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Why do the Youth Need Social Media Influencers for their Higher Education?

Contrary to the belief of many social media marketers, popularity on social media is not always indicative of influence. Instagram selfies, particularly those that are artistic or creative in nature, might have lots of “likes” but aren’t necessarily influential. Likewise, influencers are not always the most popular people on social media.

When we talk about social media influencers, we first need to have a clear idea of the distinction between popularity and influence. ‘Influence’ can be defined as ‘the capacity or power of persons or things that can sway or determine actions, outcomes, etc.’ It means that a social media influencer is someone who has ‘the power or capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something,’ according to Wikipedia.


Who can you call a Social Media Influencer in the field of Higher Education?


Key elements of a highly influential social media presence of a higher education expert are:

  • Influential people and brands are experts in their field. They work to provide value and share knowledge with their audience. 
  • Influencers have lots of social proof, meaning they have a lot of people who follow them and look to them as an authority on particular subjects or as an expert in their niche. 
  • Influence is earned. If you try to buy your influence by purchasing followers without adding any value first, it’s unlikely to last. 
  • Influence is authentic. Influencers don’t try too hard or post anything that doesn’t match the brand they’re promoting.
  • Influence isn’t ‘who has the most friends’. Popularity on social media doesn’t necessarily mean influence and vice versa. People with lots of followers might not have any influence; influencers aren’t always the most popular people on social media; and “influence” can be earned by anyone, not just celebrities with huge followings.

A good way to determine whether or not an expert has any real influence is to look at his or her engagement rates (i.e., how many likes, comments, shares, etc., his or her posts get). If the expert has at least a few hundred followers yet their engagement rates are low, it’s most likely because they don’t have any real influence.


What can Social Media Influencers do for the youth going for higher education?


Recently, university students all over the world have had to face a challenging and difficult time of their lives: they’re striving for excellence and excellence is expensive. Since education has become one of the major social expenses of people, it’s no wonder that students look to get advice from ‘experts’. Considering they are on social media most of the time, they do try to learn from ‘experts’ on social media. A picture on Instagram or a post on Facebook, or a YouTube video can easily be a big influence in their education and career-making decisions.

Social media influences can act as guides. They advise students on how to become better versions of themselves through discipline and hard work, convince them that hard work pays off, help them discover their passion, and help them find ways to succeed in their lives and achieve their goals.

Some of the ways in which social media influencers help young adults are:

  • Social media influencers can guide you on what to study and where to study.

Recently, social media influencers have become more popular and well-known for promoting certain universities on their Instagram accounts. There are many reasons why influencers would promote a university over another. For example, some students may want to attend one university because they might want to pursue the same major as an influencer who is known for being successful in that field. 

In addition, an influencer could promote a university because they either attended or graduated from there and want to advertise it to their audience. Students follow them because they want to emulate influencers’ success by attending the university that the influencer attended or graduated from. 

Many students follow influencers about certain topics that relate to their interests. For example, a student might want to attend university in order to learn about a specific topic or pursue a degree that will allow them to go into a related career field. As a result, the student will look up to influencers who they believe can give them advice on what university and degree program to take and become successful in their future career. 

  • Influencers educate the youth about higher education by providing advice, resources, and helpful tips for navigating college life.

Social media has changed the game when it comes to networking, gaining valuable career-building skills, and finding support. Millennials turn to social media first for valuable resources on topics such as financial aid, scholarships, internships, housing, career advice, and more. 

Many influencers present on the most popular social media platforms can be beneficial to those dealing with issues such as college applications, state-specific rules regarding classes, etc.

Are there any risks involved in following the advice of social media influencers?

Yes! You need to learn to take everything being told with a grain of salt and try to sieve the truth from rumors. Still, most social media influencers become ‘experts’ by imparting valuable and trustworthy information because that’s the only way to earn a ‘loyal’ following.

On Reddit, you can find several subreddits that students can use. One example is r/colleges which allows users to ask questions about college life and receive feedback from current students. The site even has a moderator, /u/slumlordpsyduck, who offers personal advice on certain situations. Reddit also hosts other subreddits such as r/scholarships, r/fafsahelp, and r/financialaid.

Twitter has many college-oriented accounts that are run by current students who offer advice on topics such as classes, grades, professors, internships, scholarship opportunities, and even housing. One example is @UoPeople which is the official Twitter account for the University of the People. The University of the People is a tuition-free online school located in Pasadena, California. Another example is @mellon_aid which provides financial support information to students attending college.

Besides, YouTube and Facebook are also favorite haunts of social media influences that can offer some good advice on making the most of your college life.

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  • Social media influencers are a new and better way to get information about higher education.

