What 2022 Back-to-School Trends Say about the Year Ahead

Back-to-school supplies, including a backpack, books, and pencils, against a pink background.
Back-to-school supplies, including a backpack, books, and pencils, against a pink background.

Back-to-school season is all about preparing for the school year ahead. This is just as true for students, teachers, and parents as it is for marketers and brands. The final weeks of summer are when the conversations and trends that will take over the rest of the school year come to the forefront. 

From social media posts to message board comments, consumers flood the internet with their concerns, desires, and preferences for the coming academic year. 

This year, we used our social listening platform Explore to understand the top trends and topics currently on the back-to-school audience's mind. Our query, looked at mentions of “back to school,” “return to school,” #backtoschool, and #backtoschool2022 from June 1, 2022, to August 30, 2022. As a result of analyzing English-language keyword mentions during the North American summer and back-to-school months, the majority of results came from U.S.-based internet users, followed by those in Canada, and the United Kingdom.

A widget from the Meltwater Explore platform showing 3.03 million mentions of back-to-school keywords from June 1 to August 31, 2022 (up 216% compared to the previous three months) at an average of 33,000 mentions per day.
A line graph from the Meltwater Explore dashboard charting back-to-school keyword mentions over time by source type, with a rise in mentions on all platforms beginning on July 5, 2022.

Aiding Teachers

Just as in 2021, #backtoschool was the top hashtag used in this year’s back-to-school online conversations. However, a new hashtag made it into the top three: #clearthelist. Educators have long used this tag to help them get donations to stock their classrooms with necessary supplies. But it and others, like #adoptateacher, are more popular now that others, like #covid19, have slipped out of the top 20 hashtags in this conversation.

A bar graph showing the top hashtags with #backtoschool at the top with about 265k mentions, followed by #backtoschool2022, #clearthelist, #teachertwitter, and #adoptateacher.

On Twitter, the author with the farthest-reaching, back-to-school content was NASA. Two of their Tweets sharing free lesson plans and other classroom resources reached more than 60 million people each. Aid and support to teachers — material as well as moral — will likely be a continuing talking point throughout the school year.

Tutorials, Tips & Hacks

In terms of engagement, TikTok was the top platform for back-to-school content this year, especially when it came to advice. Users particularly liked, shared, and commented videos preparing students, teachers, and parents for the 2022-23 school year — including fashion explainers, beauty tutorials, organization hacks, classroom tips, and teaching advice.

More than anything, the back-to-school audience seeks guidance that’s useful, visually appealing, and easy to understand. Marketers and brands should anticipate opportunities for relatable, “educational” content as the academic year continues. Twitter, Reddit, and Pinterest are especially useful for staying on top of emerging trends and conversations among educators, parents, and graduate students. To keep up with high schoolers and college undergrads, have a social listening strategy that focuses on Instagram and TikTok.

Hauls & Style Inspiration

Speaking of TikTok, the platform was also a popular venue for the requisite annual back-to-school supplies and clothing hauls (along with videos poking light fun at them). But make no mistake, YouTube, the world’s second-most popular social media platform, is still the platform for haul and shopping videos that quickly rake in millions of views. Haul videos are evergreen, but they take on new significance when consumers prepare for special events or extended periods like the return to the classroom. As the school year goes on, marketers can tap into influencer partnerships linking haul content to other milestones like homecomings, proms, or returns from school breaks. 

Back-to-school audiences look to standalone images for the same purpose as tutorials and hauls: for inspiration. One case in point is this Tweet by an independent nail artist, featuring a photo of classroom-themed acrylic nails, that was Retweeted more than 32,000 times in the ten days after it was posted. On Pinterest, the home of image-based inspo, pins by retailers showing off back-to-school styles reached the most users.

School Safety

For parents and educators, safety is always top-of-mind as a new school year begins. In the United States, COVID-19-related issues like mask mandates are still top concerns, but our Explore query shows that social and traditional media mentions of school shootings and gun violence in this year’s back-to-school conversations were up nearly 550% compared to last year. This increase is directly related to the tragic Uvalde school shooting that occurred at the end of the previous school year. Marketers in conversation with U.S.-based audiences need to remain cognizant of — and sensitive to — issues of gun violence and safety in schools.

Every back-to-school season buzzes with the possibilities of what’s to come. That’s what makes it so exciting. Social listening isn’t a crystal ball, but it does offer marketers the data they need to plan for the months ahead. Don’t get stuck in last year’s trends; stay on top of what matters to your customers right now with Explore, our social listening platform. Schedule a quick demo today to see what it can do for you.

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