May 2, 2022 Guest Blogger

How College Influencers are Affected by the Influencing World

College Influencers Learn From Leading Influencers

I attend James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. With more than 20,000 undergraduate students, just imagine a typical U.S. university, and that’s JMU. There’s Greek life, football of course, many clubs and organizations to join, an array of majors, and a very happy and inviting atmosphere. With social media at an all-time high, we are seeing a much larger population of everyday people becoming social media influencers.

I have been a marketing/communications intern with Find Your Influence since January and coincidentally, as a writer for a student-run lifestyle magazine, I was given the opportunity to interview five students who are considered social media influencers at JMU. My goal was to gain a better understanding of what the influencing world was really like for young college students. I wanted to unlock the truth; the good, the bad, and the ugly of the influencing world. I wanted to get a better sense of how these students balance being influencers while still trying to have a normal college experience.

Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and the ever so addictive app, TikTok, have taken the world by storm. We scroll for hours until the blue light, illuminating from our smartphones, ultimately exhausts our eyes. Five-minute break; time to scroll again.

Social media influencers have become a growing phenomenon. Influencer culture has exuded a pristine image of perfection. It has become the life that most adolescents envy; brand deals, sponsorships, money, fame and followers. Sounds like the ultimate dream, right? But what about what’s behind the camera? What about what’s off screen? The time, energy, tears shed, self-shame, death threats, humiliation. Welcome to the not-so-perfect side of being a publicized punching bag.

 Megan James | 604.3K on TikTok

What do you do as an influencer?

“I do your relatable type of content on TikTok, fashion content on Instagram and work for Snapchat by posting videos on their Spotlight Feature every day.”

Do you actually enjoy being an influencer?

“I don’t think there will ever be a point in my life where I could sit in front of everybody and complain about what I do. I can tell you that it’s a lot of work, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else. So, if I have to work for however many hours a day, then fine I’ll do it because this is what I want to do with my life. I enjoy the hell out of it. Is it exhausting? Do I want to rip my hair out sometimes? Absolutely. But who doesn’t when you’re working? It’s what I love, it’s what I’m passionate about, it’s my work, it’s everything.”

What are your goals for the future after college?

“I have some pretty fun plans coming up! I graduate this May and then in August I’m moving to Los Angeles, California. When I move out there, I’m not getting your typical job, I’m going to focus primarily on social media. At the moment, I just started working on this business idea so I might start up a business while I’m there. I’m really just going out there and throwing everything at pursuing a dream. The way I see it is that I won’t let myself fail, I can’t. I have all the time in the world to put everything I’ve got towards this one thing. Now, say it doesn’t go how I want, then I just get a job. I live, I love, I can do whatever I want, so why the hell not?”

Anna Medykowski | 322.6K on TikTok

What do you do as an influencer? When did you first get started and why?

“I first started out in December of 2020 mostly posting my outfits and dancing videos. I think the first video I ever made got around 50,000 views and I thought that was the coolest thing ever, so then I kept going and my account just slowly started going up.”

What is the most difficult part about being an influencer?

“The hate on the internet. You can post something and not even think anything is wrong with it, but people will pick it apart and find anything to comment on. I have my own humor and my own style. If you don’t like it, I don’t really care, but at the same time it’s still aggravating to see these hateful comments.”

How has becoming an influencer affected your college experience? 

“Even though I’m constantly filming TikToks and working to keep my followers, I’m still having the same college experience I would have even if I wasn’t on TikTok. Sometimes it’s a bit annoying because I don’t get to expand and do everything I want to do with TikTok. I’ve had many photographers ask me to come out to LA, but I have to say no because I can’t miss class. So right now, I’m just focusing on the people that are in my area and those who are willing to come see me.”

Spencer Aitken |  2.3M on TikTok

What do you do as an influencer?

“I typically make story time videos on TikTok. I would make story time after story time and then last summer I had my most viewed video which was close to 60 million views. That’s when I really started to gain more followers.”