There is a lot of information available on the internet, and social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. provide us with easy access to those information sources that share their knowledge and experiences. But getting good information about any topic remains a challenge.

Bombarded with so much information, it becomes difficult for students to sieve through all of it and learn what they need and want to know. Social media influencers in higher education distill information that students actually use while making crucial academic and career decisions in their lives.

They may offer more personal updates to Facebook users on social activities and news about what’s happening in colleges. Or offer ‘expert advice’ or ‘celebrity recommendations’ on Twitter. 

Most social media platforms require a person to create a profile and express his or her views and opinions about various topics. Hence, the social media influencer’s reputation is at stake while sharing any piece of information. Thus, they try to be as accurate as possible. Latest updates, unbiased opinions, and expert views on higher education and different career fields are some of the USPs which define the success of social media influencers.

  • Social media influencers are often more relatable than traditional University professors.

In a new study, researchers from Stanford University have found that social media influencers are more relatable than university professors. The results of the three-year-long project suggest that online personalities can be just as, if not more relevant to today’s youth, than their teachers and parents.

“We were simply blown away”, said Dr. Greg Matthews, lead researcher of the project. “We expected to find that students were more likely to look up to their lecturers, but in fact, they had much more respect for online personalities.” 

“The influence these people had on our participants was remarkable”, he added.

One particular social media influencer who has seen an enormous increase in followers in recent months is blogger and vlogger, Alfie Deyes.

“Alfie has almost 4 million subscribers on YouTube,” said Matthews. “And we found that the more students watched his content, the more likely they were to perform badly in our tests.”

The study also looked at how university lecturers fared when pitted against popular YouTubers, such as Zoe Sugg, and Tyler Oakley.

“Not only did the participants find the influencers more relatable,” continued Matthews. “But they also reported feeling like they were learning more from them than their instructors.”

Although many universities are beginning to understand the influence of online personalities in today’s society, others are less convinced. “It’s not that we don’t understand the importance of these people,” said Dr. Abigail Everett, head of the University Of Surrey’s sociology department. “But I really don’t think they’re better role models than us.”

“The students trust me,” she added confidently. “They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t.”

  • Social media influencers can help guide and advice the youth on their future careers.

This is a very interesting study from Brigham Young University. By now you have probably seen those YouTube videos of famous people just hanging out and talking about their lives, or what it’s like being so-and-so. 

Most of the time these celebrities aren’t even saying anything useful – you know, they’re just being interviewed by some guy who has to ask them a million questions because, you know, it’s what we ‘the people’ want.

But this new research from Brigham Young University is suggesting that these interviews can actually be useful in helping us decide what career we should pursue.

They interviewed some students and got their feedback:

  • It was much less embarrassing than getting advice from my Mom.
  • I got to learn more than I might get by reading a blog or an article.
  • It was much less formal than getting advice from a career counselor.
  • And it felt like they were talking directly to me, not at me.

The idea is that we often look for guidance when we’re launching ourselves into the workforce after college because, well, it’s scary to go out there not knowing how you’re going to make your way in life.


But who are we supposed to get advice from? Our friends and family might only have the perspective of knowing us personally -and that knowledge isn’t always useful when deciding which career path is best for us.

I mean, I know I don’t want to work in a coal mine, but my Dad is probably going to suggest that career because he worked in a coal mine for his entire life and it didn’t do him any harm.

But celebrities and influencers on social media can give more of an objective perspective: they’re more removed from us so they might be more likely to give us more useful advice. 

For example, when people post videos of their careers it can be an inspiration for students who are trying to figure out what they want to do in life.

  • They create communities of like-minded people who all want the same thing.

With a huge following in their field of expertise, the communities built by social media influencers offer several benefits to students of the field.  They offer engagement with like-minded people, not drowning in a pool of “noise”. Benefits of joining a like-minded community on social media include:

  1. Building Trust: When people engage with you, they need to know who you are and what you stand for. If people feel like they know you, they’ll trust you. It opens up new opportunities for you – including job opportunities and business partnerships.
  2. Grow Popularity: When people engage with your ideas and work and like it, they are more likely to tell you about new jobs or internship opportunities in their fields. They may offer you references and/or ask their friends to help you.
  3. Connect with People you may have lost touch with: We all have old schoolmates, college buddies, seniors, teachers, professors, and long-lost relatives that we want to talk to again. Social media communities are a perfect way to find those who share our career interests or work in similar fields, and engage with them.
  4. Get More Likes: When people know you, they are more likely to like your posts, blogs, or tweets. This means free advertising for you! Working on ‘You’ as a brand or as an expert can reap huge rewards for you later in life.
  5. Ask Questions or Get Feedback: Once you start engaging with people, they are more likely to answer your questions, offer the latest things happening in your field, and get feedback on projects, essays, or research papers you are working on.
  6. Network with Like-Minded People: This is the main reason why social media is powerful! When you engage with like-minded people, they will be more likely to share your content and links – which means even more exposure for you! This can help you grow your career or your business exponentially.


