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Universities are paying student influencers to warn their peers about coronavirus. A social psychologist explains how that could backfire a?? and how schools can get it right.

Universities are paying student influencers to warn their peers about coronavirus. A social psychologist explains how that could backfire a?? and how schools can get it right.

Influencers Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight were hired by their college, Baylor University, to post sponsored content on their Instagram.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty




Colleges and universities in the US are taking a page out of the marketing playbook and using influencer partnerships to encourage students to wear masks, practice social distancing, and stay healthy.




Consumer brands have used influencers for years, but it can register as inauthentic when schools hire their own students to influence their peers.




Social psychologist Dominic Packer, a professor at Lehigh University, explains how effective this tactic can be among college students.




On the surface, it seems like an effective way to reach students, but Packer warns the strategy hinges on colleges seeking deeper involvement from their student bodies.




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When "twin-fluencer" sisters Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight tested positive for Covid-19, they announced it to their 5.8 million Instagram followers in a caption with a disclaimer about their school, Baylor University: "It is NOT due to in person classes that this happened."The twins have posted regularly about their time at Baylor, including paid partnerships with the university. As Baylor's vice president of marketing and communications and chief marketing officer told the Dallas Observer, the school's Instagram account gained 3,000 followers when the McKnights announced they were attending Baylor.Consumer brands have used influencer partnerships for years, but now colleges and universities in the US are hiring their own students to influence their peers to wear masks, practice social distancing, and stay healthy. It's an ambitious move, but not one that's necessarily guaranteed to succeed.According to some experts, when an educational organization starts pulling from the marketer's playbook, it can register as inauthentic a?? especially in the middle of a pandemic. Will students really listen to influencers if they come off as mouthpieces for their schools?
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