Want to Be an Influencer? This College Teaches You How.

Owens Community College wants to transform the world of influencing through influencer education.
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  • This fall, Owens Community College is offering the first-of-its-kind media influencer certificate.
  • A report showed 54% of young Americans are interested in pursuing a career in influencing.
  • Brands are expected to spend $15 billion this year on influencer marketing.
  • Some feel it's time for higher education institutions to get involved.

As "influencers" become more visible across social media platforms, one Ohio community college is stepping up to educate would-be influencers on what it takes to build an online brand and a business.

This fall, Owens Community College (OCC) in Perrysburg, Ohio, will be the first college to offer a media influencer certificate program. From building a network and creating trendy content for an audience to delivering that content effectively, students will learn all of the steps to become a social media influencer.

Classes include an introduction to HTML, principles of advertising, and a final capstone course where students take all of the skills they have accumulated and apply them directly to their own online brand.

Typically, influencers use their social media platforms to post images or videos, gain a large following, and eventually influence that group to invest in a service or product.

From the Kardashian sisters stealing the spotlight on social media in the early 2010s to teenage star Charli D'Amelio, the most-followed influencer on TikTok (144.9 million followers and over 11 billion total likes), the role of influencers in our society is only growing.

Their impact has increased substantially in the past few years. When people started working and studying mostly from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, their time spent on TikTok tripled, according to Statista.

From blush to vacation getaways, influencers can use the spotlight to promote a brand or even their own products.

And evidence shows influencing really does work.

According to Forbes, brands are expected to spend $15 billion on influencer marketing in 2022 alone, meaning they will start investing heavily in paying influencers to promote their products online.

This is because, according to an Influencer Report by the Morning Consult, 88% of Gen Zers and millennials learn about products they are interested in on social media. Also, 56% have purchased a product after seeing a post about it from someone they follow, and 50% say social media is where they most learn about new products to buy.

As a result, 54% of young people in America are interested in becoming influencers professionally, and 86% are willing to post sponsored content in exchange for money, according to the report.

Although it's easy to assume that becoming an influencer is a simple task, there is much more to it than what is reflected on the screen.

Enter Owens Community College's media influencer certificate program.

Program Deets

This is not the first time a college or university has taught individualized courses on social media and influencing.

At Duke University, Building Global Audiences offers students the chance to shoot TikToks and accumulate a legitimate following. And at eCornell, Cornell University's external education unit, there is a six-course online program focused on social media marketing.

However, the Owens program is the first full influencer certificate program of its kind solely focused on educating students on the intricacies of becoming a professional influencer.

Jennifer Hazel, director of the humanities program at Owens, says that the influencer certificate program is designed to be flexible.

The program at Owens is only two semesters long with seven classes per semester.

Students who are already enrolled in other programs at Owens — like photography, entrepreneurship, and broadcast media technology — can tack on the certificate to their studies, while it can also be taken on its own.

Hazel, one of the people behind the Owens' influencer program, adds that there has also been a great deal of interest from community members who are not already enrolled in the college.

They have varied interests that could benefit from the program — from hoping to develop an online presence for handmade furniture to wanting to network with other K-12 educators by sharing lesson plans online.

Basically, anyone can apply for the certificate program, regardless of industry focus, career goals, age, or even prior experience.

Right now, the program is a hybrid of online and in-person classes, but that could change depending on the demand for the course.

Influence on Higher Education

Hazel reiterated to BestColleges that "influencing is trendy — the idea of it and name of it is trendy — but it's serious. It's a serious market."

She continues, "[getting] a certificate shows employers that you are serious about these skills and that you took the time to learn them. Youare working with people who are experts in their field. You're working with people who build websites and code all the time, you're working with professional photographers, all teaching you how to do these things."

As of now, Hazel has personally spoken to about 12 students who are interested in the program, but she predicts that many more will follow suit.

Additionally, she thinks other schools will start creating similar programs.

"I believe in 10 years, influencing is where we will almost solely be looking for marketing. It's already on its way. Sometimes, we don't understand the power of it. … We don't understand how big it's going to be."