  1. Grow your Social Authority: As you grow your following and engage with more people, this will indicate that you know what you’re doing and that their friends will want to follow you too! This is a key factor in social media – an authority on the subject. Hiring managers often look at candidates’ social media profiles to see if they are a good fit for their organization or not. If you engage consistently with social media influencers’ communities in your field, it will make a great impression!
  2. Increase in Linkedin Connections: This is quite simple. When people follow you on social media, they are more likely to click your links when they see them on LinkedIn!
  • They offer an unbiased perspective on college life and the whole experience.

When choosing a college, what factors do you take into consideration? Price or location? Maybe world rankings or student satisfaction ratings? What about the availability of your favorite cereal at the dining halls? 

Nowadays, with social media playing an integral role in our everyday lives, more and more people are using influencers to help guide their decisions on where to apply to college.

Several colleges are now partnering with social media influencers in an effort to attract potential students who want information about what life is really like on campus, but do not have the time or resources to visit themselves. Colleges are known for their extremes—from all-night study sessions at libraries to crazy late-night parties. But how do you know what to believe?

Nowadays, more and more people are using influencers to help guide their decisions on where to apply.

A few examples of the newest wave of influencer marketing include:

  • Back in May 2018, Arizona State University partnered with Woofie, a basset hound with 130,000 Instagram followers, to attract potential students with a video about the school. 
  • Just last month, Miami University in Ohio signed on 20-year-old social media star Jory Boylan to share photos and videos of his favorite places at the college. 
  • Earlier this year, Instagram fitness guru Amanda Lee partnered up with James Madison University for an Instagram challenge to spread awareness for the college.

While these influencers may not be the most credible sources of information for where you should apply, they can help guide your decision-making process and give you an inside look into what college is like across the country.

  • Traditional universities may not offer courses that align with a particular student’s interests or needs, but social media influencers do. 

It is cheaper for most people to attend college remotely through social media influencer-led courses rather than going through traditional channels like community colleges and four-year institutions because they don’t need transportation costs, housing costs, textbooks, etc., so tuition fees are $5000-$10000 per year instead of $25000-$35000 per year at a four-year institution.

So, you’re thinking of taking a course, but have no idea where to start. You can’t decide which is best. Where should you turn?

You may have already considered the likes of Harvard University or Cambridge University for your undergraduate degree, but what about some other options? Why not choose an online learning platform instead?

Well-known names within the education industry such as Coursera, Futurelearn, and University of London International Programmes are just three of the popular online courses you can sign up for.

However, if you’re looking to be wowed by your educational experience, then meet some social media influencer-led courses.

Let’s start with Salman Khan from Khan Academy.

Salman Khan is a former hedge fund analyst who quit his job to spend more time with his cousin Nadia. Nadia had been having trouble with maths at school and so Salman began tutoring her in the subject over email, using basic calculations filmed in front of his bathroom mirror.

After posting these videos online, he was inundated with requests from people asking for help with their schoolwork too. From here, the Khan Academy was born.

Salman’s videos are bite-sized and usually three to six minutes long so it’s easy for you to fit them into your day. He also makes use of different colors, diagrams, charts, and sounds effects which keep things interesting throughout.

His courses include lessons on art history, personal finance, and computer science.

Next up is Lachy from Inner West London Tutors.

Lachy’s journey began when he entered the University of Sussex to study philosophy. But, after struggling with his own studies, he learned that an incredible number of students ended up dropping out of their degree course each year.

This inspired him to set up his own tutoring business, which would be based around the philosophy of getting people engaged in their learning.

Lachy’s courses focus on personal development and employ strategies such as active listening, memory techniques, and note-taking so you can learn at a steady pace without feeling overwhelmed.

Finally, Mary from London Business Mentoring! 

Mary was a talented university student who decided to put her studies on hold after she got married. But, when it came time to return years later, she had trouble adjusting and found many of the students around her were much younger than she was.

However, this didn’t stop Mary from completing her degree and launching an incredible business. Now, she helps other people struggling with the same issues by running online courses for them to access whenever they like 

So, there you have it! With social media influencers taking over the world, now’s your chance to take advantage of these incredible learning opportunities.

  • With social media influencer’s help, they’ll be more confident in themselves and know what is best for their future.

