The 2010s will mainly be remembered as the decade technology subverted our preconceptions of pop culture.
It was the decade that saw the decline of the beloved platform Myspace, dozens of Vine users catapulted into fame, the progressive politicization of Twitter, and YouTube drama dominated magazine headlines.
But, most importantly, it was the decade where ”„influencing' became a ridiculously popular market ”V and a legitimate career choice for those wanting a taste of fame and fortune.
It's hard to remember a time when Instagram posts consisted of out-of-focus landscapes and cringeworthy selfies, and now it's even harder to scroll through your homepage without being completely inundated by ads for hair growth gummy bears and heavily Facetuned bikini photos from #gifted holidays in Bora Bora.
While nihilists might consider influencers as another product of soulless pop culture, we can't deny how much they have shaped business and the way we create and consume content.
From following makeup tutorials to tagging friends under Instagram posts in hopes to win a high-tech blender giveaway, we have all interacted with them in one way or another.A new era of marketing
While at the beginning of the 2010s the influencer sphere was quite elitist, the last few years have seen the growth of nanoinfluencers: relatable people who give out advice in their area of expertise to a smaller social media audience.
It's safe to say that the influencer market has exploded, becoming increasingly saturated with each passing year. For some people it might just be a hobby, but most mean business ”V and it shows.Earning the big bucks
Business Insider Intelligence predicts that the influencer market will be worth roughly £11.5bn (US$15bn) by 2022, a staggering £5bn (US$6.5bn) jump from 2019. It's unsurprising when you discover we live in a time where the wedding of the world's most famous fashion blogger, Milan-native Chiara Ferragni, generated more influencing revenue than Harry and Meghan's.
In October 2019, the Italian online university eCampus launched the world's first Influencer course as part of its wider Communications degree program. In three years and for roughly £10,000 (US$13,000), students will learn to navigate digital markets, deal with a wide range of brands and agencies, and communicate with audiences through different media.
The school's decision sparked heated debates in the country, with people claiming that an Influencer degree sounds a little too far-fetched for an industry that isn't yet fully formed or regulated.Smart business
However, influencer marketing shows no signs of slowing down. In 2019 alone, nearly two-thirds of all marketers increased their spending to make room for social media partnerships.
In the UK, 40 percent of marketers allocated their budget to influencer campaigns, prioritizing smaller campaigns, while 49 percent of global consumers admitted to using influencer marketing to learn about new brands and products.
A degree in Influencer Marketing might not necessarily mean that all graduates will become influencers. After all, we've seen that getting a foot in the door doesn't require much (if any) training, or any particular education ”V perhaps a lucky combination of passion and resources (the Kardashians and "self-made" billionaire Kylie Jenner, the original influencer, instantly come to mind).
Nevertheless, we cannot deny that the influencer sphere has become a full-fledged professional industry, and that there's more to it than snapping a photo and posting it alongside a couple of hashtags.
It is not by chance that the US' Federal Trade commission (FTC) has recently updated its guidelines for the disclosure of brand partnerships, or that more and more influencer agencies and management companies have emerged in a short space of time. Managing digital business relations requires knowledge and expertise, something that influencers will understandably lack in many instances when the field becomes increasingly intricate.
This is when education should come into play.Future of education
Schools must keep up with ever-changing social shifts, no matter what they are to stay relevant and proactive. If social media and e-commerce are the future of business, then b-schools should provide students with the tools necessary to navigate them and succeed.
Back in 1970, musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron said that the revolution will not be televised. And while he might have been right at the time, we're definitely following it on Instagram now.