When the work of influencers is taught at university

Hard to ignore, influencers are everywhere on our social networks promoting everything and nothing, generating great income. Has their marketing know-how made it into the classroom? The answer is unequivocal: impossible in 2022 to give a course in marketing without talking about influencers.

“Influencer marketing has become a common language in university teaching,” confirms Nour Elm, founder of Taam Studio, an influence marketing agency specializing in the promotion of diversity.

Rightly so, content creators, as they are also called, have completely revolutionized the way brands reach consumers, observes Émilie Poirier, president of digital marketing agency Mixoweb.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, 49% of consumers are inspired by influencers to consume, and 40% of consumers have made a purchase after learning about them on social media.

That’s not all: 70% of teens trust influencers more than celebrities, 40% of millennials say their favorite influencer understands them better than their friends, and 86% of women use social media to seek reviews about their purchases.

“They have revolutionized consumer communication since they address a very specific audience. By making it possible to segment the target audience of companies, they simplify media placement, explains Émilie Poirier. Also, they give the impression that you can enter their life, which interests people. It’s our voyeuristic side. Companies are transposing this to their scale. People like this sense of transparency and companies benefit from being transparent.”

Not yet at full potential

While it is common for professors at the university to talk about influence strategy, Nour Elm, who completed her master’s degree in e-commerce at HEC Montréal in 2020, still believes that the lessons deserved to be refined. to be more in tune with current reality.

How do we pay an influencer, how do we determine the value of what he or she does, how much is a photo, a storyetc., « the teachers weren’t able to go into these details because it’s relatively new, » she explains.

However, there are training courses for professionals in communication and public relations that go more in depth. Thara Tremblay-Nantel, President and Founder of Thara Communications has been a trainer at Grenier Formation for five years and teaches an influencer marketing course that dissects the work of influencers from A to Z. Training given via webcast that exists for eight years.

According to her, a marketing student must absolutely know how it works before entering the job market.

“Social networks are not a passing phenomenon. It is sure that it will evolve, you have to follow the trends of the platforms, not to let yourself be overtaken. If we don’t get on the train, it will go straight, » she says.


“It took some time to publish scientific articles that talk about influencers,” says Renato Hübner Barcelos, professor of marketing at UQAM. It started from 2014-2015, but in the last three or four years, there has been an explosion and a lot more research is being done on the subject.

We teach in particular how to integrate them into a marketing strategy, what are the advantages, the disadvantages, and the ways to optimize their impact. “When we talk about virality, brand management, crisis management, online advertising, social media algorithm, we mention [inévitablement] influencers,” says the UQAM professor.

Obviously, it is difficult for a teacher to talk about influencers without mentioning certain risks. If they get bad press – remember the epic of travelers on their way to Tulum – it also taints the companies with which they are associated.

The course of things

Despite the greater place they occupy in the school curriculum, the birth of influencers has not meant that old marketing lesson plans have been thrown in the trash, insists marketing professor Sandrine Prom Tep. “It is marketing that is taught, taking into account and now including the phenomenon of influencers.”

It’s the same thing each time a new phenomenon linked to the emergence of a new technology shows up: it will necessarily be integrated into the curriculum, without the pedagogy necessarily being modified.

In this regard, Thara Tremblay-Nantel believes it is important to keep up with trends in marketing education, be it influencers, podcast or even the metaverse, « without neglecting what has proven its worth, such as TV and radio ».

« The important thing is to know the ecosystem of communication well, » she believes.

But even if they are mentioned in class, influencers are currently not coming to teach in class, according to the experts interviewed by Subway.

“I have never invited any. I want to avoid individual promotion, but I invite people specialized in content or influence marketing,” explains Sandrine Prom Tep.

Outside the school benches, there are also certain training courses, such as those of E-influence, a company founded by Quebec content creators Cindy Cournoyer and Lucie Rhéaume.

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