A university in Ireland is planning to offer what’s been dubbed the country’s ‘first’ degree in social media influencing, a decision that has attracted both praise and ridicule, with some people arguing the program is “useless”.
Carlow-based South East Technological University (SETU) will start accepting applications for the Bachelor of Arts in Content Creation and Social Media in November, according to the BBC. The first group of students are expected to start lessons in September 2024.
Teaching students to monetize influencing
According to the university’s website, the three-year program will cover a range of topics that include business skills, video and audio editing, critical cultural studies, and creative writing. It will also cover psychology, data analytics, podcasting, and what it calls “work experience.”
“Over the course of the program, you will learn to become an expert in social media theory and practice,” SETU says. “You will enlarge your talent for connecting with people who are interested in what you have to say.”
Eleanor O’Leary, a media and communications lecturer at the university, told the Irish public service broadcaster RTÉ that the social media influencer program is attracting interest from both employers and prospective students.
“It’s an area that has a specific set of skills,” she said. “It draws on existing media, PR, and marketing skills, but it’s a new area in and of itself as well.”
Graduates of the course will be able to work for themselves as self-employed influencers or create content for companies and organizations, O’Leary said. On its website, SETU details that other career options include journalism and digital design.
The university will work with students on how to keep an audience and make money from the practice.
“As someone who ‘stars’, creating content at home or by themselves, they may not have any understanding of that whole part of the industry where there are contracts, agencies, and businesses involved,” O’Leary explained.
Influencing, social media marketing, digital content writing, and strategizing have emerged as important business activities and socially vital in connecting people and ideas. The global influencer market is estimated to be worth between $14.6bn and $19.5bn, O’Leary told RTÉ.
Course divides opinion
The South East Technological University’s new content creation and social media degree has drawn mixed reactions from the market. Posting on X, formerly Twitter, academic and AI expert Mushtaq Bilal said:
“This is really great. Humanities programs that offer degrees like these will become relevant and profitable.”
The Southeast Technical University in Carlow, Ireland is offering a three-years BA degree in "Content Creation and Social Media."
This is a really great.
Humanities programs that offer degrees like these will become relevant and profitable.
Here's a semester-wise breakdown of…
— Mushtaq Bilal, PhD (@MushtaqBilalPhD) September 26, 2023
Speaking to MetaNews, Paris-based content creator and growth marketer Courage Kimber described the influencer degree offering as “smart” because of the “shift in how marketing and advertising are being done.”
“The creator economy cannot be ignored. Social media influencers are the new way to connect with audiences, specifically customers, and being able to navigate social media influence is a critical component to success in the current climate,” she said, adding:
“Influence has always been a highly sought-after skill that can propel people into positions of power.”
Continuing, Kimber said, “The fact that this institution is recognizing social media influence as an important skill to have tells me that they’re way ahead of the curve and understand where things are going.”
She spoke about the example of Mac Cosmetics and how quickly the company was “able to capitalize off a social media influencer tube girl, who is a self-proclaimed user” and fan of the firm’s products.
In fashion, Kimber said the Hadid sisters, Gigi and Bella, landed big-money shows not only because of their modelling skills, but also due to their large social media presence.
However, David Wolf, a science and technology enthusiast according to his bio on X, believes that the influencer degree course from SETU is “useless.” Wolf did not give reasons for his comments posted on X. We reached out to Wolf, who has not yet responded to us.