Cost of College, Meet the Rise of Social InfluencersBut with Millennial and Gen Z’s college-debt challenge, comes a weird and timely solution. According to Pew Research, Millennials are considered those born from 1981-1996 and “the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.” Business Insider classifies Gen Z as the youngest and largest generation in American History born after 1997. The childhood of both Millennial and Gen Z has been spent immersed in social mediums like YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. Time may have placed both generations in a pricey higher-education era, but these students have put their tech-savvy skills to use leveraging social platforms to conquer college debt. A new era of visual influence is happening – More and more students have started to use their social media influence to offset the rising costs of college. According to a Forbes article, platforms like YouTube are on the rise–“60% are daily YouTube users.” Today’s college-bound high schoolers and current college students have an abundance of social apps that allow them to connect and promote their social audience following.
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How Kool-Aid, YouTube Gave Katie Her StartKatie Legate, a 2017 Communication Studies graduate at the University of Central Missouri, is no stranger to the power of social media. With more than 99,000 YouTube subscribers today, she’s a prime example of how her generation is creatively using their tech skills to become profitable social influencers. As a high school freshman, Katie began YouTubing in 2009. For her, posting YouTube videos started out as a hobby. In 2012, her DIY Kool-Aid Hair Dye video went viral. This led to an increase in followers and a recognition boom—Katie was now a social media influencer. Her viral video opened the door for a partnership with StyleHaul. With the help of her viral video and new partnership, Katie started to see a substantial amount of money coming in monthly. As Katie grew, her YouTube channel transitioned too. Once she began college, her makeup tutorials shifted focus to college life. Katie said, “My entire three years at UCM was documented thanks to my YouTube channel. I had a vlog series my senior year called ‘My College Life.’” Katie’s 2014 Dorm Room Tour has over 200K views, and is still watched today. During her freshman year of college, she was earning approximately $700-$1,000 per month from YouTube monetization. She used a large portion of this income to pay her college tuition.
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Social Media Monetization, Expansion Looks Like ThisIn a recent U.S. News article detailing similar student stories, the profit structure and ways to increase revenue are explained. In order to begin monetization, a YouTuber must have more than 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 valid public watch hours in a year. The article states, after these metrics have been met, “Creators can then earn a percentage of the ad revenue generated by video views through Google AdSense, but to maximize income, creators recommend diversifying revenue streams.” Katie follows a similar tactic to expand her brand and promote her YouTube channel using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. She considers the integration of multiple social mediums a great way to connect with her viewers on a personal level. Katie explained, “Many of my viewers are people I consider my friends now thanks to other social media platforms.” The latest trendy social platform she has explored is TikTok. Katie shares the only trophy she’s received, the YouTube 100,000 Followers award, in this fun TikTok video. While she doesn’t use it too often yet, Katie points out, “It’s an awesome platform with an algorithm that gives anyone the opportunity to go viral.”
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