Wed, 20 Nov 2019

All the Chiara Ferragni wannabes in Italy now have a college degree program to hone the Instagramming skills that made her one of the world's top fashion "influencers".

The online university eCampus, which is being promoted by football star Cristiano Ronaldo, is offering a new, three-year program to earn a degree in social media influencing. Ronaldo, who is featured in the college's new publicity campaign, is also funding 36 student grants as part of his commitment.

The aim of the degree is to "fill the current educational gap" and to help students gain the technical skills needed to pursue a career as an influencer, the Italy-based university said on its website. The eCampus degree will offer classes in fashion psychology, semiotics and the philosophy of language, TV history, intercultural communication and information technology, among others. The institution, which also offers degrees in Engineering, Law, Arts and Psychology, has more than 30 000 students, according to its website.

The ranks of bloggers, Instagrammers and You-Tubers with enough followers to earn a living as influencers are swelling. Companies, brands and even countries are increasingly trying to tap into that social media exposure by offering influencers lucrative marketing contracts. The success of Ferragni's The Blonde Salad, the world's most popular fashion blog, even became a case study at Harvard Business School.

Ferragni, probably the most well-known Italian influencer globally, boasts 17.5 million followers on Instagram. Last month a three-day run in Italy of a documentary about her life took in more 1.6 million euros and was the most watched documentary movie in the country.

"Many people have misinterpreted the fact that trying to be an influencer and knowing how to work with influencer marketing and personal branding are not the same thing," Maurizio Pasquetti, head of marketing at eCampus, said in a phone interview. "There is specific and technical knowledge that you need to master."

The news of the degree program sparked an intense debate on social media in Italy, with people challenging the idea of an influencer as a profession. Many also praised the offer as it can help young and inexperienced people develop marketable skills in a country where youth unemployment tops 27%.

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