Arkansas Tech University now offers a program to study influencer marketing

With the dominance of social media and influencers worldwide, it’s not surprising to see Arkansas Tech University in Russellville introducing a new major centered on digital media and content creation.

The Bachelor of Arts in Digital Content Creation degree was approved during the summer and launched this fall at the university, according to Dr. David Eshelman, head of the Communication and Journalism department, as reported by USA TODAY.

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What does the program entail?

The program, offered under the Department of Communication and Media Studies, aims to prepare students for the “rapidly changing world of media production,” according to its official description.

“It provides students with experience in filmmaking, public relations, social media, and communication ethics,” stated the program description. “Students will develop the skills to coordinate and create content for social media efforts, whether for their own platforms or for employers.”

Dr. Eshelman, interviewed by Fox5 News, emphasized the changing educational landscape due to the technological revolution and the high demand for social media experts. This degree allows the university to address that market more directly.

“None of us could have predicted that our entire lives would fit into our pockets,” Dr. Eshelman remarked. “Every company requires a social media presence.”

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The program’s inception

The idea for this major originally emerged in the theatre department, shared Professor Frances Roberson, Director of Theatre and Film Production, in an interview with USA TODAY.

“This concept originated in the theatre program when we realized that we are educating students for a field that they will most likely have to leave Arkansas to pursue,” explained Roberson. “In reality, performance students in Arkansas face a disadvantage compared to those in New York or Los Angeles when it comes to traditional outlets. However, social media provides an equitable performance space.”

Alongside teaching performance and filmmaking skills, the department began incorporating social media strategies and business practices to offer students a significant advantage over others.

“That’s what makes our program unique. We approach it from the perspective of the performer/creator,” added Roberson.

A single class called “Social Media Influencing,” introduced within the theatre program in 2020, garnered considerable interest among students. As a result, the department expanded its offerings to include other related courses, blossoming into a program that offers a Bachelor of Arts and a Certificate of Proficiency in Digital Content Creation, as explained by Roberson.

Bailey Lavender, a social media influencer and hairstylist, turns on her lighting before going on Instagram live in her hair studio where she films most of her content on Aug. 23, 2023.

A unique program

Professor Roberson stated that their research did not uncover any other program quite like the one they had in mind.

“While there are several programs focusing on social media management, none combine the creative/performance aspect with the business/strategic component,” explained Roberson. “An unexpected location like a small town in Arkansas seemed to be the best way for us to serve our students.”

According to Roberson, the program has received a highly positive response and has attracted interest from individuals of all generations and backgrounds who recognize the significance of this skillset.

More than 50 million people identify themselves as “creators,” according to a Forbes article from August 2023, with Goldman Sachs estimating the value of the content creator economy at $250 billion in April 2023. The investment management firm predicts that the content creator economy will reach half a trillion dollars by 2027.

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