University in Italy is Offering a Degree Program In Influencing?

Yes, you read that right. eCampus, an online university with a roster of over 30,000 students, will now offer a three year degree program for social media influencing. It’s a marked shift away from traditional degree programs such as engineering or medicine, but it’s nonetheless a popular pathway for many young people. Is this new program beneficial for today’s environment of heavy reliance on social media influencers, or will it only encourage further forays into narcissism and poor self-esteem typically brought about by excessive time spent on social media?

Such is the perceived impact of such a program that soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is supporting the program himself, even offering up nearly 40 grants for students as a part of his endorsement of the school.

According to Bloomberg, this degree program is intended to fill in gaps in education that are common among young people. In Italy, the unemployment rate for young people has spiked considerably, leading to the creation of more non-traditional pathways in hopes of spurring some educational motivation.

As a part of the degree program, students will learn the ins and outs of topics such as fashion psychology, TV history, and the philosophy of language. The intent of the program is to give students a chance to learn the “art” of influence and turn it into viable marketable skills.

Is this a program worth taking a look at, as a student? It depends. The economic outlook for influencer marketing is still rather substantial, as more and more brands are hopping on board to hire influential personalities to promote their products and services. Even Cristiano Ronaldo’s endorsement of eCampus is a form of influencer marketing — so clearly there is potential in this line of work.

But opponents of this concept may argue that encouraging young, malleable minds to subject themselves to more scrutiny on the internet can be more damaging than helpful. It’s true — the effects of social media validation (or lack thereof) and the constant pressure to show off perfection can be too much for some. Encouraging young people to enter into this industry is risky, and one would only hope that somewhere in the curriculum for this program is a course on social psychology and the effects of too much reliance on the internet.

One major benefit of going through this program, particularly those who naturally gravitate towards marketing in general, will be the educational opportunities around the topics of branding and marketing. After all, influencer marketing is a sub-form of digital marketing, and cultivating a thorough understanding of this idea will be helpful for a graduate in future endeavors.

Time will tell if the influencer degree program turns out to be successful and/or beneficial for students, or it will just be another money grab for unsuspecting and naive youth. What this development does tell us, however, is that the influencer marketing industry continues to grow and evolve, and those wishing to capitalize on the trend would benefit from learning the way the industry works before diving in headfirst.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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