Social media influencers balance academics and content creation – The Williams Record
Tucked away in a corner of Massachusetts and set in the tranquil Berkshire Mountains, the College feels nothing but secluded. However, despite the appearance of isolation offered by the Purple Bubble, the College does have its fair share of famous people. An early morning class walk can lead to a surprise encounter with a valued faculty member or guest speaker – if you’re lucky enough, you might even meet President Maud S. Mandel.
But perhaps the most unexpected on college’s famous people list are social media influencers. The routine of attending classes creates a certain banality that makes physical interaction with an Instagram star unlikely, especially if she has tens of thousands of subscribers. Nevertheless, they walk among us. For the purposes of this article, we’ve defined an influencer as anyone with more than 20,000 followers on a popular social media platform. The Save spoke with three students to learn more about how their experiences with Internet fame intersect with their experiences in college.
The content created by social media influencers at the College reflects the diversity of backgrounds and interests celebrated here. Alicia Blanco ’21 .5, who has over 28,000 Instagram followers (@aliciablanco), bases her platform on lifestyle and fashion content. “I started posting on social media when I was very young because I started modeling when I was very young,” Blanco said. “This has led to brands reaching out and sort of creating content for themselves and their products.”
Yeldana Talgatkyzy ’25, who has over 20,000 Instagram followers (@ya_yeldana), began by posting tips and useful information for college applications. Talgatkyzy is from Kazakhstan, where she said information on the application process for domestic and foreign universities is highly inaccessible for students living in rural areas. This problem is further exacerbated by the dissemination of information available only in Russian, despite the fact that most rural students speak only Kazakh, according to Talgatkyzy.
Talgatkyzy, who is fluent in Kazakh, decided to take matters into his own hands by sharing his university application experience on social media. She wrote exclusively in Kazakh in the hope of increasing access for rural students. “I started on my gap year last year,” Talgatkyzy said. “I wrote mainly about academic applications, productivity and studies. “
Aylen Park ’23 also started posting content last year. Park, who has over 360,000 followers on TikTok (@aylennpark), began by posting a lip-syncing video to a popular song by Chance the Rapper. She attributes the virality of the video to its ability to speak three languages: Korean, Spanish and English. “People were doing voiceovers in their native language, and I did Spanish because it’s my native language,” Park said. “I’m from Argentina… but obviously I’m Asian too. i think people [were] just intrigued because, for example, why does an Asian person sing in Spanish? “
After her viral debut, Park said she shifted the focus of her content from participating in popular TikTok trends to sharing food videos. “I’m naturally drawn to food,” Park said. “It’s really easy to show different cultures with their food, and the way my platform really developed was cooking videos with my mom. “
In a TikTok, she made japchae, a Korean dish, with her mother while speaking all three languages. At the time of this article’s publication, the video has 1.9 million views.
Since the start of the fall semester, the three influencers have struggled to keep up their normal pace of content creation between extracurricular activities, homework and exams. Blanco, who is on the volleyball team, had to prioritize school and sport by suspending his Instagram posts. “I can’t go to school and volleyball and stuff,” Blanco said.
Talgatkyzy echoed Blanco’s sentiment about the difficulty of creating content in school. “At the moment, I’m not really producing that much useful content,” Talgatkyzy said. “It’s more about my life in Williamstown. It’s harder to make an effort to write stuff because I have a lot of work here.
Another challenge for influencing while you’re in college is the remote location of Williamstown. For Park, much of his content creation stems from branding deals that often require travel off campus. Last year, she was able to devote more time to her partnerships as she was studying remotely at her home in Argentina. “When I have branded offers, I have to shoot a video, for example, in a store promoting the brand,” says Park. “I [was] able to drive there and go to the mall and things. So, since I can’t do that here, it was quite difficult. I have already had to cancel two trademark agreements.
Despite the change of pace in her content creation, Park is happy with her professional development. With a degree in economics, she hopes to apply her experience in developing her brand to a potential career in marketing analysis. “Part of influencing social media is learning certain skills like negotiating or analyzing analytics and seeing how I can optimize the marketing of my own brand, my name,” Park said. “It uses a lot of regression lines to actually analyze the data.”
Most of the time, Park said she wanted to use her platform for fun and capture memories. “I think I literally share a little piece of my life,” Park said. “I love food. I love visiting restaurants. I think it’s just another way to make friends.