Student Brand Reps Usher in the Era of Micro-influencing

Caroline Grogan, Contributing Writer

In a world where Kylie Jenner makes up to one million dollars per sponsored Instagram post, it can seem like there is no place for influencers who have not already amassed a grandiose following.

However, a growing number of NYU students are amongst those leading the charge in what is known as micro-influencing. Well-known brands are starting to tap into the college student demographic with the intent of marketing their various products, services and deals in a more direct and personal way.

“I definitely think that there’s a big push for small Instagram influencers right now because there are so many large accounts that just feel like ads. Brands are really interested in seeing what creative college students come up with,” said Tisch junior Kendall Bowden, a brand ambassador for Rent the Runway.

Claire Wright, a CAS junior who has worked in public relations and marketing, noticed brands started reaching out to her through Instagram when her personal brand grew.

“I was Miss Washington USA a couple years back, so I gained a larger following, and from that, brands started reaching out to me. It just kind of happened,” Wright said.

Wright, who has nearly 6,500 Instagram followers, first partnered with FitTea. Since then, she has done a number of collaborations and ambassador programs.

“Right now I’m working with this company called Fithouse,” Wright said. “It’s a gym around the NoHo area, and they’re having me be an ambassador for it, so with that, I get a free membership for a couple months, and I just post about them every time I go.”

These perks can be an attractive selling point for college students. As a Rent the Runway brand ambassador, Bowden gets to pick out a monthly wardrobe that she then incorporates into her sponsored posts and Instagram stories.

Before she applied to work with Rent the Runway, Bowden participated in a four-week Back to School Social Influencer Program with Staples, for which she was paid four hundred dollars and received a gift card to purchase school supplies.

As a part of the Staples program, Bowden shared two Instagram stories and one post per week with her 1,200 followers. At first, many of her friends thought her posts with #Staples in the caption were elaborate jokes.

“People thought I got sponsored by Staples halfway through, but I was working with them the whole time,” Bowden said.

While students like Wright and Bowden have been contacted by brands, people who work for Bumble have found out about ambassador opportunities through friends.

NYU alumna YouMe Lin, a student blogger and influencer with 20,000 Instagram followers, began working as a City Representative for Bumble after friends encouraged her to go through the application and interview process.

“I work in the fashion industry, and many of my friends are Bumble community managers, so I did know people in the Bumble network already,” Lin said.

For these reps, there is a focus on in-person marketing in addition to more typical social media outreach.

GLS first-year McKenna Dunworth, who was introduced to Bumble through her sister and friends, started working as a brand ambassador this semester. Her job includes posting on social media as well as generating interest in Bumble at events.

“We’ve hosted bar tabs where we contact a bar, they approve us, we go there with a roll of drink tickets and if you download Bumble, you get a ticket. We have giant tables with Bumble merch, and anyone can come by and grab it. We also hosted an event on a girl’s rooftop, and we all had a ball talking with our friends and meeting a bunch of new people,” Dunworth said.

Similarly to Bumble, Red Bull also hires college students who fit into their personal brand.

“What you see on the outside of Red Bull as a fun, interesting, individualist brand is actually what’s going on inside. I thought it was a corporation really trying to maintain their image, but they just hire people that are already that image,” said Anthony Dowsett, a CAS first-year working as a student brand manager.

Dowsett’s job is one of the more regimented brand rep programs; he is required to work fifteen hours per week and is paid fifteen to eighteen dollars an hour to act as a liaison between Red Bull and college students and clubs.

“I would say it’s definitely worth it as a job, because it’s this weird in-between role of being an internship where you learn a lot about marketing, a job where you actually get paid as well as this type of social experience that’s not as hard as a job or internship because the work is enjoyable,” Dowsett said.

Email Caroline Grogan at [email protected]

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