Is it hard to balance doing TikTok and school?

“Yeah, definitely. I’ve been putting a lot more emphasis on school this year rather than TikTok. Before the school year started, I had the opportunity to not go to JMU and go out to LA to be a part of a content creator house, but I decided to go to school instead because my parents always emphasized getting a degree first. Even though TikTok is good money, it was important for me to focus on the long-term.”

How has becoming an influencer affected your college experience? 

“It’s definitely positively affected my college experience. I feel like it’s made me into a more confident and self-assured person. I think that has reflected on my relationships and the people I’ve met. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have the social skills that I do now. I can now be myself without any repercussions. I’ve also gotten a lot more organized. Before TikTok, I was terrible with time management, but when companies give you deadlines, you have to meet them. It’s correlated to a lot of my school assignments as well.”

Tram Tran | 881.7K on TikTok

What do you do as an influencer?

“I went viral by making all you can eat sushi videos on TikTok. My friends always knew that I ate a lot and as a joke they told me to film a TikTok and my first video ended up getting around a half a million views.”

How much time, work, and effort does it take to keep your following?

“Before becoming an influencer, I never realized how much work it takes to keep up with your following and stay relevant. I had to email my advisor and ask to do all my classes online for this semester because it’s so hard to keep up with classes along with my work. Just posting a 15 second video can take me almost three hours to make. I also have certain deadlines I have to meet for brands. I’m part of an agency where they assign me certain deadlines and if I don’t meet them, not only does it look bad on me, but it looks bad on the agency as well, so there’s a lot of pressure to ensure everything is filmed on time.”

Do you actually enjoy being an influencer?

“I have this platform where I get to make people happy which is so rewarding. I still don’t think I have grasped how many people watch me on a daily basis. Like I’m just that girl that eats on TikTok, nothing special. My favorite part about influencing is the reaction from my followers. I get a lot of DMs from girls saying how much I helped them with their eating disorders and how I encouraged them to eat today. To know that I am making someone’s day a little brighter means that this is all worth it.”

Kendall Vertes | 7.3M on TikTok

How did you get started?

“I’ve done competitive dance my whole life and eventually we got a call from the TV show, ‘Dance Moms.’ After seven years of ‘Dance Moms,’ that was the steppingstone that opened a lot of doors for everything that came after. We were getting sponsorships and a lot of us got into music, acting and modeling.”

Do you actually enjoy being an influencer?

“Overall, my life is a revolving door of posting on Instagram, filming movies and making TikToks. My life is work, but I love it. That’s what I do. The hatred that people will post about you is the hardest part. I’ve been through a lot and I have tough skin but at the same time it’s difficult to bear sometimes. It’s hard not to respond, but most of the time I just have to let it go. I guess it comes with the job.”

How has being an influencer affected your college experience? 

“It was definitely a transition. Coming to a big campus in an entirely different state where I knew no one was definitely a big change for me. Everyone here at JMU has been so nice and I never imagined having the number of friends I do. I didn’t want my friends to like me for being ‘Kendall from “Dance Moms”’ I wanted them to like me for who I am now. I don’t really consider myself an influencer at JMU, and I don’t even like to consider myself famous because I came to college to be a normal person and get the typical college experience. I didn’t want to blend the fame part of my life and the normal college part of my life, so I try and keep those separate. Sometimes I just need to take a step back and remember to live my life for myself too, not just for my followers.”


Influencers are role models, public figures, comedians, fashion-icons, and more, but they are also real humans too. They go to school, watch way too much TV, fail tests, get their hearts broken and even do the dishes. Through hard work, dedication and a strong work ethic, Megan, Anna, Spencer, Tram and Kendall have developed the strength and resilience to make it in the influencing world and have preserved through the challenges of balancing college and millions of followers.


Freelance contribution especially written for Find Your Influence by Jordan O’Connor.

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