Would you like to be an influencer when you grow up? Well, Condé Nast Italia can help you with that. The Italian arm of the American media giant announced on Monday that it has launched what it is calling its "Social Academy," a training program for … you guessed it, fashion industry influencers. The 100 individuals who walk away from the program next year will do so with “certification” and will be integrated in Condé Nast’s network of social influencers, per WWD.
The main purpose of the initiative, which is a full-blown “certified postgraduate degree academic program,” is to teach “the correct way to use social media, which focuses on quality content and respect for ethical standards. These include being specific about advertised posts and managing the number of followers and likes with transparency.”
With the support of Milan’s SDA Bocconi School of Management, the program’s participants “needed to be at least 19 years old, have a high-school diploma and be enrolled at a university, in addition to having a good knowledge of the English language,” writes WWD.
Why Condé Nast Italia is currently so gung-ho about cultivating influencers, you ask? “Consumers don’t see borders between journalists and influencers anymore,” according to Condé Nast Italia chief executive officer Fedele Usai, and while the differences between editors and journalists, and influencers may be a point of contention for many industry insiders, consumers place far less weight on the distinction.
With that in mind and since Condé Nast cannot beat influencers – who only appear to be gaining in terms of momentum in light of ever-increasing digital ad spending by brands – company wanted to take an active role into the field to create professional opportunities and oversee this area, according to Usai. “This is our social responsibility, we have to train people. And if one day a company will need trained and professional influencers, we will be the only ones to be able to provide them.”
This is not necessarily the first instance of academia embracing the power of the influencer. You may recall that Harvard Business School called on Chiara Ferragni to serve as a subject for one of its case studies, and then invited her to speak at a class in connection with its luxury marketing MBA.
As for whether Condé Nast can teach newbies to be as influential and savvy as Ferragni, who currently boasts nearly 11 million Instagram followers, an eponymous label, and an revenue of estimated $8 million per year as of 2015, that is another matter entirely.