Published on February 26, 2021, at 5:06 p.m.
by Maggie Palmer.
Influencers have been around for far longer than we’d like to admit. From classic movie stars like Doris Day to authors such as Mark Twain, public figures have influenced everything from political opinions to fashion trends for decades, all while solidifying their personal brands in the process.
However, the methods for influencing have changed with the rise of social media. Apps like Instagram and YouTube have made fame achievable for almost anyone. Now, any rising star has the potential to become an influential figure to thousands of loyal followers, jump-starting a career with the post of a picture or the upload of a video.
In fact, many companies are taking advantage of this influencer marketing explosion among college students. The social media influencer market as a whole was projected to be worth over $10 billion in 2020, and the industry shows no signs of slowing down.
On a smaller scale, many college-aged influencers are considered to be “micro influencers.” This means they have influence over a small and specifically targeted group of individuals. Micro-influencers are gaining popularity with brands due to their break from traditional advertising methods and their ability to form authentic and trustworthy connections with their audiences.
College campuses are not exempt from the presence of micro influencers, with The University of Alabama having some of its own.
From “day in my life” vlogs to sponsored try-on hauls, two of the university’s most popular micro influencers, Molly Glus and Gracie O’Connor, are building their personal brands before even earning their degrees.
Molly Glus is an up-and-coming influencer and student at The University of Alabama. She currently has 3,744 followers on Instagram, and her YouTube channel follows close behind with just over 2,000 subscribers.
Glus created her YouTube channel after suffering a career-ending soccer injury during her senior year of high school. She has always felt drawn to photography and videography and explained that her YouTube channel “was something I started just to fill my time, and it seemed like something I would enjoy.”
As a smaller creator, Glus is slowly but steadily building her personal brand. While she may not be as well-known as other influencers on campus, she hasn’t found the process to be challenging because of her commitment to authenticity. She prides herself on doing things her way, saying that she “has always had a very good idea of the kind of person I am and the kind of person I want to be.”
Sponsorships are a major aspect of influencer culture, and Glus is no stranger to this type of content. In fact, Glus is her own manager, talking to brands directly and coordinating all the ins and outs of a sponsored post or video herself. So far, she has worked with Princess Polly, ACTA Wear, Teami Blends and Coco & Eve on both her YouTube and Instagram accounts.
On the student side of things, Glus studies public relations. She is an active member of Pi Beta Phi and is also a media coordinator for Capstone Agency, the nation’s top student-run public relations and advertising firm. Glus feels her education thus far has greatly benefitted the behind-the-scenes aspects of her career.
“I’ve learned a lot being a public relations major, which is really cool because I didn’t know a lot before. I think it’s honestly improved how I do things YouTube-wise,” said Glus.
After graduation in 2023, Glus hopes to work in influencer marketing. Although she doesn’t ever see YouTube becoming her full-time job, she plans to balance her channel and her career in the future.
O’Connor officially began her YouTube channel at the beginning of her time at UA, but says she has always considered herself to be a “YouTube kid.” However, her college orientation and sorority rush videos are what truly launched her career.
“Something that I started for fun turned into the most incredible job ever. I always say it was always for fun; it will still always be for fun, even though now it really is a full-time job,” said O’Connor. “Sharing why I love to go to school here is awesome.”
O’Connor conveyed that building a brand is difficult, especially when she’s always expected to be on her A-game. Keeping up with trends, jumping on new social media platforms like TikTok, and posting videos and photos regularly, all while balancing classes and her personal life, can be incredibly taxing. However, she stressed that no matter how hard the process can get, she’s thankful every day for her career.
In regards to sponsorships, O’Connor has a management team to assist her with the process. She’s worked with myriad companies on both YouTube and Instagram, including Princess Polly, Lululemon, Athletica and Lilly Pulitzer. She even launched her own merchandise line in 2020, selling sweatshirts, shirts and hats with her trademark slogan “GO Getter.”
While O’Connor practically works a full-time job filming and editing all her videos, she is also a member of Pi Beta Phi and was recently accepted to The University of Alabama’s accelerated master’s program in marketing. She said she has struggled to find a balance recently with all that’s going on in her life, and time management is extremely important in balancing her career and her education.
O’Connor will graduate from UA in 2022 and plans to take a gap year to see whether YouTube is a viable career path for her post-college. She doesn’t see herself in a traditional job and instead hopes to travel and vlog her experiences with different cultures around the world.
Glus and O’Connor have plenty of experience with YouTube and Instagram under their belts, and both offered insight into the best practices of the influencer industry.
“The most important thing I can think of, especially looking back, is posting consistently and on the same days and times,” Glus said.
She also recommended that beginners ensure that their profile picture, header image and video thumbnails are aesthetically pleasing and stressed the importance of high-quality video.
O’Connor offered another critical piece of guidance: Make videos with the right intentions. Not all videos will get thousands of views, and money and fame are not guaranteed. Therefore, it’s important for new vloggers to remember their original motivations to avoid getting discouraged.
And advice for those looking to dive into the influencer world?
“Do not wait to do it,” advised Glus. “Do what you want, and go with your gut. If you don’t have a camera, if you don’t have equipment, use whatever you can get your hands on. Literally, do it.”