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Student influencers create content, market products for peers

Texture courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Growing up, UNC alumna Bella LoRe always had an aspirational relationship with the people she saw online. 

LoRe was enamored with lifestyle content on YouTube and, in high school, she started experimenting on her own. She soon discovered she had a passion for social media.

LoRe graduated from UNC in 2023 with a degree in advertising and public relations. During college, she was both a full-time student and a growing content creator. 

“I’m not some viral, famous person at all,” LoRe said. “I just really like creating, and I think it’s really fun and very enriching and very fulfilling.” 

Today, she has over 76,000 followers on TikTok. She described her target audience as her peers — people who are going through the same stages or experiences of life that she is. 

She now makes content about life after graduating college and navigating the new stresses of adulthood. 

“I’ve come to realize that the cornerstone of what I really want to create is just sharing common experiences and hopefully connecting with someone who’s going through the same thing,” she said.  

Reece Tuggle, a student influencer at UNC, also aims to create content for her peers, which she said includes current and future UNC students.

“Especially my freshman year, I felt like not a whole lot of people were really showing what their lives were like here at UNC,” Tuggle said.

Since pivoting to UNC-focused content, Tuggle's TikTok account has reached over 89,000 followers. 

Unlike LoRe, who has aspired to be a content creator since childhood, Tuggle’s following resulted from a few random viral videos. 

One of Tuggle’s first viral videos was a TikTok poking fun at NARS Cosmetics product names. Tuggle later applied to become a brand ambassador for the company, and while she is no longer an ambassador for NARS, she has been partnering with brands ever since.

According to LoRe, payment for sponsored content varies depending on both the brand and the type of content that’s being created. She said that brands pay less for product integrations and more for content that is fully dedicated to the product. 

In her experience, brands have paid anywhere from $50 to $2,000 for sponsored content.

Kayla Tran, a junior at UNC, described her experience working with brands differently. While LoRe and Tuggle work to create and post branded content on social media, when Tran was an ambassador for University Tees, she had a much more hands-on role.

She received a percentage of whatever she sold for the collegiate apparel company. Her primary job was reaching out to potential buyers and placing orders on their behalf. 

For a $1,000 order, she said she could make about $150-200. Tran said that as a part of her job she had to attend weekly meetings, consistently reach out to organizations and individuals and fill out and submit order forms. 

“I just felt like it wasn’t really worth it,” Tran said. “So I feel like in a way, it’s kind of taking advantage of college students.”

LoRe mentioned that for new creators who don’t have experience with negotiating, getting fairly compensated for their work can be a challenge. 

A lot of new creators aren’t aware that they should charge brands for the usage rights in addition to sponsored content, she said. Usage rights allow brands to make a one-time payment to the creator, and in exchange, the brands can use the created content across multiple platforms for an agreed-upon amount of time. 

Tran said that many aspiring college-aged content creators who receive free products in exchange for making branded content often don’t get enough monetized engagement to financially compensate for their time and effort.

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LoRe recommended a number of resources available to students who are looking to become brand ambassadors or student influencers, such as the InfluenceHer Collective, which makes brand deals accessible to millennial and Gen Z influencers. 

LoRe said that it’s important for aspiring content creators to focus on producing content that they’re passionate about instead of making "perfect" content. For her, passion leads to consistency, and with consistency comes growth.

“I think something I’ve really learned is that there really is an audience out there for every person,” she said. “Whatever your interest is, there’s someone out there who wants to see what you want to make. It’s just a matter of finding them.”

@dthlifestyle |

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