Want to be an influencer? Here’s one place to start

Like many people of her generation,
Adeyoju dreams of becoming an influencer: a catchall for anyone who makes money
by posting about products on social media. There are some hurdles, though. For
one: Adeyoju has just over 700 followers on Instagram. Many influencer
marketing platforms, in which content creators connect with brands, require a
minimum follower count in the thousands for admission.

Back in November, she heard from a
mutual friend about 28 Row, a new app that had no such requirement. All she
needed was a .edu email address.

The app is meant to be a place for
college women to connect over shared interests, and for many of them, social
media influencing is a big one. Adeyoju said in a phone interview that 28 Row
“has really introduced me to a lot of new faces, a lot of diversity when it
comes to influencers and content creators.”

These days, there are all kinds of
resources devoted to the business of influencing — not just sites where
creators and brands can broker relationships but also life coaching services
and networks focused on pay equity in the industry. What differentiates 28 Row
is its user base: The network is specifically for college women.

Cindy Krupp and Janie Karas, founders of
28 Row, knew from the start that they wanted to focus on students. In 2018, they
recruited 20 college influencers and connected them with several brands that
are popular with young women: elf Cosmetics, H&M and Monday Haircare. The
company’s influencer marketing platform went live a year later.

“Brands are dying to reach this demographic,”
Krupp, a public relations veteran, said in a Zoom interview. (Karas started as
her assistant at Krupp Group, the communications agency that Krupp founded in
2005.) “It is very labour intensive to vet them, find them and create the
network. And I think a lot of brands want the access but don’t have the
infrastructure to build out a team to find this network.”

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Krupp, 48, and Karas, 28, were inspired
to make a social app after the members of the influencer network asked to be
connected in a group chat.

“They talked about everything from ‘The
Bachelor’ to ‘What are you wearing to formal?’ ” Krupp said. “We really had
that ‘aha!’ moment, that this was built to be something different than where we
were at that point.”

The app, which became widely available
in September, has about 1,500 members. Not all of them are budding influencers,
although many are. The members who are part of 28 Row’s influencer network are
referred to as “social butterflies”; on the app, each of them has a star next
to her user name.

Megan Parmelee, 25, who joined 28 Row’s
influencer network, said that what makes it different from other platforms for
influencers is the opportunity to meet like-minded people.

“It’s a lot of people coming together
for kind of a common purpose and with a common goal, and that is to just kind
of bask in this realm of social media that is the content creation world,” said
Parmelee, a graduate student in the physician assistant program at Clarkson
University in Potsdam, New York.

“I joined because I want to grow my
network,” she added, “and it’s just nice to be able to share what I’ve learned
along the way.”

Christian Hughes, a marketing professor
at the University of Notre Dame who focuses on digital media, said that new
apps like 28 Row may help users deal with the “trials and tribulations” of
online life.

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“Influencers are really under constant
speculation and observation and trolls and a lot of negativity,” she said. “And
there’s a lot out there that’s indicating that social media can be rough on
mental health.”

Hughes was alluding to documents
published by The Wall Street Journal that revealed the extent to which Facebook
knew about Instagram’s negative effects on teenage girls.

“I think it’ll give these women a little
bit more kind of support,” she said. “At least I would hope that it can give it
a lot more support.”

Karas and Krupp said they are working to
make sure that 28 Row fosters an inclusive, positive community.

College women as a whole, Karas said,
need a safe space away from the dominant social platforms.

“They need a safe place to support each
other and uplift each other,” she said.

© 2022 The New York Times Company

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