Originally published in PR Week Sep 20, 2018

If we can teach young people to be broadcast journalists, we can teach them how to be an influencer on social media

A college in Scotland has started offering a ‘Vlogging 101’ course, the first mainstream college course of its kind.

In many ways a natural evolution of the traditional media studies or film course, it’s likely to have detractors shouting “Mickey Mouse”.

This is short-sighted, though – we may have seen a preponderance of media studies courses in the last few years, but this speaks to our history of creativity and broadcasting excellence.

Social media influencers are the future broadcasters: journalists, entertainers, and entrepreneurs rolled into one – multi-faceted communicators, but with added bankability.

More than ever, brands are reaching out to influencers to inject a fresh perspective to their marketing.

Even traditional, middle-class John Lewis recently worked with vlogger Jim Chapman on its clothing range – a sign, if any, that influencers have come of age.

The ‘Vlogging 101’ course covers aspects such as how to develop a story, a channel, engaging content and a relationship with your audience, all important things to know to develop a commercially successful YouTube channel that might eventually lure a brand.

It’s advisable for students to learn about newer social channels as well as YouTube, though – any social media star of the future with a multi-channel offering will prove more attractive commercially.

This particular college course uses a media personality to advise people on how to become a social media influencer, getting more followers, presumably organically. There is a danger that college courses of this kind could focus too much on how to ‘get big’. The most popular influencers with brands are not always the ones with the largest following, but the ones with the most engaged fan bases. In fact, many influencer agencies highlight engagement rates over follower count almost exclusively now.

It’s partly the media’s fascination with the financial success of big social media stars like Tanya Burr, or Vine comedian Stuggy, that has led today’s teenagers to see vlogging as a viable career option. Many surveys of schoolchildren today cite ‘Youtube star’ as their most popular career choice. It appears glamorous, a life of fame, adoration, and instant riches. But most social media stars in fact hold down other, sometimes very different, day jobs as they build a fanbase.

Stuggy, for instance, now runs his father’s removals company by day and is an internet comedian by night. Like any creative career choice, the path to success can be long and arduous. Talent is the one driving force behind our most bankable social media stars in the UK. We have a lot of passionate individuals with a genuine desire to share their interests and talents with others. The reason brands get excited about working with a Zoella or Jim Chapman is that they have a genuine, visible following, and a unique style that can add another dimension of interest to their own brand and a whole fresh new audience. Hopefully more colleges will follow suit, and we’ll see a whole generation of eighteen year olds honing their talents.

Who knows, ‘influencer’ really might be the number one career choice in five years’ time.

Wanting to know more about how to be an influencer – get in touch

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