they watched 38% less TV than they did in 2011.  What are they doing with that time? Streaming video. And lots of it. A study by Deloitte found that 19-25 year olds spend 10% more time watching streaming video as compared to live programming.

Teens are leaving traditional TV behind and turning to YouTube content creators, who in their opinion are more personal and relatable. According to a survey conducted by Variety, “The five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube creators, led by comedy duo Smosh, The Fine Bros. and PewDiePie. All three topped the affinity scores for more traditional media personalities like Jennifer Lawrence and Katy Perry.”

Creating authentic content for your university is possible, even with limited financial or staff resources. So how do you, as a university, make the most of those resources and create the kind of YouTube content that prospects and current students expect?


In order to produce videos for your teen prospects, you must consume content as they do. Step one in channeling your inner teen: Subscribe!

(If you need ideas of channels to follow, let me know on Twitter @lilyhomstad)

Find about 10 YouTube channels that you find interesting and hit subscribe. Check in every couple days to see what kind of videos the creators you subscribed to are publishing and when. YouTube conducted a study that found 70% of their audience watches creator videos weekly and nearly 25% watch creator videos daily.

Pay special attention to what kind of series (or shows) they release on certain days, how they speak to their subscribers, and how this style of video is different from what you currently produce for your university or is produced on traditional TV. For instance: You’ll see that YouTubers talk directly to the camera like their subscribers are in the room with them. Or, using one of my favorite cooking channels as an example, I know which types of videos will be released on certain days – new recipe videos come out on Tuesday and Fridays and vlogs come out on Sundays.

Gen Z Millennial YouTube Statistics

2. Find your niche

By getting a feel for what the creators you follow are publishing, you’ll see that each of their channels offers viewers a very specific type of content. Take this lesson back to your university – don’t try to be all things to all people, which dilutes what your channel is about. Understanding what your channel is and is not about will give people a clear reason to subscribe.

Think about the following:

  • Think of your YouTube account as a niche cable channel and your series as your TV shows. There has to be something that unites the videos beyond being shot on campus. What will your channel be known for?
  • If you were to shoot the trailer for your account (which you should be doing), what would you tell soon-to-be-subscribers about your channel? What can they expect to see every week? Why would they follow you?

The University of California found its niche in a YouTube channel dedicated to the school’s research. They produce high-quality videos each week that feature their research in a fun and easy-to-understand way.

3. Consider a host

The reason Gen-Z connects with YouTube creators is because they get an inside look at topics relevant to their lives and they feel like they’re connecting to a friend, rather than a brand.

Ask yourself how students are connecting to your YouTube content – are they engaging with a person, or branded videos? What would you rather watch?

Putting a face to your channel might create a stronger connection with your students. If you engage current students to host a range of series on your channel it could provide a great opportunity to connect with a wide range of students on campus – journalism students/student reporters, athletes, presidents of Greek Life, student government, tour guides, etc.

Creating content that involves current students would allow prospective students and parents to get a first-hand look at the culture on campus straight from the students themselves.

4. Take cues from YouTube creators themselves

I personally follow a lot of cooking channels. Nearly every time I open the YouTube app, I see multiple channels posting a “What I ate in a day” video. While this might seem like the most horrifically boring thing you’ve ever heard of, these videos end up being many creators most-watched content. New York Magazine even got in on the action publishing a piece on the phenomenon that is “What I ate in a day” videos.

What I eat in a day youtube video tips

(Check out those view counts!)

After watching your favorite creators for a few weeks, did you see a trend in the type of videos they were publishing? If so, think about ways your university can take those trends and make them work for your brand and audience.

For example – try filming a “What I ate in a day” at each cafeteria on-campus or on that popular street off-campus where students and faculty alike find the best food. Give your current students their own social media showcase by having them host, while easing prospects’ (and parents’) worries about the dining options at the cafeteria or off-campus. You know that’s one of the most requested stops on the campus tour.  Bonus points for students showcasing their cafeteria recipe hacks and tips for which buildings have the best between-class snacks

5. Produce collaborative videos to expand video reach

YouTubers frequently film guest-appearances on each other’s channels called “collab” videos (short for collaborative videos). Are there any influencers who graduated from (or currently attend) your university? Ask them to film a collab with you to introduce your channel to new audiences.

Here are a few best practices from YouTube on producing collabs:

YouTube Creator Academy Collab video tips

6. Extend your education with YouTube academy

YouTube created an entire site dedicated to providing best practices to creators. It features everything from setting a creative strategy, to advanced production techniques. Check out the site and go through various lessons to learn how to create the content that your audience is looking for.

We hope these tips help you with your university’s YouTube strategy. If you have any questions, be sure to tweet us at @StoriedU!

About Lily Homstad

More about Lily Homstad »

Comments are closed here.