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For many college students, becoming an influencer sounds like a perfect gig. Take something they love already, like fashion, sports, or travel, and dive deep into it; post entertaining content about it that gets people to respond positively, which feels good; set your own schedule for creating and posting content; and then, perhaps best of all, get paid. It sounds amazing!

But how do they go about it?

For many would-be influencers, making the transition from uploading cute tidbits that their friends and family appreciate to attracting the thousands of followers that will lead marketers to pay to work with them is unknown, unfamiliar territory. In the gap, influencer marketing platforms have arisen, promising to link potential influencers with interested brands. But even these platforms tend to have minimum follower requirements, and the cutthroat competition can be overwhelming.

With a different approach, the 28 Row platform therefore specifically targets college-age women who want to make contacts with businesses but also seek supportive connections with other members of this cohort. Initially, the founders of the 28 Row application thought they could simply create a space for college-aged women to share common interests. But soon they realized that influencer marketing was a primary interest for many of the first participants, leading them to prioritize options that might help members build their influencer businesses.

To join the app, users must have an “.edu” email address, and they are strongly encouraged to engage in productive, supportive interactions with one another. Thus some more experienced influencers share tips and hints; others just getting started can ask questions specific to their needs. The platform managers also vet all applicants, to ensure their existing social media feeds offer compelling, high-quality content, rather than being overwhelmed with inauthentic or only sponsored posts.

The presence of this appealing demographic, all in one place, has brought various brands to the platform as well, including H&M, E.l.f. Cosmetics, and Monday Haircare. In addition, 28 Row promises to link the brands to the influencers that appear best suited to their specific campaign goals, such greater reach versus increased purchasing.

But the business goals are inseparable from the other elements that sets 28 Row apart. Noting evidence that social media can be particularly detrimental for the self-esteem and self-images of young women, the platform offers a determined commitment to creating a safe space. Influencers can learn, without judgment, and pursue their goals, to the benefit of themselves, their followers, and the brands that work with them.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What forms of help do influencers need to get started?
  2. If you decided to become an influencer professionally, what would your first steps be? How would you grow your followers, for example, and how would you find brands with which to partner?

Source: Gina Cherelus, “Want to be an Influencer? Here’s One Place to Start,” The New York Times, December 29, 2021; Kaley Roshitsh, “College Influencer Program, 28 Row, to Start this March,” WWD, March 19, 201