Social media influencers are having a positive effect on young people’s self-esteem, according to new research. A study carried out by the University of Sydney has found that for millennials, exposure to online personalities can have an uplifting effect, making them feel happier about their own life.

The study surveyed 585 18-to-29-year-olds. Participants were asked how frequently they came into contact with social media personalities, through platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. They were also asked to rate their own life satisfaction on a scale of one to 10, before and after the questionnaire.

The results found that millennials who had more frequent contact with social media influencers experienced an increase in self-esteem, while their life satisfaction levels increased by an average of 0.6 points.

“Our data suggest that social media influencers are seen as a source of peer-based information and advice, and many young people regard them as more attainable, relevant role models than traditional celebrities,” says Dr. Tara Marshall, who led the study.

Dr. Marshall says the rise in popularity of millennial social media personalities highlights a growing desire for authenticity among social media users.

“Research has already shown that young people are more likely to trust peer recommendations from people they know – or at least think they know – than advertisements from a faceless corporate brand (or a university).”

The study also found that millennials’ choice of influencer was influenced by how aspirational they were, as well as their age and gender. “Interestingly, we also found that men are more likely to be influenced by male social media influencers, while women are more likely to be influenced by both male and female social media influencers,” she says.

“Millennials who have a preference for more aspirational influencers prefer those who excel in particular fields or activities,” Dr. Marshall says. “For example, those with a preference for musicians as influencers preferred those who sing and play musical instruments, while those with a preference for comedians as influencers preferred those who perform stand-up comedy.”


Top 10 Social Media Influencers in the field of Higher Education


Some of the most popular social media influencers in the field of higher education are:

  1. Neil Degrasse Tyson (@ NeilTyson)

The Science Guy has a YouTube show called Star Talk in which he answers questions from fans about science. He also happens to have more than five million Twitter followers. Neil Degrasse Tyson is a favorite among the younger generation of social media users and his posts about space, science, and philosophy have earned him a place on this list.

  1. Susan Wojcicki (@ SusanWojcicki)

The Chief Executive Officer of YouTube is also active on Google Plus and Twitter in which she shares her views about technology, business, careers and even parenting tips for new parents. Wojcicki has 4 million followers and Forbes actually named her one of the Most Powerful Women in Business on its 2012 list.

  1. Scott Galloway (@ ScottGalloway)

A professor at New York University Stern Business School and founder of L2, a business intelligence firm that does research on digital innovation. Scott Galloway is the author of The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. He has more than 120,000 followers and his posts focus on marketing and other aspects related to the world of business.

  1. Connie Malamed (@ ConnieMalamed)

A professor in the Information School at the University of Washington, she has a blog called Instructional Innovation and Collaboration where she shares ideas about education and technology. On Twitter, Connie Malamed’s posts tend to be short and sweet which is why this educator has more than 9,000 followers.

  1. Michael Wesch (@ michaelwesch)

A cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University who has gained so much fame on YouTube that he now works with the university’s public affairs office. He posts videos about technology and culture which have earned him more than 150,000 subscribers on his YouTube Channel.

  1. Dave Cormier (@ DaveCormier)

A professor in the Department of Educational Technology at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada, Dave has a blog called Digital Identity and posts about how education can be transformed by technology. He also hosts the show ITwalk on YouTube where he discusses what’s happening in technology.

  1. PBS Idea Channel (@ PBSIdeaChannel)

A YouTube series that provides critical analysis on popular culture and entertainment. The show is hosted by Mike Rugnetta who also has an email newsletter called Idea Channel Weekly which shares links related to higher education for its subscribers every week. The show has more than 500,000 subscribers and posts are usually short and entertaining.

  1. Dr. Michelle Nelson-Schmidt (@ MNSchmidt)

A professor, researcher, and director of the Community Informatics Research Lab at the University of Michigan School of Information. She is also a member of several boards including those for the Association of Internet Researchers and the International Network for Community Informatics. Michelle Nelson-Schmidt has more than 300,000 followers on Twitter and her posts are usually shared among people who work in the field of technology and higher education.

  1. Tressie McMillan Cottom (@ tressiemcphd)

A sociology professor, blogger, and author of Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy. She is also a faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she serves as Director of the Digital Learning Lab. On her blog, Tressie writes about the challenges going to college in America can bring which is why she has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter.

  1. Glenn Greenwald (@ glenngreenwald)

He’s an author and a columnist for The Guardian who often uses his platform to share critical opinions about American politics. He also posts educational videos on YouTube and the posts he shares are usually longer which is why this journalist has more than 310,000 followers on Twitter.  

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September 27, 2021

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