In the age of Instagram, likes and comments can determine more than just one’s popularity; they can influence careers. What starts as a creative outlet for many content creators can turn into a lucrative business and even a full time job. But what is the real purpose of these social media influencers and how will their social media posts affect their careers?
There are a handful of “internet famous” students at Chapman. Their social media accounts vary in purpose and style, as do their future career plans. Students going into the entertainment industry believe their internet fame will assist their journey, or even give them an upper hand in marketing careers. Others view their stardom as means to earn money and free product in exchange for posting photo advertisements and product dedicated videos. Instagram and Youtube celebrities are wary however that their online personas will follow them in their careers and that unprofessional posts will be held against them.
Sophomore public relations and advertising major, Natalie-Tasha Thompson has 71,400 followers on Instagram, 64,000 on Youtube, and has earned an estimated $40,000- $50,000 over several years of brand sponsorships and advertisements. However, she does not see her beauty and leisure related Instagram and Youtube as a viable lifelong career.
“As much as I appreciate beauty and fashion, that’s not what I want to do for my life,” Thompson said.
“In the beginning it was just for fun like, ‘hi guys this is me, this is the mascara I use,’ but what’s that going to do at the end of the day? Nothing,” said Thompson who hasn’t posted a Youtube video in more than a year.
She struggled justifying the purpose of her beauty-themed Youtube videos, especially after the recent shooting and rampant fires in her hometown of Thousand Oaks, California. Her home was not affected.
Thompson plans on making more personal videos that center around mental health and encouragement rather than using her platform for beauty ads.
Though Thompson doesn’t want to pursue Youtube as a career, she believes her social media status gives her an edge in the advertising business. She has promoted HP, Coach, Sephora, CVS and Facebook through her social media accounts.
Working as a social media influencer has given Thompson insight into advertising and the influencer market, which will help her in her planned career: Owning her own advertising agency and managing other social media influencers, according to Thompson.
Experts however, don’t equate posting photos to promote a product with real brand marketing expertise.
“If they are posting the photo of themselves in the product to get free product (for example, the company says tag yourself and we’ll send you a free X), that is not quite the same as being an influencer or doing brand marketing,” said Hannah Morgan, a job search, career and social media strategist, via email.
Marketing through Instagram public figures is a small sector in the marketing mix and isn’t representative of how complex advertising is, according to Elinor Cohen, engagement and marketing strategist.
Contrasting Thompson, sophomore creative producing major Megan Umansky does not think her Youtube or Instagram has provided an advantage in her pursuit to becoming a talent manager. Instead, Umansky sees Youtube and Instagram as a creative outlet and way to make money.
Umansky started Youtube at 13-years-old and has accumulated 86,000 subscribers to her vlogs and lifestyle videos with sponsors such as Redone clothing, Peet’s Coffee, and Zaful clothing.
She works with an media agency to help connect her with brands and negotiate with brands to get more money.
For every 1,000 views, Umansky gets $2 from AwesomenessTV, a third-party partner that places ads on videos, she said. And she still earns royalties from her old videos people continue to watch, including her Chapman dorm-room tour that has over one million views.
Mentioning a product can earn her $100-$300 but a video dedicated to the product can pay up to $800. She once earned $800 for talking about a game. There are some strict limitations of what to say, when to say it and how to say it.
She doesn’t make enough to pay for her college tuition, but the does supplement her leisure activities.
“Right at this moment can I live off of what I’m making? No. But if I got big on Youtube… maybe yeah,” Umansky said.
Jack Ruhl, sophomore television writing and production major views his Youtube presence as a stepping stone to work in television.
Ruhl started making videos for Youtube only a year ago with the intentions of communicating with his family. He vlogged his friends and life daily in order to keep his family back home in Pennsylvania updated while he was across the country.
What started as something somewhat personal, has grown from 0 to over 860 subscribers in less than a year watching his journey through college.
A residential advisor, Ruhl found himself unknowingly acting as a publicist for Chapman: At least 30 freshmen have told him that his “WHY CHAPMAN?” video was part of the reason they chose to come to the university, he recounted.
As an older brother, resident advisor and devout Christian, he avoids swearing and allusions to drinking.
“I feel comfortable showing any video I’ve ever made to any professional,” Ruhl said, “My life is pretty much PG.”
Ruhl hopes that the quality of his videos and wholesome persona on Youtube will lead him to a job as a television show runner, perhaps for Disney.
Professors who watch Ruhl’s Youtube videos have given him contacts to other Youtubers and entertainers. Ruhl said that they told him to call them when he gets out of college.
“A lot of people are concerned to go to film school (because) they won’t be able to find a job afterward, I’m not worried about that at all,” said Ruhl.
Contrasting Ruhl’s innocent approach to social media, sophomore Tara Katims describes her instagram feed as “risque.”
Katims, a strategic corporate communications major, started modeling at age 14 and had a popular Tumblr account during middle school. She joined AXO Talent media agency and accumulated 20.4 thousand Instagram followers. She has promotes wigs, sunglasses and bikinis, hence the “risque” aspect to her profile.
Influencers build a personal brand through promotion of certain brands and portraying a personality through style of their posts, according to Katims. Promoting a certain brand may disqualify her from promoting their competition or promoting more posh upscale brands. She constantly archives and un-archives post through a feature on Instagram that allows users to hide a post. She does this to appeal to certain brands.
Last year, Katims had a manager who controlled her posts, comments, followers, and tags. Certain posts would be archived. The manager even unfollowed Katims’ friends to curate her young and sexy online image.
With her own media page out of her hands, her once creative platform for photography became a business.
Katims makes $100 per advertised post and more through 10-15 percent commission from product discount codes, which would be more with more followers.
Through her Instagram she was also able to create and promote her own clothing line, NVR Twice. Without the amount of followers she has on her main account, her clothing would not be receiving as much attention, she said.
Currently Katims is unsure of what her future holds, but is confident it isn’t being a social media public figure. She is considering going to law school, which doesn’t have a huge connection to her Instagram modeling.
Though she makes money now, she doesn’t know what affect her page may have on her career,
“It’s scary to think that my social media page could make or break future jobs depending on what they deem professionally acceptable,” Katims said.
Other than the photo of a butt in a thong bikini (which Katims says is not her) she tries to keep things professional.
Umansky, who also posts somewhat risque bikini pics on Instagram has a similar concern but less so than Katims.
“The entertainment industry doesn’t care as much,” Umanksy said. “But when they see all those photos of me half naked and my ass is hanging out, I feel like that could affect my job.”
Sixteen percent of recruiters reported that showing too much skin on social media may make them turn down a candidate, according to Career Sherpa.
Katims said that she would discontinue her page if she knew that it would affect her negatively.
In addition, Katims does not want want to continue her page into her forties and be a “mommy blogger.”
Regardless of perceived hipness though, women and men of all ages can be role models on the internet, as long as they have an angle that makes them interesting.
“[Social media influencers] can be relevant, even in their 40s. It doesn’t matter if they’re 20, 30, or 40, they need to provide some sort of value,” Cohen said.
If any of these social media influencers desire to continue their page in a meaningful and fulfilling way, Cohen says they need value in their content.