Social media influencer
Social media influencers wield the power to influence, which is why universities need to leverage on their power. Source: Shutterstock

Influencer marketing has proven to be a formidable force in digital marketing, with many businesses catching the wave. A Business Insider report notes that brands are projected to spend up to US$15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022, according to Business Insider Intelligence estimates, based on Mediakix data.

This is unsurprising as social media influencers, including micro-influencers, have much to bring to the table. These “common folk” are more relatable to their audience than mainstream celebrities, and thus, can help raise brand awareness and open the door to an audience a business may not have ordinarily.  

These individuals wield much power to influence a host of people, but are universities doing enough to tap into the potential of influencers? 

An army of social media influencers, untapped?

Social media influencers

Prospective university students spend ample time on social media. Source: Shutterstock

Jack Edwards documented the highs and lows of his life as a Durham University student via a video on YouTube, which was viewed by over 150,000 subscribers. The Guardian reported that the college at which he studies, St Cuthbert’s, has been oversubscribed for the first time this year. 

His principal believes it’d not a coincidence, calling it “the Jack Edwards effect”.

Despite that, Edwards has no relationship with the university but feels Durham is missing out on an opportunity. 

“People are watching these videos and it gives them reassurance that [the university] is a good option,” he was quoted saying.

Influencer marketing can wield much power

As the influence of traditional media dwindles and social media continues to rise, YouTube is settling into its seat as a go-to platform for viewers.

The Guardian said the video sharing platform is an increasingly important platform for universities; videos posted by the 20 universities with the highest-viewed content on the site were seen 58.9 million times, according to social video measurement platform Tubular Labs. This is marginally more than the number of views on videos posted by independent influencers about universities (49.2 million). 

It’s a growing space, with university-related content posted by influencers seeing views increase by 20 percent in the last year alone, notes the report.

Meanwhile, Eve Cornwell, a 22-year-old trainee solicitor, is a successful vlogger who gained 239,0000 subscribers while studying at Bristol University and the University of Law. 

She is part of a community of education-related content creators who record themselves studying or completing an essay to inspire other students struggling with their workloads.

“I think universities and more traditional educational institutions are slowly realising the power that influencers can bring. People like to watch another person online going through something similar to them – that idea of relatability. They can feel like they’re part of you learning, or graduating, or getting your degree,” she said to The Guardian.

Graduates and academics are also jumping on the bandwagon. For instance, Simon Clark, a 29-year-old graduate of Oxford and the University of Exeter, shares physics, science and climate-based videos to his 245,000 subscribers. 

For some of these creators, it’s not merely about making education content accessible to the masses. The ability to produce bite-sized content, in addition to weaving in popular culture, can help spark an interest in learning from viewers.

Are universities doing enough in keeping up with the times?

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