Published on March 11, 2021, at 8:29 a.m.
by Bella Valentini.
While the concept of influencing has been around long before the 21st century, the methods used to become a successful influencer in today’s world have changed significantly. Through social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, the landscape for influencing is ever-changing.
Anyone can become an influencer, but there are several types of influencer, ranging from nano to mega-influencer. However, the rise of micro-influencers on college campuses has brought a sense of relatability and authenticity to the realm of influencing. They are able to reach a more targeted group of individuals, particularly their fellow students and prospective students. This niche market continues to grow because 92% of Gen Zers and millennials trust influencers more than celebrities.
Across the nation, college students are capitalizing on the opportunity to become influencers and create their own personal brands, and University of Georgia students Taylor Stablein and Allie Merwin are no exception.
Stablein, a sophomore majoring in management and international business, has been uploading videos to YouTube since eighth grade. However, she knew making the move from Ohio to Georgia would allow her to target a niche group of individuals with her content. “When I started documenting my experiences as an out-of-state student, I realized that there’s a huge market for content from an actual student’s perspective,” said Stablein.
Stablein currently has over 28,900 subscribers on YouTube and over 5,750 followers on Instagram. She has crafted her personal brand based on what she wanted to see on YouTube while she was going through the college application and decision process, showcasing her life experiences as a student at the University of Georgia for prospective students to see.
Stablein dedicates herself to helping prospective students even when she’s
not uploading videos weekly. Through Instagram’s direct message feature, Stablein offers real-time advice to any of her viewers who send her questions about the university. She realized how important the connections she made with prospective students were when she would see them around campus or they would message her saying they have decided to attend the University of Georgia, and mentioned how rewarding it is to have influenced their decisions.
Though it may seem like uploading to YouTube is easy work, figuring out what to record, editing footage and managing everything that comes with being a college student can be tough. However, Stablein is thankful that her work on YouTube is something she loves, so it doesn’t feel like a chore.
As her platform has grown, Stablein has had the opportunity to collaborate with brands through sponsorships, but she does not accept every proposal that brands send her. “I generally don’t say yes to working with a brand unless their schedule works with mine, because I don’t want to push out content without enough time and it won’t be my best work,” explained Stablein. She also prides herself on authenticity, so she only accepts collaboration proposals based on whether or not she would actually use the brand herself. Since many of her viewers are prospective or current college students, Stablein does not want to promote something she doesn’t like or use.
After graduation, Stablein plans on attending law school to study corporate law, which is different than what she does now on YouTube, but explained she’ll still be making content to express her creativity.
Merwin is Georgia native completing her final year at the University of Georgia, and is majoring in advertising. Though she has a multitude of hobbies and enjoys creating various types of videos ranging from college “week in my life” vlogs to offering advice on how to start a business, much of Merwin’s content has been focused on her life as a college student. Merwin’s personal brand is closely tied to life at the university, but she explained that she doesn’t want to be tied down to making only a few types of videos.
Merwin currently has over 107,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 13,500 followers on Instagram. As for keeping her followers engaged, Merwin explained that she has a “passion for content creation, and focusing on that passion … allows for better content that my viewers can engage with.”
As a senior, balancing work and school has been tough, but since much of her content relates to her academics, “the two kind of intertwined throughout my college career,” said Merwin.
Having the opportunity to work with brands is a “pinch me” moment for Merwin, but like Stablein, she will only accept brand collaborations if the product is something she would recommend or use herself. If she accepts a proposal, she then schedules calls with brand representatives and brainstorms video and post ideas that align with both her and the brand’s vision.
In April of 2020, Merwin decided to launch her own business, Stardust by Allie. “I had a rough start to 2020 because I was in and out of the hospital for POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). I was glad that amid all of the doctors’ appointments, I could be doing something I was passionate about,” explained Merwin. She also said that while having an established presence on YouTube and Instagram helped to grow her business, posting clips of herself packing orders to TikTok “was the biggest game changer for it.”
Once she graduates from the University of Georgia this spring, Merwin said that she will be running her business full time while also creating content for her social platforms. “I am very excited for the future and what is to come for Stardust,” exclaimed Merwin.
On being an influencer…
Being an influencer comes with both advantages and disadvantages no matter how many subscribers or followers one has.
Stablein’s favorite part of being an influencer is meeting her viewers in person, noting that “it’s the best feeling when they tell me that my videos helped them make their college decision.” As for the challenges of being an influencer, Stablein explained that it can be demanding to come up with fresh ideas for content, especially with a busy schedule.
Merwin’s favorite part is also being able to connect with her viewers in person; “it makes my day whenever I get to meet my viewers … it means the world to me,” exclaimed Merwin. However, she did explain that it gets challenging when people assume they know everything about her when she’s only showcasing small snippets of her life.
Want to start creating content?
Entering the world of influencing can be daunting, but Stablein advised that the key to becoming an influencer is by “making content that you would enjoy; that way it’ll come across as genuine and less forced.”
Merwin’s advice for those wanting to create content? Have passion. “The biggest thing you need is the passion for it. If you’re doing it for fame, money or likes, you won’t have a fun time [creating content], but if you are passionate about it, nothing else matters,” said Merwin.