Can my daugh­ter be­come an In­sta­gram in­flu­encer?

Tanith Carey sent her daugh­ter to In­sta­gram’s ‘acad­emy’, train­ing so­cial me­dia stars of the fu­ture

The Daily Telegraph - - Family & Features -

On one wall of the “class­room” is a gi­ant neon sign; scat­tered nearby are bean­bags so deep you can hardly see the pupils re­clin­ing in them. For­get the old half-term ac­tiv­i­ties of drama work­shops or ten­nis camps: this is In­sta­gram’s “acad­emy”, de­signed to teach teenagers how to be­come so­cial me­dia stars.

The photo-shar­ing app is run­ning free half-term work­shops, from make-up tu­to­ri­als to comedy videos, to train would-be in­flu­encers in how to be­come an on­line suc­cess – Lily, my 16-year-old daugh­ter, among them. Its cur­ricu­lum cov­ers cam­era an­gles and how to make your con­tent “re­lat­able” – the sub­text be­ing that “vlog­ging”, or up­load­ing your own videos to so­cial me­dia to at­tract ad rev­enue and spon­sor­ship – is now a vi­able ca­reer path for young peo­ple.

One in three Bri­tish chil­dren aged six to 17 has am­bi­tions of be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional Youtu­ber, a poll last year found: three times the num­ber look­ing to be a doc­tor or nurse. By the time they reach 15, more than four out of 10 chil­dren are up­load­ing videos to the web, ac­cord­ing to the non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, In­ter­net Mat­ters.

Rack up a few vi­ral videos and you could join the ranks of Zoella, who has 11 mil­lion Youtube sub­scribers and an es­ti­mated net worth of £2.5 mil­lion. Such am­bi­tions may ran­kle for par­ents who want their chil­dren to knuckle down and get a “proper job”. But is in­flu­encer-based am­bi­tion so wrong?

Lily and I visit In­sta­gram’s pop-up in Shored­itch (where else?) to find out, at­tend­ing a comedy video work­shop taught by “con­tent cre­ators” from The Hook, a so­cial me­dia chan­nel with 10 mil­lion sub­scribers. The 15 pupils in at­ten­dance are tasked with mak­ing an im­pro­vised clip based on a Hal­loween theme, us­ing boxes of props. Tahli­atyger Zeck­ler, 17, was en­cour­aged to at­tend by a teacher from the Global Acad­emy in Hayes, Mid­dle­sex, whose aim is to ed­u­cate “young peo­ple who will go on and wow the world.

She is joined by school­mate Krys­tal D’an­jou who, in a previous era, would

‘In a previous era she’d be head girl – now she’s her school’s head of In­sta­gram’

have been head girl ma­te­rial – but now fills the role of her sec­ondary’s “head of In­sta­gram” in­stead, up­dat­ing the school’s on­line feed.

While they are ret­i­cent – shy, even – in per­son, this is a gen­er­a­tion that comes alive for the (smart­phone) cam­era. Lily uses her own In­sta­gram ac­count to post videos of her­self playing the vi­o­lin, which she sees as “a way to pro­mote my fu­ture ca­reer”. A friend of hers, mean­while, “got 1.1 mil­lion views just for film­ing her­self open­ing her 14th birthday presents. For many peo­ple my age, vlog­ging looks like the best job ever.”

The re­sult­ing clips shown at the end of our ses­sion are a mix of zany comedy skits from Harry Pot­ter’s Hal­loween party chat-up lines, to a wed­ding cer­e­mony be­tween Bat­man and Spi­der-man.

Could this con­tent pro­pel them to fu­ture star­dom? Su­nil Singhvi, In­sta­gram’s strate­gic part­ner­ships man­ager, hopes so. He’s here to en­cour­age them to get up­load­ing via a new fea­ture on the plat­form, IGTV, which al­lows users to film them­selves more eas­ily on their phones be­cause the for­mat is ver­ti­cal (as op­posed to need­ing to hold the phone land­scape).

Singhvi be­lieves it will be a wel­come ad­di­tion to a gen­er­a­tion who have al­ready “grown up with In­sta­gram”. The plat­form, which launched eight years ago which, “for a 16-year-old, is 50 per cent of their lives.’

Whether it will make them any money, how­ever, is an­other mat­ter: re­search by Math­ias Bartl, a pro­fes­sor at Ger­many’s Of­fen­burg Univer­sity of Ap­plied Sci­ences, found that 96.5 per cent of all those try­ing to be­come Youtube vlog­gers won’t make enough money out of ad­ver­tis­ing to live above the poverty line.

The re­mote odds mean lit­tle to those with their sights set on so­cial me­dia star­dom, says Pro­fes­sor Andy Phip­pen, Pro­fes­sor of So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity in IT at Ply­mouth Univer­sity, who vis­its schools to talk to young peo­ple about their in­ter­net us­age. “It used to be that chil­dren would say: ‘I want to be a foot­baller or a pop star’, now it’s ‘I want to be a Youtu­ber’.”

There’s noth­ing wrong with teach­ing young peo­ple to be cre­ative, he says, but high pro­file vlog­gers are not an ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of the in­dus­try at large. “The num­bers sim­ply don’t add up. Not ev­ery­one can be fa­mous.”

Can these Hal­lowe’en skits bring the likes of Lily, Thalia-tyger and Krys­tal fame and for­tune? Likely not. Mil­lions of sub­scribers worldwide and a lu­cra­tive in­come aren’t out of the ques­tion, of course – but as ever, it will be the tech­nol­ogy firms cre­at­ing them, rather than their hum­ble users, who will be the real win­ners.

On­line in­flu­encer: Lily gets ad­vice from In­sta­gram’s Jes­sica Lever

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