In the ever-evolving world of social media, the pursuit of influence is taking a new academic turn. South East Technological University in Carlow, Ireland, has ventured into uncharted territory by offering a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Media Influencing. What started as a summer program quickly transformed into a full-fledged degree, demonstrating the increasing allure of the influencer profession.
Irene McCormick, a lecturer and co-creator of the program, shared her surprise at the overwhelming response. The demand for a structured education in social media influencing surpassed expectations, leading to the development of a comprehensive curriculum. McCormick emphasized the blend of practical skills—such as writing, video creation, and podcasting—with theoretical knowledge in psychology, entrepreneurship, and celebrity studies.
In an era where influencing has become a billion-dollar industry, with more than 75% of brands allocating budgets for influencer marketing, the need for professional education in the field is evident. The degree aims to equip students with the skills and insights required to navigate the dynamic world of social media.
One success story that highlights the potential of this emerging field is Kaya Marriott, a full-time influencer based in Vancouver, BC. With a following of around 17,000 on various platforms, Marriott turned her passion for sharing curly hair care tips into a lucrative career. While she didn’t pursue formal education in the field, Marriott acknowledges the potential benefits of such programs for those looking to enter the industry.
“It’s interesting that academia seems to want a piece of the pie that people have been able to do on their own for so long.” says Marriott, emphasizing the self-led nature of the influencer space.
However, Marriott’s journey also highlights the evolving nature of the influencer profession. It took her five years to monetize her social media presence, and she emphasizes the importance of treating her account as a business. Beyond posting pictures on Instagram, Marriott engages in complex negotiations involving rates, licensing fees, exclusivity, and content usage.
Despite the success stories and the growing demand for influencer education, some still question whether being an influencer qualifies as a “real job.” Marriott challenges this notion, comparing it to digital marketing, a widely accepted field. Irene McCormick notes that the historical roots of the term “influencer” may contribute to its devaluation, particularly when associated with traditionally undervalued work like “mommy blogging.”
McCormick urges a broader understanding of the influencer profession, emphasizing its multifaceted nature. Influencers, she argues, need to stay agile, continuously adapting to the evolving social media landscape. Moreover, the degree opens doors to various career paths, from digital marketing roles within companies to becoming agents for other influencers.
As the influencer industry continues to mature, South East Technological University’s pioneering degree offers a glimpse into the future of social media education. Whether it’s debunking myths, negotiating deals, or staying ahead of trends, the program aims to prepare the next generation of influencers for the challenges and opportunities of this dynamic profession.
The article that this blog post was about can be found here and was written by Philip Drost, a journalist with CBC, this article sheds light on a groundbreaking academic endeavour that could shape the future of social media influencing.