Universities now offer courses on ‘how to be a social media star’

College offers courses in becoming a bona fide social media influencer

Wanna become an Instagram star? Now, you can get a formal education for that.

A university in China is offering courses that are meant to equip students with the skills they need for online fame.

From make-up classes, catwalk practice to dance performances, the Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College (YWICC) near Shanghai says it knows what you need to become a social media celeb.

This picture taken on March 14, 2017 shows Wang Xin (C) attending a dance class at the Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College in Yiwu, east China's Zhejiang Province.  Hordes of Chinese millennials are speaking directly to the country's 700 million smartphone users, streaming their lives to lucrative effect, fronting brands and launching businesses. They are known as "wanghong" -- literally hot on the web -- and they now represent a multi-billion-dollar industry, becoming so big that it has its own university curriculum. At Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College, classrooms for the 34 mostly female students are typically dance studios, catwalks strafed by flashing lights, and bustling makeup rooms.   / AFP PHOTO / Johannes EISELE / TO GO WITH Lifestyle-celebrity-retail-China-internet, FEATURE by Albee ZHANG        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
IMAGE: AFP/GETTY IMAGES-

In a country with over 700 million phone users, it can be tough standing out.

But top-earning internet celebrities, known as Wang Hong in China, can earn up to $46 million a year. It’s no wonder everyone’s jostling to become the Next Big Thing.

The skills you need for viral fame

At the YWICC, students are practicing in dance studios and being taught how to dress fashionably.

21-year-old Mengna Jiang is one of 33 students — mostly women — majoring in the school’s Modelling and Etiquette course. Students who complete three years of the course will be awarded with an associate degree.

These are just some of the many modules offered at the University under this major.

Some of the courses available at YWICC
Some of the courses available at YWICC – IMAGE: YWICC/SCREENSHOT/GOOGLE TRANSLATE
 

To cut it as an influencer, you’ll need to know, for a start: “aesthetic cultivation” and “fashion sensitivity”; “public relations etiquette” and photo processing skills.

This picture taken on March 14, 2017 shows students attending a dance class at the Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College in Yiwu, east China's Zhejiang Province.  Hordes of Chinese millennials are speaking directly to the country's 700 million smartphone users, streaming their lives to lucrative effect, fronting brands and launching businesses. They are known as "wanghong" -- literally hot on the web -- and they now represent a multi-billion-dollar industry, becoming so big that it has its own university curriculum. At Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College, classrooms for the 34 mostly female students are typically dance studios, catwalks strafed by flashing lights, and bustling makeup rooms.   / AFP PHOTO / Johannes EISELE / TO GO WITH Lifestyle-celebrity-retail-China-internet, FEATURE by Albee ZHANG        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
IMAGE: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

 

This picture taken on March 14, 2017 shows students looking at their smartphones during a class at the Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College in Yiwu, east China's Zhejiang Province.  Hordes of Chinese millennials are speaking directly to the country's 700 million smartphone users, streaming their lives to lucrative effect, fronting brands and launching businesses. They are known as "wanghong" -- literally hot on the web -- and they now represent a multi-billion-dollar industry, becoming so big that it has its own university curriculum. At Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College, classrooms for the 34 mostly female students are typically dance studios, catwalks strafed by flashing lights, and bustling makeup rooms.   / AFP PHOTO / Johannes EISELE / TO GO WITH Lifestyle-celebrity-retail-China-internet, FEATURE by Albee ZHANG        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
IMAGE: AFP/GETTY IMAGES-

“I like dressing myself up really pretty and take [sic] pictures, I feel like this major really suits me,” Ms Jiang told news wire AFP.

Mengna Jiang is one of many hoping to make it big
Mengna Jiang is one of many hoping to make it big IMAGE: AFP/GETTY IMAGES-

If you make it in a country with over a billion people, your reach could be astronomical.

Papi Jiang, one of China’s most popular online celebrities, has a following of 44 million across multiple platforms.

Papi Jiang has 23 million subscribers on Weibo, China's twitter-like platform
Papi Jiang has 23 million subscribers on Weibo, China’s twitter-like platform – IMAGE: PAPI 酱/WEIBO

In comparison, Ryan Higa of YouTube fame has 19 million subscribers.

Making money and virtual gifts

Turning your popularity into actual moolah in China is a little different from how Western influencers do it.

The majority of China’s online celebrities host live-streaming events, where they film everything from their latest shopping haul to just a regular Q&A session.

Their fans who tune in to watch can buy them virtual gifts that can be redeemed for cash. For example, a virtual car bought by a fan could be cashed in for $20 — with a share of the profits going to the live-streaming platform.

Influencers can also monetise their video channels the conventional way — through advertising.

A series of icons at the bottom right of the screen show the different virtual gifts you can purchase
A series of icons at the bottom right of the screen show the different virtual gifts you can purchase IMAGE: 一只胖嘟嘟的布丁/DOUYUFor Mengna Jiang, 30 minutes spent live-streaming to her online audience recently earned her $12 in gifts.

According to Analysys International, an internet consultancy firm, China’s Wang Hong industry was worth $10 billion in 2016, and could double by 2018.

Looks like the popularity of these courses aren’t going to go away anytime soon.

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